Nicaragua – Granada and Ometepe

Journey to Granada
After a a couple of nights in León relaxing (drinking rum, catching up with Facebook and doing some washing) we set off for Granada, as always, at a leisurely pace. It took two chicken buses to get there, changing at Managua (the capital), and we arrived at Granada about 4 hours later at about 4pm. Once more our first and second choice of hostel was full (dangit!) and we simply couldn’t find out third choice, but luckily we stumbled across La Libertad which was fantastic. We had a MASSIVE room for us$20:00 (just under £14) and it was right by the main Plazza. We had unwittingly arrived during a festival and the streets were fairly packed with drunk locals, some on horse back, staggering around. It certainly had a lively feel to it but after traipsing around for an hour with our bags looking for hostels at the time I was in the mood for none of it. All I needed was a shower!

Granada is a lovely city with plenty of colonial architecture and wasn’t too developed – no western chain at all – I really loved it and we spent four days here in the end, two of which was simply wandering around investigating.

Kate and Stevepeg outside the Cathedral

Fabulous buildings (some in need of some TLC)

It did have a couple of disappointment though; firstly, it is nestled on the shore of Lake Nicaragua and although the city centre is set about a mile back, they do absolutely nothing with this shore line. If fact it is completely ignored and sewage runs freely down the rivers into the lake. We went down to look around and were quickly beaten back by the smell and the billions of tiny flies that it attracted – such a wasted opportunity. Secondly, a couple of the touristy highlights (a tower view of the city and a church that was supposedly beautiful inside) were closed. These two points were a real shame. However, it’s was still a great city. We spent one day visiting Catalina, a nearby village overlooking a volcanic crater lake and another day in a boat going around some of the hundreds of tiny islands in the lake just off the local peninsular (the islands were formed from a massive eruption that hurled rocks for miles around).

Here’s some pictures of it all;

If you’re going to go on a boat trip – you may as well be the only ones on the boat
View from the lake of Volcano XXXXX
Kate in the sunshine on the boat
View of the crater lake from the Mirador (lookout point) at Catalina

My face after seeing the bill at Kate’s favourite Granada bar (cocktails and baked brie)
However, after 4 days of city life it’s time to head on with our journey.

Ometepe – Moyogalpa
Everywhere we had been in Nicaragua we had met people who had come from Ometepe and said it was wonderful. Even the guide books say its lovely. How could we not visit? The plan was to head south from Granada and spend a few nights on the island, hike a volcano, do some horse riding and then head over to playa San Jaun del Sur for some beach action. As always, plans need to change as they happen!

From Granada we took a chicken bus to Rivas which took about 90 minutes and form there a quick taxi ride took as to the docks at San Jorge were we took the ferry to the island. Ometepe is an island made from two volcanoes whose lava flows have joined them together and they have created an island paradise.

View of Ometepe from The Ferry – Volcan Conception of the left, Maderas on the right.

The ferry took an hour to cross and cost c$45 (just a over a £1) and dropped us in Mologalpa, which is at the foot of Volcan conception directly across from the mainland. Whilst it is not the capital of the island it is certainly the most developed area for wary tourists seeking beers and Internet. We hadn’t booked any accommodation but we wanted to head towards the south volcano as this is the most rural area and supposedly the most beautiful. As it turns out, it takes 2.5 hours on the chicken bus to reach the south end of the island and we had just missed the last bus which left us the choice of a taxi (us$40) or a night in Moyogalpa. So we stayed. Which turned out to be great as we found The Corner House, an awesome B&B run by a chap called Gary from Norfolk – the eggs benedict were FANTASTIC.
The Corner House – if you ever go to Ometepe you simply have to have a meal here

