Isla de Ometepe, the largest island on a lake in the world is formed by two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We chose to stay in Moyogalpa, the islands largest town as it’s the base camp for the climb up Volcan Concepcion which we had planned for Saturday, December 1st.
Wayne had found a beautiful cottage style accommodation owned by a German guy, Zkini. He moved to the island almost 7 years ago and planned his hostel, Hospedaje Soma, which was peaceful and serene. One of my favorite aspects was that Zkini cooked our dinners with all fresh ingredients. This was much appreciated after having to eat fried chicken and fried plantains for the past few days. Zkini and I also ran 5 miles together one morning while Wayne was climbing Volcan Maderas, the smaller dormant volcano on the opposite side of the island. I was very concerned about working from an island, as I’d heard that if a power line goes down it can take days to repair, but the internet was much better than expected with no outages.
Zkini hooked us up with a local guide, Javier, who was born and raised on Ometepe – he spoke perfect English (very rare in Nicaragua) and was very knowledgeable about the island and it’s wildlife. Wayne had already hiked with Javier on Maderas so we knew that he would be perfect for the climb up Concepcion which has a very steep ascent with loose rocks, high winds and potentially extreme heat. We left Soma at 4:45am to catch the 5am bus for our 8 hour journey. The bus dropped us off at the entrance to the park, about 5k from Soma. We walked for about a mile on a dirt track shared by farmers moving their cattle to graze in other areas and on Concepcion.
After the first mile the trail turned pretty steep and I knew immediately that this descent was going to wreck my knees. I was really wishing for a walking stick, but without a machete that was a helpless wish. Not long after having those thoughts Javier made a walking stick of his own; I was complaining to myself and being selfish that he should have given it to me (luckily my diva stayed in Boca!). Javier had moved over to the side of the trail as he’d spotted a very poisonous Coral snake heading home after a night of hunting – these are very pretty with yellow, black and red rings around their body. Two hours later we reached the look-out (this is where most reasonable people turn around, but I married a mountaineer and that was not an option), complete with beautiful view, but with a howling wind that almost knocking us off our feet. Javier was glad that we had a pretty clear day and were not yet in the clouds; however, we knew the summit was going to be covered as it had been the past few days. From the look-out to the summit was a very, very steep incline on loose rocks for 600 vertical meters. This doesn’t seem far, but this section was going to take me, the slow poke, 2 hours to summit, a thought that was not appealing. The higher we climbed the slower I became and wouldn’t you know but Javier handed me the walking stick!! I knew I’d get it before the journey was up! When we finally reached the summit the winds were close to 70-80mph, completely covered in clouds and you could smell the volcanic sulfurous gases. All I kept thinking was “Please don’t let this side of the crater collapse!”, something highly unlikely, but it was a thought! We only stayed at the top for a minute as Javier knew the dangers of being on an active volcano and he also knew the descent was the hardest part of the day.
This is what I was dreading all day and it didn’t disappoint. There were no good places to get a foothold. Wayne and Javier were going much faster and I could watch them from above as each were slipping. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would fall and I knew my fall wouldn’t compare with theirs…. just how it works for me – I’m slow and was born with two left feet. I was thankful I had that walking stick as about 300 meters from the look-out on the way down it happened. My wonderful, caring husband had gone off ahead of me and Javier, but luckily for me our nice Nicaraguan guide was not going to let this clumsy soul on the mountain alone. I lost my footing and tumbled feet over my head. My hands were slightly bloody (glad I brought some bandaids) and my hips were bruised, but more importantly my psyche was damaged. Three hundred more meters to the look-out – this was going to take forever!!!! Slowly and carefully Javier and I made it back as Wayne was sitting comfortably at the look-out checking out two cows that were lying on the trail, preventing us from getting down any further. Amazing that they can make it up there. I guess you should never underestimate having four legs! I’m glad I did the hike, but I’m in no rush to do it again!
While in Ometepe we also rented a moped and checked out the island. We headed to the ‘Ojo de Agua’ lava pools (not hot water) and did a shorter hike at Chaco Verde with great views of the island. Isla de Ometepe is a place we would travel to again, and I’m discovering that Nicaragua is not as intimidating as I once thought it would be. We really wish we spoke better Spanish so we could interact more with the locals – we’ll be working on that in Granada when Wayne starts Spanish school.
November 27th – December 2nd 2012