Butler September 2017 Newsletter – Ometepe

By Terry Butler

Our latest trip in Nicaragua was to the twin volcano isle of Ometepe out in Lake Nicaragua.  We are retired and live on a shoestring budget.  When you have a wonderful opportunity to visit a new and beautiful area in Nicaragua, a person seems required to experience it.  It has been our good fortune to make many friends in Nicaragua.  Yader and Aris are two of those wonderful friends.  Yader was born on Ometepe Island and still has extended family that live there.  Aris was born on Corn Island in the Carribean and consequently she speaks both Spanish and English.  Aris has been our translator since Terry’s first three week trip to teach in Nicaragua.  She has helped communicate Bible lessons and a seminar on marriage.

We left downtown Managua at 5:30 in the morning after picking up Yader and Aris.  The first red-yellow rays of sunrise were coloring the eastern horizon as we left.  We took the Pan-American Highway north to Tipitapa before turning south to Nindiri and Masaya.  It is the rainy season and the lush, verdant foliage makes the landscape beautiful everywhere. The Spanish word for green is “verde.”  Hence, there is similarity between the English “verdant” and the Spanish “verde.”

It is the time of year for some harvest of beans and sugar cane.  Some fields are just being plowed for planting of a new crop.  So, early in the morning sees many trucks getting their start as the roads are more empty.  Even the buses and taxis get their early start to glean every cordaba they can. (It is about 30 cordabas to one dollar American.)  We had made a reservation with a ferry to cross over to Ometepe so we were in a hurry to “get on down.” Yader and Aris were our tour guides and they kept up a running comment of what we were seeing as we travelled.

From Masaya we climbed up to the lip of an extinct volcano at Catarina.  The lake is called “Laguna de Apoyo” and is one of the most beautiful in Central America.  We passed many “viveros” (plant nursuries) and could see all the many f lowers and shrubs for sale along with much pottery.  This is the area where much exquisite, hand-crafted furniture is made.

We continued south under the shadow of the Mombacho Volcano on the western shore of Lake Nicaragua and on through the towns of Daria and Diriomo.  We caught the highway from Granada and continued on to the town of Nandaime and caught the PanAmerican highway south.  This part of southern Nicaragua is f lat and there are many farms as we travel along.  The pony and carts have the right of way and we often slowed down for cattle grazing along side the road.  The Brahma cattle are beautiful and are herded by a cowboy or cowgirl on horseback.

One can see many wayside, thatched lean-tos where folks are selling fruit and vegetables. You pass through little communities such as San Francisco and Casa Blanca and never even know they are there.  There is the occasional wide spot for trucks to pull over and get a bite to eat.

The worst anxiety producing moments are when you come to a police checkpoint.  You never know when you will be waved over for a document check and some infraction is imposed even though you may be innocent.

[Recently, a policeman declared that I had done something wrong and after he took my license, I had to go to a bank to put into the police account 1000 cordabas [$35].  A few days later a person on a motorcycle arrived at my house with my driver’s license.]

After arriving at the town of Rivas, we turned east to the ferry town of San Jorge. The taxis, three-wheeled motorcycle taxis, and buses were delivering their customers to the dock as we arrived.  We paid a fee of 500 cordabas to put our SUV on the ferry.  At another office, we paid 50 cordabas per person to travel on the ferry.  Backing onto the ferry which could hold four vehicles plus motorcycles was with much anxiety.  One of the attendants pushed my mirrors in so that I could not use them and wanted me to trust him to back my SUV into the right space.  I kept flipping my mirror back out so I could back up and he kept flipping them back in.  Well, with much hand signaling and shouting we got into position scrunched near the side of the ferry.  As the ferry pulled away from the dock,

I realized that no vehicle was parked alongside and I could have balanced the load by being in the middle of the ferry.  Alas, often in Nicaragua the rigid legalism is the only thing tolerated and thinking “outside the box” is not accepted. The lake was somewhat choppy and as passengers we climbed to a top deck to see all that was new.  This also kept us from becoming nauseous as we could keep our eyes on the island to which we were going.  It looked like Ometepe Island was close enough for a five minute trip, but it took an hour before arriving at the town of Moyogalpa toward the northern part of the island.  As we were arriving, we could see a few people casting their fishing net from a small panga boat.

