Granada to Balgue, Isla Ometepe

Isla Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanos, Volcano Concepcion which is still active and Volcano Maderas. Maderas is the smaller of the two volcanos and has not been active in historical times and it’s crater contains a crater lake. The two are joined by a low isthmus to form one island. We were told it is the only island in the world with two volcanos but we couldn’t confirm this anywhere. What we did learn however is it is the largest island in the world in a fresh water lake.

Visiting Isla Ometepe is a little like going back into time. The ferry is very old but functionable and we were able to get a seat on the main deck but it does remind you of the photos you see where 500 people drown in a lake from a overcrowded ferry capsizing. The ferry wasn’t overcrowded and it was a nice crossing .

The island is lush and resembles many areas in Southeast Asia, hippies and all. There is a large expat community and everything from tantric healing to womb awaking is available. We really don’t know what womb awaking entails but it is available.

We stayed at El Bamboo jungle cabins and it was an amazing experience. Che, the owner, originally from Argentina purchased land and started a restaurant and then began building bungalows from local bamboo and recycled materials. What he ended up with are several very cool bungalows near and on the lakefront. He eventually closed his restaurant and turned it into his home and then continued building and now has, we think about six unique cabanas for very reasonable nightly rates.

Che is a wonderful man. He is so happy with his life, his little paradise as he calls it, and his two dogs, Joyce and Pedro. He hikes into the hills daily where he works with a co-op garden featuring organic coffee and other crops, tends his own garden with numerous herbs and fruit bearing trees and comes across as just the most down to earth guy you could meet. We envy him for his lifestyle and we are happy we met him. Hats off to you Che!

A short walk from our bamboo tree house in the forest was a really good restaurant, Cafe Campestre. We ate there every night. Great curries, all home made and other great options and very affordable beer! One litre bottle of very good, very cold Victoria Classic cost the equivalent of $3.60 CAD. A great deal!

We had two full days to explore the island so we decided to rent an ATV. The road on the western side of the island which essentially circles Maderas volcano is unpaved gravel and we saw many people with bandaged legs from wiping out on their small tired motorcycles so the ATV made sense. At $60 USD per day it was worth the added protection.

We spent several hours cruising the undeveloped unpaved eastern side on our first day and a couple hours driving a portion of the more developed western side.

The attraction of both drives was the different views we had of the two volcanos and the difference in the landscapes between the two sides. On about one half of the eastern/Maderas side, volcanic rocks ranging in size from a baseball to giant boulders were scattered all over while the other half and the western side had none. A neat indication of how, what would have been a huge explosive eruption, hurled these rocks into a specific direction.

It was a great experience staying in our “tree house bungalow”. We had an extremely comfortable bed with mosquito net, a small functional kitchen, a cold fridge, a stand alone fan, and a nice bathroom with hot water and good wifi. The days were very hot but the evenings did cool down a bit so with a little breeze off of the lake and the fan blowing on us it was comfortable for sleeping.

We were in a small rural community so there were roosters and chickens and pigs roaming about and there were packs of dogs. At all hours of the night we could hear the dogs barking in the distance. It seemed like a competition of who could bark the loudest and occasionally some of the local dogs would decide to join in and usually, just when the dogs stopped barking, the bloody roosters would start up. I guess if you lived there for any period of time you would get used to it but we still got a fairly good nights sleep regardless.

We had a really enjoyable time on the island and probably could have spent another couple of nights but three nights was good. On a side note, the cabana beside ours was occupied by Hubert, a really nice French Canadian who has lived there for two years!

We departed the island on March 15th and made our way to San Juan del Sur where we had a “Luxury Studio With All The Trimmings” waiting for us. We hope.

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