The vacation I’ve been waiting for!
“Summer” has been long, stressful, and exhausting. The light at the end of the tunnel was a vacation with Charlie once he got off course. He got back with the plan (thanks Zach!) of a week in Nicaragua hitting Ometepe, Granada, Leon, and possibly San Juan del Sur.
As usual, the car, bus, taxi, bus process didn’t let us down and we were on our way northwest to Nicaragua. This was my second time to Nicaragua and it still stuns me how you can cross the border and be in a different world. With the exception of a shared language, Costa Rica and Nicaragua couldn’t be much more different.
Right when you cross the border you are met by two beautiful volcanoes to the east. They form the island of Ometepe, our first destination. It took us a bike taxi and a ferry, but we got there pretty painlessly (thanks to Charlie’s awesome planning). One interesting note if you ever visit: is there are “taxes” (entrance fees) to go anywhere. It’s usually only about a dollar, but slightly annoying anyway.
It was a nice hour long journey to the island. It is located in Lake Nicaragua, the biggest lake in Central America (and 19th in the world). Fun (and terrifying) fact: there are bull sharks in this lake! “…in Nicaragua have been seen leaping up river rapids, salmon-like, to reach inland Lake Nicaragua.” AHHHHHH! Some of our courses kayak the Rio San Juan (the river rapids they’re mentioning) and all I could envision is kayaking down the river and having a giant bull shark jump out of the river at you!
Well Ometepe was amazing. The town itself is fairly small. While there are hotels and resorts all over the island, we chose to find a hostel in town.
Nicaraguans seem to love their pizza. As we set out for food, our choices seemed to be: fancy pizza, pizza cafe, storefront pizza, or pizza truck. We chose the “fancy” pizza place mainly because of how close it was since we were starving. We did not choose wrong! The pizza was delicious and you couldn’t beat the price of one big pizza, soda, and 2 beers (and tax & tip) for $15. (We may have ended up going back the next night.)
The second day we had to move hostels so we checked into an amazing bed & breakfast called The Cornerhouse. It was a little bit of a splurge for us (at $35 including breakfast), but the rooms were wonderful and the food was delicious. It’s nearly impossible to find good bread here, but they make some tasty bread in house for toast and sandwiches. The owner is a super friendly British guy who was incredibly accommodating. Since we showed up with no plans, we asked him for suggestions and he kindly listed out several options.
On his recommendation, we rented a little moped to drive around the island. For $25 we got a day of entertainment that was definitely worth it! The island is made up of two volcanoes and this allowed us to check out both, the beach, and all the towns in between. I was very surprised at how many towns there are! They surround the entire island.
We were told the first day that there was a fiesta happening in town. Originally we thought it would be pretty cool to check out, until we got the inside scoop that it’s really an excuse for the locals to get wasted. Nicaragua is putting a lot of effort into their tourism industry. This fiesta was put on by the Nicaragua Tourism Board and they’re doing a tour of these street parties throughout the country.
We watched all day as bus loads of people were driven up the main street. I mean bus after bus after bus (and “full” Central American style, which is a whole different level of full). The island is big, but not that big! There was also going to be a parade, but the rain had other plans. We did get to see some floats though (decorated carts) and their cheerleaders. Yes, those are thigh high, lace up, platform boots.
That night was loud. They partied all night. The next morning I was pretty happy to be leaving, but I would go back in a heartbeat. It really is a beautiful place!