Our Central America tour (7): Isla de Ometepe

Today (Friday), we were leaving Costa Rica and entering our second country of the tour Nicaragua, so essentially it was a travelling day.

We left the hotel towards 8 am, took the Pan American Highway north, and reached the Costa Rican border an hour later. Crossing any Central American border can be problematic, even for Central Americans themselves. There is a $7 a head charge to leave Costa Rica and a $13 a head charge to enter Nicaragua, although additionally bribes can be necessary to smooth the wheels of bureaucracy and slowness. Fortunately we had an easy time and completed all formalities in one and a half hours.

Entering Nicaragua about 10.30 am, we were still on the Pan American Highway but now lorries, buses and cars were accompanied by oxen carts, bicycles and even pedestrians (not at all like a British motorway!). We skirted the southern shore of the largest lake in the country, the absolutely huge Lago de Nicaragua, and made a stop to take our first photographs of the largest island in the lake called Isla de Ometepe with its two dominant volcanoes – a magical view.

We made a brief comfort stop in the town of Rivas and then turned off to head for the shore of the lake at a village called San Jorge. We were in very good time for the ferry to the island, so we had a bit of lunch at a cafe by the ferry terminal called “El Navegante” where Roger was delighted to find that he could access WiFi ( password was “Leningrado”, so perhaps the owners were Sandinista supporters) and post another chapter on this narrative. A little walk on the beach (it was so hot) and a refreshing beer (it was so cold) and we were ready to embark.

It took us an hour a half on the ferry to reach Moyogalpa on the Isla de Ometepe – the name means two mountains – in the middle of the huge Lago de Nicaragua (8,634 square metres or 10,300 square yards).

The Island is almost two islands – each created by a volcano – joined by a narrow isthmus. On the north west is Volcan Concepcion, the higher standing at 1,610 metres, and on the south-east is Volcan Maderas, the lower but still 1,304 metres. While Maderas is dormant, Concepcion is still active – the last eruption was in 1986 – and usually topped by clouds. The population of the island is around 40,000 and a popular form of travel is by horse.

It was 4.30 pm when our coach – which had accompanied us on the ferry – pulled up to our accommodation on the island after a journey of eight and a half hours (although we had a long stop at San Jorge). For the third consecutive night, we were staying in a place with individual chalets, but the Charco Verde Hotel was special in being located by the lake. This is about as remote as it gets: 5,000 miles away from home, in a country nobody we know has ever visited, in the middle of a hugh lake we had never previously heard of, in the middle of an island with two volcanoes.

The facilities of the hotel were the most basic yet: we had no problem managing without a television but we would have been bothered by the absence of a kettle and beverages had we not brought along our own travelling kettle and tea & coffee. As last night, there was effectively no choice but to eat at the hotel but we had a choice of three options.


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