Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ometepe Island--Costa Rica and Bali 40 years ago

We've been privileged over the past decades to experience some cool places before they became mainstream and overrun with tourists, cruise ships, high-rise resorts or war.  Nepal, Burma, Bali, Afghanistan, Iran, and parts of India,Thailand, Costa Rica, Greece, and Malaysia, come to mind.  Facilities were minimal and catered to
View for our deck each night
mostly  backpackers. These places retained their unique character and culture in spite of the few tourists who visited. We thought there weren't any more left.

Then we discovered Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, which takes about an hour by ferry boat to get there. Shaped like an hour glass defined by a volcano on each end, it's about half the size of Oahu, Hawaii (but shaped like Maui) on Lake Nicaragua, which is about 1/3 the size of Lake Erie.
Ometepe is he island in Lake Nicaragua

The ferry to Ometepe
Mt. Conception--the larger one

Volcan Maderas, the smaller inactive one,
as seen from our kayaks

A road of paving bricks covers a small portion of the perimeter, but the roads are mainly dusty dirt with rocks the size of small Yukon gold potatoes.  A number of small resorts line he shoreline here and there, sporting one to 15 rooms.   The taxis are mostly four-wheel drive pickup trucks.  But you can also flag down a crowded "chicken bus" (which we did) with everyone and their chickens and goats on it.
Hot, crowded, but fun "chicken bus"
Ometepe sports three ATM's, a very small port town, lots of 20-somethings in short-short and tank tops with backpacks, and a good number of  grass shack cafes serving delicious food, smoothies, and cold beer.  We stayed in a wonderful two-room B&B on Via Verde Organic Farm, pioneered 17 years ago by Eileen and Darren from California.

Via Verde Farm, Home sweet home for
three days

Our common area deck with a killer
view of Mt. Conception

They slept in a tent the first three years while they built a home and planted trees, shrubs, and crops.  We shared a common bath and deck area with a spectacular view of Mt. Conception, especially at sunset.  (Check out their website link above for more photos).

One of the best swimming
holes, ever!
It was so fun hanging out with Peace Corps Volunteers Nati and Jasmine, both fluent in Spanish and willing to compare their Peace Corps experiences with ours, separated by 6,000 miles and 39 years.  More on that in our next blog.
A nice 3-mile hike to
a refreshing waterfall

We hiked to a waterfall, kayaked in a fresh water bayou, and played Tarzan and Jane at a crystal clear 
swimming hole.

kayaking in a fresh water bayou

An Ibex and an Egret from North America

Eileen gave us a tour of her farm and
 Jasmine some planting starts and seeds
for her school garden.
We enjoyed spectacular sunsets, walked star-light roads at night and hot dusty ones by day to great meals (including pizza!).  At night we got into some cutthroat pinochle games over beers and the local rum.

Lunch on a tropical island with chickens underfoot

Pinochle, rum, beer, and going "set."
Catching the sunset from our kayaks

We hated to say goodbye to both of them and Ometepe.  We're spending our last three full days in a five-room inn at Laguna de Apoyo, which is inside a volcanic crater, about 200 meters from the rim.  The crystal-clear fresh water lake is three miles across and 525 feet deep.  It's a nice place to just chill, which--for those of you who really know us--is hard for us to do.  But we're coping, and the food is amazing.
Breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dinner hangout
at Casa Marimba
Overall, it's been a very fun trip--much better than we thought it would be, especially after spectacular Tanzania. But connecting with five Peace Corps volunteers and getting the back story on the country has made it all worthwhile. We're so proud of them! We get to go home to get out of the heat, humidity, and dust, but they still have to (or get to) stay for eight more months.

This is an extremely poor country, still recovering from years of civil war and a corrupt kleptocracy by the politically-connected ultra wealthy. But the Nicas are very friendly, hospitable, and laid-back; not as reserved as Asians we've met in our travels and living abroad.  Although the countryside is somewhat dusty, barren and extremely hot at the end of this dry season, it's still beautiful.  Believe it or not, the water, ice cubes and food are relatively safe, and we've had no health problems.  And we've felt very personally safe the whole time.  See Nicaragua--and especially Ometepe--while you still can, while it still retains its charm.  It's Costa Rica 40 years ago.

Panoramic view from our beach

Our last sunset at Laguna de Apoyo


  1. Fabulous account. I can’t Imagine how one goes about planning such an adventure, much less back-to-back adventures!

  2. The photos remind me of our service trips to Nicaragua. I look forward to chatting with you when you return!