Saturday, July 12, 2014

La Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

How has this taken me so long to blog about? I'm embarrassed at my lack of dedication to blogging - but we are nearing the end of our trip. Only 10 days left to blog about. Get ready for a bunch of blogs all at once, since daily blogging hasn't been working out so well for me.

In Nicaragua we visited La Isla de Ometepe. This is an island in Lake Nicaragua that is formed from two volcanos. You can see the two peaks from one side of the lake, and it is about an hour boats ride from the shore to the island. We were pretty excited about going here, and everyone said it was a must see in Nicaragua. 

We spent our first day riding bikes around the island and visiting some nature preserves. We were visiting at the end of the dry season so everything looks pretty dead, but it was beautiful nonetheless. 

This nature reserve that we went to was right on the beach, but it also had a small lake/large pond in the reserve which had tons of turtles and other wildlife spewing over its edges.

As we were hiking, we heard the sound of howler monkeys and became a little apprehensive about hiking through a forest filled with monkeys. After our last encounter with monkeys, we weren't sure we wanted to greet our furry friends ever again. But these monkeys didn't really care that we were there. Actually, when we stopped to take pictures, they completely ignored us and continued on with monkey life. Because these monkeys were gentle and ignored us, they partially redeemed their species - although I still would never want a monkey as a pet.

Like I said in a previous blog, Lake Nicaragua is HUGE. It is also fresh water, which I prefer over the ocean. But it also has beaches and small waves, so it feels like you are at the ocean. At the nature reserve we decided to go to the beach and go swimming for a little while. 
While we were on the beach, we actually had a few visitors. Cows. Real life cows. They roam all over the island. These guys had no problem walking around us while we were sun bathing on the beach. Luckily the cows are pretty friendly. There are tons all over the place. While we were riding our bikes we would have to ride through herds of them on the roads - which was actually pretty scary since they outnumbered us 10 to 1, not to mention they are gigantic! 
After our visit from the cows, we hung out on the beach for a little while longer, but then decided we needed to explore more of the park.

There were some pretty cool things to see - including this tree that had a bunch of sweet smelling pods on it. They actually smelled like chocolate. We were convinced it was a chocolate tree until we googled what a Chocolate tree actually looked like. Still unsure what it was, but we almost kept a pod to investigate later.  

There were also these really cool birds all over the island. They had a cool sound and a feather coming out of their head. We tried to get close to them whenever we saw them.

We loved riding bikes all over the island, besides the fact that I got two flat tires during our time on the bikes. We had some really nice people help us fix the second one since we were like 10 kilometers away from the rental shop. 

After our first day on the island we relaxed and started watching LOST on Netflix, since we were on an island we felt like it would be the perfect show to make us feel at home. We used the internet of a business that was a few houses away from us, and then a neighbor came out and yelled at us saying that we were stealing (even though we had the password). Then the power went out (this happened a lot on the island) so we had to stop watching anyway. But the lady was crazy and gave us the stink eye every time we passed by. 

The next day we decided to visit a new part of the island and go to another beach. Basically we just wanted to be beach bums. We took a bus to this beach, but then had to walk quite a ways to get where we needed to go. Along the way we discovered it was mango season. The mango trees are giant and the roads are covered in overly ripe mangos. So we started "mango hunting" - which was basically our term for harvesting. 

We did this by throwing sticks and rocks up into the trees and letting the ripe mangos fall down so we could collect them. At first we thought we were crazy gringos doing this, but then we saw some local guys doing it too, so we knew we weren't that crazy. The trees are so big and there were literally thousands of mangos. Wish we could've eaten them all.

We probably knocked more than 20 mangos off the trees. We ate 3 right there, and saved the 10 best for later... only to have them confiscated at the border crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. Seriously, 6 countries and that was the only one to check our bags for fruits. It was a tragic moment.

Because the island has two volcanos on it, basically every single route was an evacuation route. We felt good to know how to get off the island in case of emergency. 

We spent the majority of our day down at the beach, having a picnic and enjoying the sun. 

We then took the bus to another town on the island, thinking that we might find some cool souvenirs... but we had no such luck.  But we did find this cool park that had some sculptures in it, one depicting the geography of the island. 

And in case you couldn't understand the geography of the island from that diagram, here is a map at the boat launch. I absolutely loved that they had a tourist map as soon as you disembarked from the ship. 

While we were on the island we had to try a lot of the local food - including gallo pinto, and plantain chips. Every local joint gives you both with every meal. We found one place that we frequented and actually found a dog we wanted to take home with us. We normally don't want to adopt stray dogs, but this one was so well behaved, surprisingly well groomed, and because of the weird mix of dog breeds, it was the perfect size. We named him Nico. 

I love the restaurants in Central America because animals will just walk in and out as you're eating. Granted, most of the restaurants are outside, so this isn't super strange - but at our favorite place we had 3 dogs and 1 cat sitting under our table waiting for scraps one night. If any of you know me, you would know that I never feed dogs at the table, so they didn't get anything from us, but they sure did wait patiently. 

After we finished on the island, we took the ferry to the mainland and made our way down to Costa Rica for the best roommate reunion I have ever had.

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