Sorry all, no guest blogger this time. I made the decision to not even ask her because she’s super busy with work and judging by the feedback I got from Steve (the last guest blogger) apparently writing guest blogs is more stressful than it seems. So here’s my interpretation of the trip. Quick side note: I acted more like a tourist on this trip versus the poor Peace Corps volunteer that I am. We didn’t stay in hostels, we didn’t take buses everywhere we went and we didn’t eat in cheap comedors. I was spending money like a drunken sailor and have to thank my family for giving me money so that I was able to do that. THANK YOU! On to the trip…..
We didn’t really have an itinerary to follow or reservations, but had our trusty guide book to Nicaragua and let fate/luck lead the way. Due to a late arrival, we stayed in Managua for a night and made a “plan.” The plan was go to Ometepe and San Juan del Sur. The next morning we were off. We took a bus from Managua to Rivas. It was a normal Nica bus. Three people to a seat, hot and stuffy, the aisles crammed full of people without seats, and people trying to sell whatever they could, soda, juice, bracelets, pens, candy. I was just happy to get a seat, that’s really my only worry when I ride buses; but, I don’t think Melissa enjoyed the ambiance that much. That was the only bus we took the whole trip.
We arrived in Rivas, took a taxi and then ferry to the island of Ometepe. So far so good, we arrive in the port of Moyagalpa and look for a place to eat. We spot a pizza place while avoiding all the taxi drivers yelling “Taxi! Taxi! Taxi!” I don’t know the name of the place but I definitely recommend it to anyone going to Ometepe. I know I might not be the most reliable person to recommend food joints, considering that I’ve been eating rice and beans for practically two years and my standards have lowered in terms of good food – hell, I got excited about a bag of Cheetos that my mom brought. But, Melissa even agreed that it was good pizza, and you can trust her. While chowing down, we look through the guide book for things to do on Ometepe and a place where we can stay. Our “plan” stay at Villa de Paraiso (Paradise Hotel), climb Volcano Maderas, possibly visit a waterfall, and natural spring. We take a taxi to the hotel and settle in. We make reservations for a volcano hike the next morning and then wander on the beach, eat, and relax before the hike in the morning.
The hotel’s guide book for attractions describes the volcano hike as a 6-8 hour hike. I’m thinking that should be fine, we’ll probably take a couple breaks at lookout points, eat lunch, etc. No problem. We meet our guide at the hotel at 7:30 in the morning. He gives each of us our provisions, a bag lunch (two cheese and bologna sandwiches and a pack of club crackers), a 1.5 liter bottle of water and a Tupperware of pineapple chunks. We drive to the park entrance and start the hike. Our guide hands each of us a stick. Melissa and I immediately look at each other and start laughing, “Is this really necessary?” Side note: I’ve climbed two volcanoes previously and those volcanoes were visibly inclined hikes; this time we started hiking through fields and it was relatively flat. Hence, the laughing off the walking sticks.
We walk and walk and walk. Along the way the guide points out various animals and insects (howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, wild turkey, termites, leaf cutter ants, etc). We get up to a lookout point and this is where the incline starts. The hike is getting more and more difficult, more inclined and I’m getting sweatier and sweatier. It’s getting to a point where I don’t think we’ll ever reach the top. Finally the guide tells us it is 2 hours until the top. At this point we are walking in mud, because it’s a tropical rainforest at the top and it rains every day. This is where the walking stick comes in handy. Finally, the guide starts counting down…10 minutes to the top…..5 minutes….2…1….and we’re there. WHAT??!?! THIS IS THE TOP?!? It was literally a small clearing and if we pushed some branches out of the way we could get a pretty decent look out/picture. Our triumph of reaching the top quickly turned to disappointment. The guide says, “C’mon we’re going to go down the crater.” We climb down to the crater, which is not easy and I keep thinking how are we going to climb back up this? The crater is a lagoon and a grassy area. It was a nice spot to rest, eat lunch and drink the rest of our water supply, OOPS! We drank all the water and we’re technically only half way done because now we have to climb back down. Luckily, our guide gave us another bottle of water, which saved us.
