December 23, 2013
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Buena Onda Backpackers
Upon hearing we were going to Nicaragua a friend of mine insisted we visit Ometepe, an island created by two volcanos (Conception and Maderas) and an excellent place to explore. By the time I started contacting hotels everyone was full because of the holiday season so instead we booked a one day tour. Even though it is an island and not very big, the roads can be a bit scary and a guide is recommended for such a short visit. Through TripAdvisor I found Javier who designed a highlights tour for us and met us when the ferry landed in Moyogalpa.
The ferry, a one hour journey, made comfortable if you found a seat in the shade and horrendous if you ended up on the roof in the sun, costs only 60 cordobas one way (about $2.40).
Luckily we were in the shade and after meeting up with Javier we headed to Charco Verde Nature Reserve for a hike to start the day.
The reserve is a protected area with a green lagoon (hence the name), lots of trails to wander and a beach. We were on the lookout for monkeys and scorpions, but only found an angry snake, army ants, a massive cockroach (la cucaracha) and some grasshoppers.
We hiked to a lookout point for an awesome view of the green lagoon before heading back down and hopping in a car towards Altagracia.
On the way we pulled over to see a bunch of Capuchin monkeys on the side of the road. They were pretty brave and had no problem approaching people offering food.
The grounds of a church in Altagracia houses 5 pre-Colombian statues, as well as the shell of the first church built on Ometepe. The early inhabitants of the area had a god for everything; a god of the air, a god of the earth, a god of water and so on. So far over 150 statues have been found on Ometepe, each representing a different god or their servant. Some of the statues are in museums in Nicaragua and some have been sent to museums all over the world or bought up by private collections. It was really neat to see the intricate carvings, especially on the god of air, who wore an eagle mask.
They are in the process of restoring the church to be a museum for the statues and other artifacts, but I think it looks pretty cool as is and hope they don’t remove too much of the charm, like the painted floor tiles.
After a quick stop at Santo Domingo for lunch we made our way to Ojo de Agua, two fresh water pools filled with thermal spring water from an underground well. The pools are nestled in the trees and are the perfect place to relax.
Even though it is the holiday season it was pretty quiet and we spent most of our time fooling around with the camera and proving we could never be models.
Ojo de Agua has a restaurant and bar, changerooms and showers, as well as tons of chairs and tables so you could spend the whole day if you wanted. I would have loved to stay longer but we were on a tight schedule and Punta Jesus Maria, our last stop of the day, was calling our name.
Punta Jesus Maria is a peninsula of sand that extends into the water and can make it look like you are walking on water, like Jesus.
It’s also a cool place to swim (if you ignore all the warning signs) and affords a great view of the larger volcano, Conception.
In all, we were on Ometepe about 7 hours and saw everything we wanted to without feeling rushed. It would have been nice to spend the night but I was happy to say goodbye and ride the ferry back to the mainland.