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Ometepe’s Splendor

October 2nd, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

After 2 days of bumming around Granada Tracy and I decided to continue our Nicaragua explorations with a trip to Ometepe Island, a sizable land mass in the middle of Lake Nicaragua whose shape approximates two conjoined circles formed respectively by two volcanoes.

I’m quite bad at committing foreign proper nouns to memory at just a few exposures.  So for the first 36 hours of my acquaintance with Ometepe’s existence I, when not trying to pass on reasonable facsimiles (“Olletombo?” ” No, you just mangled the name of an Inca ruin in Peru.” “Ommagumma?”  “No, you just did the same thing but this time with name of a hostel we once stayed in in Guatemala”), I just referred to it as “Boobie Island”.  Yes I’m like a 13 year old regard in some respects, and yes, I’m okay with that.

The path to our target location on Ometepe, the tiny village of Merida, was the stuff of hardy backpacker transit: a march through the squalorous expanse of the Granada market1 to the bus station, a 2 hour bus ride to Rivas, a 10 minute taxi to the dock, a 1 hour ferry to the island, and a 3 hour bus ride to our final destination (the last hour being 14km on an unpaved road).

But oh was it worth it.

Often (but not always), the effort required to get to a location is a strong predictor of how remote/cheap/unspoiled/awesome it will be once you finally get there.  Merida held up this correlation beautifully.  We stayed at Hacienda Merida, a tidy resort whose best cabin was on the upper level facing the lake, and featured a big ol’ hammock on the ample deck and choice views of some of the best sunsets you’ve ever seen (give Tracy a click for the visuals to back this statement up).

On the bus ride we met Brad and Yvonne, a pair of doctors from Australia who’d gone to great lengths to get to what is (for them) one of the ends of the earth2.  During our overlapping days they made fantastic travel companions, ready-made double dates for dining and excursions (thanks to their lead and our desire to follow, Tracy and I had our first horseback ride up to see a waterfall on the island).

At $32 a night the whole setup really encourages settling in for a while.  We had originally planned to stay 3 nights on Ometepe, but after I fell into a rhythm of paradise-like island life, I lobbied Tracy for a few more nights (the arrangement wasn’t ideal for Tracy due to the food situation: vegetarian fare was quite limited in the remote village), and we ended up staying 6.

What did the paradise-like rhythm look like?  The combination of lapping waves, cocks a’crowing, and faint sunlight showing usually woke me around 5am.  I’d go to my “office” (a round stone table steps down from the main building with a great view of the lake framed by on-shore palm trees) with my laptop, do a few hours of inspired coding or writing, have breakfast, work a few more hours more in the tropical breeze, wander “off campus” for lunch, read a while in a hammock, jump off the dock for a swim at sunset, have dinner, hang out a while in the hammock staring off at the lake, and bed time around 9pm.

With the exceptions of excursions, days were largely permutations of these building blocks.  Aside from food boredom (which set in for even omnivorous me at around day 5) I could see settling in to life like that for a easily a few months.  It marked a really nice balance between lounging in paradise and doing productive work, a balance which seriously blisses me out.  (These days I’ve got about a 3-day limit on unbroken leisure: after that I’d much rather be doing or creating something, things like writing or coding decisively overtake hedonistic pleasures in terms of enjoyability.)

There then came the time to mix things up once more.  Yesterday we headed off on the morning bus to slightly bigger Santa Cruz for our last night on Ometepe, and seeing the more jungle side of things was the mission.  After a lovely morning walkabout we had lunch at Restaurant Santa Cruz, where the friendly proprietor recommended we rent a pair of his bikes and ride off to the Ojo del Agua, a pool nestled thoroughly in nature and fed by cool spring water from the nearby volcano.

At first brush we were hesitant: did we have enough time?  Did we want to ride 30 minutes each way?  Did we want to pay for bikes and risk getting lost?  Basically, did we want to be adventurous enough to do something cool while we were here and had the chance, and resist the urge to act crotchety, tired, and travel-inept?

When you’re on super-extended travel, the urge to “take it easy” is strong.  We grappled with this for maybe 2 minutes before resolving that, hell yeah we should do things, we’re still young and strong, and owe it to the world that has so thoroughly blessed us to buck up and go see some shit already.

This is the stuff of maintaining and renewing one’s lease on traveler happiness.  Sure enough we had a great time and of course we had the stamina for the bike ride, of course we had ample time for the trip and enjoying the pool (what else were we there to spend it on?), and of course we could swing the bike rental (70 Cordobas per bike, or about $3 US).   Sometimes you need to step just a tad out of the comfort zone for a reminder of these important truths.

This morning over breakfast we met a couple with whom we’d exchanged nods yesterday as we all biked past one another.  More great company with whom to dine, Sky and Jenni were traveling in from Europe, and headed next for LA.  Sky does video editing and has a pleasing British accent, which he smartly brought to my attention as I told him about CoachAccountable and the need for a slick introductory video to show off the system.  As I work to get the marketing message together I take this meeting as serendipity’s good fortune.

Now as we leave Ometepe we are bound for San Juan Del Sur, the surfing town on the Pacific coast where we plan to settle the rest of this month in Nicaragua.  Our optimum mix of 1 week of travel to 4 weeks of setting in a home is reasserting itself as we yearn to once more have a proper kitchen and drawers to unpack our stuff, so onward we go apartment hunting in our next town!


  1. Don’t get me wrong: Tracy and I generally love us some chaotic markets abroad, but the roughshod nature of Granada’s downtown market made produce shopping unappetizing even to us.
  2. From the US, it is all too easy to take our proximity to great countries like Nicaragua for granted.  Hearing Brad & Yvonne describe their trip to get there was a great reminder of how nice that proximity is.
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