I really would have preferred for a helicopter to come pick us up, or really any other possible way that didn’t require me to walk/climb anymore. We begrudgingly started hiking again. It wasn’t too bad, at first. But after a couple of hours, my knees, feet and hips hurt so bad I couldn’t think of anything else but reaching the bottom. I didn’t want to stop and rest anymore, just wanted to finish. We got to the bottom and climbed back into the truck to take us to the hotel at 5:30….it was a 10 hour hike and felt every minute like a 10 hour hike. We were covered in mud, dehydrated and hungry. We showered, ate dinner, drank lots of water and went to bed.
Originally we were thinking we were going to do something the next day, before we left; but neither of us had the energy. We relaxed on the beach for a little while before checking out and heading back to Moyagalpa to take the ferry and make our way to San Juan del Sur. We ate at the pizza place again before saying “adios” to Ometepe and “hello” to San Juan del Sur.
We take a taxi from the ferry to San Juan del Sur (another avoidance of the bus). We don’t have any idea where we’re going to say. We found some places we would like to stay in the guide book, but the book is a bit outdated and phone numbers change or people don’t like answering phones. So we go to some hotels, hoping that there’s space for us. Two strikes, so far and our hopes are dwindling. We arrive at Empalme de las Playas with fingers crossed. We’re approached by the owner, Karen, and she’s telling us we can’t stay for just one night and was about to turn us away, but in stepped our guardian angel, Roy, her husband and he wasn’t about to let us leave. THANK GOD! We sign in, settled in and then ventured to the beach.
It only takes a moment of chatting with Karen and Roy to immediately think that if my mom and Steve were to retire in Nicaragua (like they’ve mentioned, hopefully jokingly) this is couple is their long lost married couple twins. They’ve been in Nicaragua for 8 years and have this hotel with four cabanas, that’s only about 10 minutes from two beaches. They lend out their 4 wheeler to the guests to go down to the beach or take their little SUV for more people. It’s a hotel where beach meets tailgating. The refrigerator is always fully stocked with Tonas and Roy is ready to challenge anyone willing to play kornhole, dice, darts, cards, you name it they’ve got it.
We spent three days there and fully enjoyed the sun and the sand each day, until our last. We decided to take surf lessons. The lessons were fun and exhausting; it’s no wonder how all the surfers have nice bods. After the hour lesson we had the boards for the rest of the day. After a short lunch break, we attempted to surf again. It was fun until I stomped on something sharp in the water. I immediately think jellyfish….and as I hobble of the water I begin to see the blood on my foot. It appeared that I punctured my foot on some foreign object. (I’m still getting treated by the Peace Corps doctors for the infection I acquired and can’t get rid of. My fingers are crossed that I come home with both feet.)
Unfortunately, that ended my time surfing. But, then we were off to our booze/sunset cruise. They boasted dolphin sightings, but we weren’t lucky enough for that. We just cruised around the beaches, while drinking. It’s a three hour cruise and my glass was never empty. I stuck with beer, but they were pouring rum with a splash of coke. Are you surprised if I tell you there was an incident of “sea sickness”? Not on my part, nor Melissa; it was another fellow who claimed sea sickness, but I put my money on the Flor de Cana (rum).
There wraps our vacation. The next day we headed back to Managua, in a taxi; we spent the night before Melissa’s early flight the next morning. And I headed back to Muy Muy.
I had a great time escaping my volunteer life and seeing more of Nicaragua. I hope Melissa had a fun time. I know Nicaragua doesn’t normally ring in at the top of the list for vacation spots for most people; it does have some pretty amazing things to see and I always appreciate the visit. Hint hint: If you’re thinking about coming to Nicaragua, you can have a free tour guide and translator. I’m taking reservations until November.