Journey to Ometepe

I’m a firm believer that the journey to a destination should be approached with as much importance and regard as the destination itself. There’s so much excitement, so much to absorb, so much to take away from getting yourself from Point A to Point B (often via Point C and Point D, depending on your luck). I’ve read that Ometepe Island should be part of any traveller’s itinerary to Nicaragua. And now, after having visited, I can confirm this statement’s validity, but as this is beyond the scope of this blog post, I won’t explain why at this moment…

After spending four nights in Granada, I checked myself out of my hostel and the uber-comfortable double bed that had been my crash pad in the dorm, and walked to the bus terminal, passing through the bustling shops and markets that spilled onto the road. I had walked this same road two days earlier to catch a chicken bus to Mombacho, but its familiarity did not temper the noise, odours, and peculiarities I had noticed the first time around. This was my first time taking a chicken bus alone; I’d taken them to and from Granada the past couple days with friends, so I found myself more alert travelling by myself. I felt that the bus was packed much more than on previous occasions, and it was interesting and entertaining just watching all the different vendors selling everything from food to pens that doubled as two-year calendars…

Upon arriving at the bus terminal in Rivas, I tried to pair up with others who were going to Ometepe in order to share a taxi. It was all in vain because unfortunately, everyone was either already part of a big group or had already gotten in a taxi, leaving me with taxi drivers offering very inflated prices to get to the port in San Jorge. I ended up speaking with a rickshaw driver who said that he’d take me to some taxis further away from the terminal, who would offer lower prices. I figured, “Why not?” and got in, and enjoyed the ride a couple streets over, pretending I was a celebrity being the recipient of numerous stares while on the road.

The rickshaw driver pulled over not far away from the terminal, and started telling the taxi drivers that I wanted to get to San Jorge. They were offering the same inflated prices as those at the terminal, but I was able to bargain it down a little, though I still think I overpaid by a dollar or two. At any rate, I got in a taxi for the ~7km ride to the port, happy that my journey was finally progressing…

I got to the port, paid the driver, paid the port fee, and was faced with a somewhat difficult choice: take the larger ferry that left half an hour earlier to get to the port of Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island, or take the smaller lancha that left later but was half the price of the ferry and actually took less time to get to the island. It wasn’t a difficult choice – I saved money and took the lancha! Truth be told, saving about $1 wasn’t the primary reason why I elected the more economical option. It was because there was a rather loud English tour group of at least a dozen that had already boarded the ferry, and with all due respect to the English, I’d rather not be in that company; I’d rather be among locals primarily because even if I’m not interacting with them, I can see their habits and routines, and at least can get an impression of their culture…

The boat ride itself wasn’t bad at all. The standard practice of women getting on public transport to sell their food was adhered to, and I eventually succumbed to some decent tasting empanadas stuffed with apples. The boat was comprised of mostly locals shuttling between the island and the mainland, and it looked like it was just myself and a Spanish couple as far as travellers go. The ride started off smooth, but then got progressively bumpier, the back and forth sway produced by the boat going against the lake’s currents becoming increasingly stronger the further we were out on the lake. In my opinion, it was nothing too severe (although many locals were locked in a brace position), and we eventually docked on the island at the port in Moyogalpa without problems.

Buses leaving at the port are supposed to be coordinated with inbound boats. There was a bus waiting upon the boat’s arrival, but I was unsure as to the bus’ route and I decided to wait for the next, which appeared an hour and a half later. It was another packed chicken bus, with a large proportion of tourists and travellers. When the conductor came around collecting payment, I asked him where exactly the bus was going and was happy to learn that the bus was going directly to Santa Cruz, from where I could get off the bus and walk about ten minutes downhill to get to the entrance of El Zopilote, the eco-hostel where I intended on staying for a few nights. About a third of the way during this walk, it began to rain heavily, as if I needed an additional challenge to get me through the last stages of this travel day.

It was a short hike uphill to get to the lodge, the path a bit slippery from the rain. I got to the reception area in one piece, happy that I had arrived and that this day of travel was now over, but content at the route I had taken to get here – on foot, bus, rickshaw, taxi, boat, bus, and foot…

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