On approach to Ometepe.
The first thing you notice about Lake Cocibolca is the wind. You notice it from a few miles inland, in Rivas, where the mosquitos get blown away before they have a chance to make a dent in you. You notice it more on the cab ride to San Jorge, where the ferry leaves from. And then you catch your first view of the lake and the size of the waves. It’s really astonishing the amount of whitewater that gets kicked up. You have to remind yourself that this is fresh water. But day after day, year after year, the wind comes tearing across what the Nicaraguans call the Sweet Sea, barreling toward the Pacific, and kicking the Lake into froth along the way.
After a one hour ferry ride across the lake, you arrive at the island. It is formed by the twin volcanoes of Concepcion and Maderas, which connect by an isthmus. The ferry docks at the port of Moyogalpa, unless you catch the ferry that docks at San Jose del Sur, and I’ve heard there are some politics involved in who owns which ferry, and that the political sway of each town has determined which ferry goes to which port, but those kinds of questions get left behind once you reach the island, which even the signs say is “An Oasis of Peace.”
Morning in Moyogalpa.
Let’s leave behind the history of Nicaragua, and the fact that Ometepe has always seemed to stand outside of it. Even during the worst of the fighting in the 70’s and 80’s, Ometepe remained practically untouched. Everything moves at a slow pace here because there is rarely another option. You get a few pitches for taxis and bicycles and scooters when you get off the boat, but after that it’s all open and laid back after that. There’s a bakery/restaurant/hotel a couple blocks up from the dock called the Cornerhouse. We dropped our bags here and started talking to the couple that owns it—a Canadian and a Brit who met at a hostel a few years before—and proceeded to miss our bus to Balgue. As well as the next bus to Altagracia. And the next one.
I said recently that I want to let things go according to their own schedule more, and this is a good place for that. We rented bicycles our second day here and rode to the beach, where we watched a couple cowboys drive their horses down the beach to water them (the water is fresh here, remember). So we’re sitting on barstools in a little hut, drinking watermelon batidas and watching seven horses up to their chests in water, their heads down, drinking. On the way back to our campsite (more on that in a moment), we had to hold up for a group of cows that were being driven out into the road.
Corrinne and I finally caught a bus to the isthmus, then walked to a little finca called La Brisa, which is a 300 yard climb up the hillside from the main road, just outside of the little town of Balgue. We’ve been hauling a tent around with us for the length of our trip but haven’t had occasion to break it out yet. We figured a campsite that runs less than three dollars a day, sits over a banana field (orchard? I dunno…), and has a clear view of both volcanoes and the lake would be a good spot to try out our camping skills. We set up camp just before sunset the first night and hit the sack almost immediately.
At dawn, I heard a rustling next to my head. I opened my eyes and turned my head and, about five feet from me, was a fox, curled up and sleeping right next to the tent.
A couple hours later, we strolled down to the small communal area where Nacho, the Spaniard who owns to joint, has his sleeping quarters and kitchen. We asked for breakfast, and thirty minutes later were sitting down with cacao pancakes, fresh baked break with tomato and garlic, pineapple, oranges, coffee, and maracuya juice.
Now that’s breakfast.
We’ve spent the last two nights at La Brisa, and have no plans to move anytime soon. I expect the updates will be a little less frequent for the next few days. Internet is not easy to come by here, and that’s fine by us. We spent yesterday at the beach, in hammocks, and in a tent. We caught a bus back to Moyogalpa to grab some groceries, but I’m not anticipating much more movement than that this week. We’re talking about going horseback riding on the trails at the base of the volcano. We’re talking about climbing the volcano. But mostly, we’re just sitting still and taking in this place. It doesn’t quite seem real, he said simplistically. But it’s the case. The breezes never stop blowing and the weather remains cool. We’re surrounded by trees and chickens. We’re taking it easy. We’ll write more soon.
We’re on the side of a volcano, on an island formed by millions of years of geological violence. And somehow, in the cooling, it’s become this the oasis of peace.
More news from the volcano soon.