Well, the same attendant that directed me onto the ferry wanted to make sure that I knew how to drive off the ferry.  I smiled at him and said, “Muchas gracias.”  Aris had made reservations at a “hostal” and the manager ( jefe) met us at the dock and guided us to a cute little place where each couple could have a room with a double bed and a little bathroom (el baño).  We were comfortable for two nights although it was very warm inside the dwelling.  [Normally, Carol and Terry sleep in separate rooms because he snores so loud that Carol cannot get any rest.  Furthermore, she has the amazing ability to throw her body up into the air while asleep, turn over, and land next to me in the night. Hence the bed shakes like an earthquake and Terry gets no rest.]  Well, we had been up since 3:30 a.m. and we went to bed early and slept through the night in the same bed that night!

We had the day ahead of us and having unloaded at the hostel we went to find some breakfast.  There were several small eating places and we found one that would serve eggs and beans and rice (actually–”gallo pinto”).

All right, we were off to see the sights and sites.  The two volcanos were covered in wispy, cotton-like clouds.  Vulcan Concepcion is the “hot” volcano and in a recent year spewed some ash.  Vulcan Maderas is the cold volcano and we headed south and east to get to the base of the Maderas volcano.  Our friends wanted us to experience the cold spring water flowing out of the hills.  It was called Ojo de Aqua which means Eye of the Water or Waterhole.  As we arrived, an older gentleman told us in Spanish that bathing in this water would make us ten years younger.  We were all for that!  We spent a couple of hours in this water and it was “cool.”  [Now decide what I meant by “cool.”]  As shriveled up prunes, we changed clothes and were back on the road to see more sights and sites.

From a few kilometers north of Moyogalpa to south through the communities of Esquipulas, Los Angeles, Ensenada San Jose, and on around to Altagracias the roads are very nice with pavement bricks.  The road on the east side of the island to Balque was also paved.  At the junction of Santa Cruz, we could procede on a paved road back west and south around the Maderas volcano. There is good engineering with dips in the road for rainwater run-off.

Ometepe is a much more relaxed culture with many farms where plantains, rice, tobacco, sesame seed, and other crops are grown.  We often stopped to take pictures of birds and of lowers.  Of course, the volcanoes were often in the picture, too.  We saw many “back- packers” from countries around the world.  Some would rent a bicycle or scooter.

On the main street of Moyogalpa, we suddenly screeched to a stop in the middle of the street because Yader saw an uncle and we were able to chat until Terry felt guilty about holding up traffic and we went on our merry way. Later that day, returning to our lodging, we stopped for an hour to see Yader’s aunts and cousins. Terry handed out Bibles and made plans for worshipping together on Sunday morning. Ari translated for us, but we got to use some of our Spanish in the conversation, too.  Terry got to use their outhouse.

We enjoyed a few meals of local cuisine, mostly fish and seafood. Our breakfasts were mostly American style. On Sunday afternoon, we travelled the eastern side of the island for a short while. Reaching the end of the cobblestone road, we returned to locate a restaurant for lunch.  It was a part of a home which also provided overnight accommodation for back-packers. The lady of the house was our hostess, providing good service and conversation. As was common, it took a while for our order to arrive, because there rarely is food prepared in advance for quicker service.  Terry and Carol enjoyed a few helpings of watermelon juice to drink. It was delicious!!

We attempted to visit a local chocolate factory, but the entry road became impassable, except by foot.  Next, we located a “homemade” ice cream shop, but they weren’t able to provide  any that late in the day. Yader, Aris and Carol enjoyed the beach while Terry napped. Next, we began a leisurely return to our hostel. Our last stop was at a Butterf ly Reserve that Yader and Aris recommended. We paid for our tickets to enter, when immediately a great downpour of rain began. We “hoped” it might be short-lived, however it continued. We did not get our money back and we left. The reserve offered us “rain checks” for entry the next day, but we were leaving on an early ferry, so we “missed out” again!!

Because of all the driving during the day, and eating our “main meal” at noon, our evenings were spent quietly in our rooms with simple snacks. We stopped at a small grocery store to get something to eat for breakfast. We were leaving early on a different ferry and that port was quite a distance from our hostel. We scheduled that departure because Aris had an early afternoon appointment to get her drivers test back in Managua. This is the same test that Terry and Carol failed twice.

Most of Sunday was overcast but we awoke Monday morning to sunshine again. The ferry trip back to the “mainland” was beautiful, so Terry and Carol rode up on the top open deck. We heard conversation behind us in English. The couple was from Florida, so we began chatting with them.

After departing the ferry, we enjoyed the leisurely drive back while testing Aris on her info for driving. [Later that day, we learned she passed with “f lying colors” and was estatic!]

It was a wonderful trip which we recommend to anyone. We were grateful to Yader and Aris for their invitation.


Terry and Carol Butler              

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