2009
08.09
Like something out of a South Pacific fantasy novel, the island of Ometepe, formed by twin volcanoes, rises out of one the world´s largest lakes. Lago de Nicaragua, it itself, seems to be something out of a storybook. At 110 miles long and 36 miles wide, the lake feels more like an ocean and though it is connected to the Caribbean via Rio San Juan, it is separated from the Pacific by only 12 miles. It is a treasure trove of remarkable aquatic species including sawfish, tarpon and even rare freshwater bull sharks about 10 feet long. The lake contains 400 islands, among them Isla de Ometepe which fulfilled an ancient Nahuatl prophecy of finding twin volcanoes in a freshwater sea.

From the port at San Jorge, the two volcanoes loomed in the distance, their summits covered in clouds high in the sky. The taller of the two, Concepcion, rises 5282 feet above the lake in a near perfect cone. As we approached by boat the active volcano appeared forbidding with its steep scree-covered slopes climbing into the clouds. Both volcanoes are circled by roads which connect on the isthmus and link the coastal settlements that dot the island’s lush shores.
We arrived at Moyogalpa and traveled the rough, rocky roads to Playa Santa Domingo, a little community on the island’s waist between the two volcanoes. With the wind pushing waves onto its beautiful beach and a seemingly unending view across the lake, it was hard to believe that we were at a lake and not on an island somewhere in a vast empty ocean. Volcan Maderas rises 4573 feet above the village and its jungle-covered slopes are home to howler monkeys, parrots and gorgeous blue-tailed birds called urracas.
Like most islands, Ometepe is a quiet place where life moves slow and villagers watch the world go by from the shade of patios and lakeside trees. There was little to do but swing in hammocks and idle away in rocking chairs. It’s a place for relaxing though the constant winter winds gave the island a feeling of restlessness, stirring the trees and whipping the water into waves. The volcanoes were almost always covered in clouds aside from a couple of hours in the morning when the blue sky made a grand appearance. In those sunny hours, tourists and locals alike savored the sunshine with swims in the lake or laying on the beach. Then the clouds would roll in, the winds would pick up speed and everyone would retreat under roofs for bottles of beer and far-off gazing.
Days on Isla de Ometepe soon grew long and quickly I found myself feeling bored and restless. This seemed to be a constant problem in Nicaragua. Too many days were spent relaxing in hammocks, reading books, or watching TV, simply because there was little more to do. Though we had come to Nicaragua with great anticipation, the country had failed to live up to our expectations. As a stand-alone destination, the country has its share of highlights. Yet, compared with neighboring countries, there was little in Nicaragua to be impressed by. The mountains were beautiful, but nothing like the lush peaks of Honduras. The colonial cities had their share of beautiful cathedrals and colorful streets, but paled in comparison to Antigua. The beaches were pretty and relaxing, but just quiet stretches of sand after the wild and rugged shores of El Salvador. Even the volcanoes seemed tame after standing next to flowing lava in Guatemala. And though geographically and biologically speaking Isla de Ometepe was an interesting place, it was little more than a beautiful place to relax and read a book.

The time had come to move on to our final destination… Costa Rica.

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