7 Sep 2007
|Friday 7th September
Taxied all of 2 minutes to the bus station (after stopping several for quotes!) and just made the bus to Rivas (i.e. got thrown in the back door as we drove off, hoping that our bags made it on to the roof). Pretty but bumping journey for a couple of hours to Rivas on the big US style school bus that are the norm here. Welcomed at the other end with the usual crowd of people trying to push us off to various forms of transport to the dock...none of which were apparently suitable because they were charging 50% more than someones guide book stipulated. I gave in and stood on the corner whilst Ming-ha went asking all the market stall holders what the proper cost should be. The taxi's stood aside apparently on strike and wouldn't budge without the price they were charging.....all of £1.
So we just made the ferry and boarded along with everyone else and went into the lounge. It seemed to be very overcrowded and we were getting some strange looks for the amount of our luggage. My american friend went outside to take a photo of Ometepe and came back drenched....freak wave incident apparently!
Walked into the first town on Ometepe and found a nice cheap hotel (well it was acceptable after stuffing the window with the mosquito net and I removed the dead cockroach from my bed) and went in search of a tourist office to book the volcano hike for tomorrow. Off in search of a pot of vitamins for Ming-ha (apparently they stop the mosquito bites!) we got caught by a man who had been outside the tourist office touting his cafe business. We ended up in there, the only customers for several hours eating his cake and listening to his stories about having recently had dengue fever....clearly he didn't realise he was talking to a hypochondriac....unfortunately I did. We made our excuses and went for a fish dinner up the road and I spent the evening reassuring Ming-ha that I really didn't thing Dengue was a risk, especially as she has not been bitten by a mosquito ever.
Saturday 8th September
Went off to meet the tour guide on my own because Ming-ha was having trouble getting it together (the ADD being at issue) and when she finally turned up we went to the local shop to get some lunch before jumping on the local bumpy bus inland. We passed through some really poor villages that just seemed to consist of a stretch of mud and a pig and arrived at the base of the volcano at 7am for a full morning hike. The lower sections were incredibly steep and humid with heavy vegetation and it was often difficult to see the path. The noise was also overwhelming. Howler monkeys making a racket and an insect that I can't remember the name of that made a screeching noise that was almost unbearable the closer you got.
Johan our guide was very good and pointed out lots of wildlife I have never seen. He explained that one tree had been called the 'Tree of Life' during the war because as the Sandinistas had become hunted more and more they had relied on tapping this for water to drink. The war has left a huge mark on most peoples lives. When we asked where Johan got his name from (after all not very hispanic) he told a family story that involved his uncle going off to fight before he had been born and asking his sister to name the baby Johan (his friends name from a visit to East Germany). When Johan was telling this story about a man dying I missed a little of it and thought we were talking about his father. He corrected me and then told me his father died just a year later. There is pretty much an entired generation of men missing from Nicaragua.
We cleared the vegetation and stopped for lunch with a view of the surrounding island and Lake Nicaragua (which is apparently the only fresh water lake in the world contain sharks....although they are worried as no one has spotted one for a couple of years). Since a couple of lads insisted on climbing up here alone a few years ago and didn't make it back no one is allowed to make the summit anymore, so we headed back down from just a few hundred metres below the top. On the way down Johan told us about a BBC show he worked on. I remembered the show about a group of disabled people making a trip from one side of Central America to the other and then climbling a volanco but can't recollect the name. Anyway, he wasn't a great fan of the BBC after they left him with a huge bill to pay local suppliers whilst they did their accounts in London. By the time the money showed up Johan had had to hide on the mainland because mobs had gone through the streets looking for him!
We made it down to the road just as it started to rain and then hid in the porch of a shop/cafe/home having a coke. The owner didn't really want me to use the loo as she was a bit embarrased by the conditions...if only she knew what I had come across already...it makes you feel terrible that people can be so ashamed of the way they live when they meet Westerners. Coming back on the bus after that we were all pretty tired and falling asleep and when Johan asked if I wanted to get some dinner it all got a bit confusing and when he came to the hotel and asked if Ming-has was coming too I kind of realised I'd made a mistake. And so progressed an evening of misunderstandings, Johan not sure why she's there, Ming-ha unaware there was a problem and me just wanting to pretty much get off the island as soon as possible tomorrow! After dinner we went to a rodeo which was taking place in town. It was all a bit chaotic with men climbing up on cows that wouldn't move, people being thrown off animals that children then jumped on from the sidings....all very macho and hardly a woman in sight. The stand looked like something from one of those disaster video clip shows and I was starting to get a little worried when Johan moved us from under the corrugated iron roof which was bowing with a huge pool of water which had collected in the afternoon rains. We left when someone decided to push the bulge to see if it would give way!?! Had to avoid a fight on the way home (very much a cowboy town) and went back to the hotel where we said goodbye to a very confused Johan.
Sunday 9th September
Managed to get past the tourist office to the dock without bumping into Johan. Met a british lad called Owen with his friend at the boat. When we were all seated in the upper deck less crowded lounge we actually realised the other day we had been in the locals lounge using up locals seats when we had booked expensive seats upstairs...hence the funny looks we were getting. It would help is they told you at the ticket office if there some kind of class system going on...but that seems to be a thing in Nicaragua, charging all tourists a higher rate for everything which is fair enough. I said goodbye to Min-ha at Rivas and left her to her routine of shopping around for taxi fares. Owen and I went on to Granada in an extremely crowded bus sat on some sacks of grain whilst two people hung on to the spare tire on the back of the bus. I think everyone had had enough by the time he decided to stop for a group of school kids and several of them and my bags were now hanging out of the now open door (with two people still hanging to the spare tire!). Oasis is much nicer than the Bearded Monkey and I noticed an advert when I checked in asking for an assistant at the hotel which might be a good idea. We went back to the Bearded Monkey for lunch, mooched about town and then had dinner at Safari lounge. Starting to really like Nicaragua and Granada especially and wouldn't mind staying around.