Hitchhiking Ometepe

Some days you just decide you’re going to have an adventure. And I have to admit, there have certainly been a few more rough and tumble days since Jon rejoined me on my adventure. Having two of us means we can take a few more risks, which leads to some interesting occurrences to say the least. We’ve certainly royally screwed up on at least a handful of occasions in the last month. But I’ll get to those in later posts.

For now, I’ll tell you about our adventure on Ometepe Island, which somewhat miraculously ended up okay!

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Ometepe is an island in Lake Niaragua, formed from two volcanoes (as you can see above!). The views from all over the island are rather spectactular, but when we got there we kind of struggled to find things to do. The island is actually pretty massive, and you definitely need a vehicle to get anywhere outside the ‘main’ city (which consists of two streets).

At first we decided we would try out kayaking, only to be told that left from a completely different city, and that we would have to take an expensive taxi to get there. Right about this moment we saw a chicken bus that was about to leave the city though. We both just looked at each other, and then Jon just said. “Let’s get lost.”

So we jumped on the chicken bus to… god only knew where. But at least we were doing something!

Off we went around the first of the big volcanoes, with some sort of hope that we might get to the beach between them. The bus, as per usual, got very crowded, but there were a couple of other foreigners for once. From them we learned the bus was headed for the second largest city on the island (not the kayaking one), which was pretty much directly opposite where we’d been across the volcano. So we enjoyed the views of the volcano for about forty minutes, and then jumped off at the intersection to the bus.

Along with two german guys with machetes… Because they needed them for some race? I dunno, its Nicaragua.

Anyway, the guys were heading for the beach too, so we started walking the four km down the road to the beach, trying to hitchhike as we went. Eventually we were lucky enough for a hotel van to pick us up (it even had airconditioning), which got us to the beach without any problems.

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The views were pretty impressive, I have to admit. Although you could really only see the far volcano properly (the trees hid the other one). The water wasn’t exactly clear though, so that was a little disappointing. But I do believe it could have been due to the volcanic ash the highly active volcanoes around the lake tend to deposit every few years, rather than pollution. We were certainly far enough away from any large cities.

After about an hour there, and plenty of discussion, we decided to try and head up to Ojo de Agua, some beautiful freshwater springs we’d heard about. The other option was some Petroglifos down the other end of the island, but we’re not that cultured 😛 (plus I’ve seen ALOT of mayan ruins now).

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Pretty sure we made the right choice

Well, where the beach had been murky, Ojo de Agua was absolutely crystal clear. We immediately wished we’d gone there sooner, as the day was quickly getting away  from us and we still had no idea how to get home. This was definitely one of the more beautiful spots I’ve visited in Central America though. The water bubbles out of the ground at the upper end of the spring. The people have then built pools around the spring to keep out any dirt, leaving the waters crystal clear and clean. Pretty stunning.

But after an hour or so it was time to go. Off we went, hiking back up to the main road and then along as we attempted to flag down any vehicle going in our direction. After 2 or 3 km in the hot sun (at least the afternoon was starting to get later), we were almost desperate enough to even try the bikes, even though there were two of us.

Eventually we reached the main main road where the bus had dropped us, by which time we were getting pretty desperate. Looking at our map, we were at least 20km away from the city still, sunset was getting closer, and we really had no idea if the bus ran after 4pm. With no other choice, we kept walking.

I couldn’t say how far we walked, but I know our drink bottles were getting very low by the time a pickup truck pulled up in front of us. On the back were half a dozen woman, a couple of men, and steel bars around the side to keep people from tumbling out. With no idea whether this was a taxi service or a kind civilian, we hoped on. I mean, we really had no other options at this point!

Off we went, whipping through the countryside with much better views than on the earlier chicken bus. The volcano towered above us, and one by one the people got dropped off in various little towns. It didn’t seem like anyone was collecting money, but we still weren’t sure what was happening. Two men on the back seemed to know the driver though.

When we were still one town out, the truck pulled off the highway and up to someones house. There we helped the men load a four set of rocking chairs (????) onto the back of the truck, before we were off again.

Just before our city we pulled off the highway yet again, and turned up to a farm gate. At this point Jon and I were standing on the back giving each other funny looks, wondering whether we should be rethinking our strange ride around the island. The truck drove up a dirt driveway to a house close to the lake, while us passengers in the back ducked low hanging trees that tried to take our heads off. But all was well still – at the house we unloaded the rocking chairs and were on our way again.

Five minutes later we made our departure in our city. The guys one the back gave us huge grins and waved us goodbye, while the driver pulled a wicked sign out the window. They drove off, leaving us on the side of the road, bewildered at the wonderful locals we’d just met. These guys had just driven for almost an hour, picking up and dropping off people, delivering household goods, and saving silly tourists; all out of the goodness of their own hearts.

And maybe a little bit of amusement at the silly tourists.

All in all, not a bad day though.

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