So we decided to take a little trip to Nicaragua. Actually an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua called Ometepe. It was formed by two volcanoes rising from the center of the lake. The lake itself is the largest in all of Central America and drains into the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River. To reach Isla De Ometepe we traveled by bus from northern Costa Rica to the Nicaraguan border. Its pretty straight forward, line up your buses and cross the border into Nicaragua. Once we crossed we hopped a cab for around $25 to the ferry just outside of Rivas. We crammed into a rickety ferry with about 40 other people headed for Ometepe. It was windy and the ride was rough. But we made it and we were happy to set foot on the Isla. The plan was to save money on lodging by camping. This way we could spend our money on a rental motorcycle. This turned out to be an awesome idea! We rented a moto from one of the many vendors you will find once you arrive on the isla. We decided that a place called El Zopilote would be our camping location. “Zopilote is a hostel on a productive and beautiful farm, working with respect for the environment and nature (not against it).” (ometepezopilote.net) So we rode off on our rental dirt bike headed to the other side of the island where El Zopilote was located. Not knowing what was in store for us, we cruised the 2 lane road around the island made of 2 volcanoes. Ometepe was lush with vegetation, large volcanic rocks and stones of all sizes cover the terrain in all directions. We kept a mellow speed on the bike, mainly because the streets were full of livestock, dogs, and people. The pace is slow and it seemed that every home had a window shop full of fresh beautiful produce and fruits grown in the rich volcanic soil of Ometepe. Banana trees lined the roads and pigs could be seen rooting and chasing one another under the canopy of the trees. It was amazing! The island teemed with life and energy. The weather was hot and dry, and we were anxious to find our camping location.
We arrived at El Zopilote and the first thing we saw was a large yellow school bus. The monument/storefront for El Zopilote. They do not take reservations so it is really up to them if you can stay or go. We were in luck and they had one last campsite available for us. We walked a small trail through the trees and up the side of a hill to finally find El Zopilote in all its glory. There was a great restaurant area in the center of the grounds and from there rugged cement trails shot off in all directions leading to campsites and small lodges that can also be rented. Hammock camping was also an option for those without tents. The air smelled wonderful and the sounds of the trees and the birds synchronized rhythmically to welcome us. It felt like we were a million miles away from civilization. Everyone was very laid back and generally respected everyone’s privacy. Even though there were at least 15-20 other people there, it still felt relaxed and peaceful. This was a place of calm and appreciation for the natural terrain, and the guests all seemed to understand that. The tent was awesome and we saw some amazing stars that night. There were also yoga classes offered in the morning by the resident teacher.
We continued to explore all sides of the island on our trusty moto. We had some great meals and indulged in the local beers, which are very fairly priced. We visited the coast to look out at the lake, and then headed to search for ancient ruins and petroglyphs left by local Indian tribes who once called these magical volcanoes home. Unfortunately the Spaniards would come sometime in the 16th century to destroy this ancient civilization. But we did find the ruins and they were magnificent idols carved from large vertical blocks of stone. Each one resembled a different animal god and was praised for its power. These are things you must see to truly appreciate. We took some photos and bid the ancient ruins farewell.
Driving the 2 lane roads on the moto felt perfect. You could not ask for a better way to view Ometepe. You are constantly staring up at the amazing, massive volcanoes. You begin to feel small and insignificant as you look up at these wonders of nature, and think about the angry eruptions that once spewed from their mouths. The piercing blue sky and blazing light of the Central American sun seemed to make the whole environment feel very surreal. A wonderland of color and life resting under these two sleeping giants. The locals seem to really love their home on the isla. It provides for them. It feeds them and offers endless bounties of fruits, vegetables and lush farmlands.
It was a short trip for us but just enough time to really become intrigued with these 2 volcanoes sitting in the middle of a lake in Central American. We rolled up our tent and bed mats and headed down the trail to the base of the hill. We loaded up the moto and drove towards the ferry, slowly cruising the roads that wrapped through the hills of the volcanoes. We were tired and the next series of bus rides was a blur. By the time we made it back to Costa Rica we were spent. Fully content in seeing an ancient land once inhabited by amazing people and civilizations long lost with the arrival of the Spaniards. We hope we can return to spend more time searching for ruins and dining on volcanic fruits and vegetables.