Change of plan 1. Having realised it took 2.5 hours on the bus to get between volcanoes my plan to hike Conception whilst staying on Maderas was dismissed. If I was going to do it, I need to do it whilst staying local so we decided to stay another night in Mologalpa and I booked myself a guide for the following morning for a 5am start for my 10 hour hike. Kate booked a horse and guide for a couple of hours the next morning too (at a much more respectable 08:30) so we both had something to do – I would be back by 3 and we would then catch the last bus over to the other volcano.
I got up at 04:15 and got myself ready, so you can imagine however pissed off annoyed I was when my guide didn’t show up. I’d also left Kate with the key to our room and she was dead to the world so short of waking the rest of the guests in the B&B up banging on the door I had nowt else todo but retire to a hammock for a few hours until she awoke. There is deeper story here about how over the following days I would try to recover my deposit various times and wasted many hours but I shall not go into that here save to say I never got my money back and ‘Louis el Guia de Ometepe’ is a lying thieving fucker and my plans for hiking Conception were abandond. Enough said.
Kate’s horse guide did turn up so off she went and had a lovely ride and we ended up catching the 14:30 bus to Merida on Mederas to stay at Hari’s Horses which was lovely.

Merida, Hari’s Horses and Finca Montania Sagrada and Volcan Maderas
Change of plan 2. We came for 2 days and stayed 8, and it was so easy to do. We had booked ourselves into Hari’s Horses which comes highly recommended for horse riding as (unlike a lot of Latin Americans) he really cares for his animals. As it turns our the accommodation and cooking was pretty awesome too!

Finca Montania Sagrada

Our room – top floor with awesome view of both volcanoes and the lake

Hari is a German chap and with his Italian wife Micha, runs a small Finca (Montania Segrada, which has 3 guest apartments) and he has 12 horses (4 of which are young foals) and does various riding excursions around the island.

We started with a four hour round trip to Ramn Water Falls – a 40 meter drop half way up the south side of Volcan Maderas. Most if the trip was spent going up or down steep hills so I was happy with the speed, however the trip along the shore home saw us cantering along the stone road. I’m not a great rider, you could even call me a novice, and considering I’ve never really trotted a horse before, to canter along a mud/stone lined road was waaaay out of my comfort zone. It felt very much like galloping to me (though Kate assures me it was not) add to that a thunder storm hit as we rode and we were pelted with heavy rain and lit with lightening and the whole experience was AWESOME. Or at least I can look back and appreciate it as such now. At the time I may have been screaming like a boy

Kate under the falls. A very welcome and refreshing dip!

Next up was the volcano! My hike of conception having been thwarted I decided to do Maderas. It’s an 8 hour hike that goes through farm land, rain forest and then cloud forest before you get to the top. If you’re lucky you get to the top in clear skies and have a fantastic view of the island and the crater lake of Maderas. About 10 days a year are lucky in this respect, this was not one of those days. It s a tough hike, which included some climbing in some of the higher parts, but we got to the summit in 3:18 minutes and after a quick rest we got down in a further 3 hours – taking 6.5 hours in total. As much as I was knackered everyone agreed this was a quick time so I felt bett for that.

Just before the summit – utterly knackered and sweating buckets. My 66 year old guide looks unamused
Made it to the top! Quick change of clothes and a few photos.
Stevepeg at the summit looking into the cloud. There is a crater lake down there somewhere. Honest.

I’ll admit to it now – I complained about my legs aching FOR DAYS afterwards.
The next day we took a kayak out round part of the like to a small river/swamp area in search of wildlife, specifically camians. Kate loves these critters. I hate them. I’m not sure why my I fear theses buggers in all their guises. Needless to say, we found some, and Kate almost took our Kayak over ones head in attempts to get close to it (we disagree about how close we were to it but this is my blog and what i say goes; so I say we were on top of it!)

No hands!
After this photo my camera was abandoned as I started to desperately paddle away . . .

We spent the rest of the time on Ometepe doing what you do; relaxing, more kayaking, more horse riding, drinking rum, eating local food, laying in hammocks, drinking rum. You get the picture? If not, here are some more . . .
Walking around, chatting to the locals
Margaritas; we ate here a fair bit – a wonderful lady serving delious cheap Nicaraguian food (and selling rum)
Hammock time on our balcony
We watched this storm charge in across the lake and engulf Ompete. It’s amazing how quickly a weather front can move!
Rum sunsets

Leaving Ometepe
Change of plan 3; we had aimed to head west to the pacific coast and playa Sun Juan del Sur but instead we decided to go south and east and head head for the rain forest river of Rio Suan Juan and the towns of San Carlos and El Castillo.
More of that to follow in the next update which includes details of two nights at Bat Shit Hotel.

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