Friday, March 30, 2012

Isla Ometepe and the Rio San Juan

The volcanic island Isla Ometepe was the first of my last two stops in Nicaragua. The island, rising impressively out of Lake Nicaragua, takes its name from the Nuhatl words ome, meaning "two," and tepetl, meaning "mountain," and is the largest volcanic island on freshwater in the world.

View of the sunset from the back of the ferry
A ferry carries the entertaining mix of tourists, boat workers, island residents, and every type of cargo from bananas to empty (i think...) coffins on the scenic four-hour ride to Altagracia, the island's main port town.

The crater lake atop Maderas Volcano
Of the many available options for jungle exploring on the Island, climbing one of the two volcanoes is by far the most popular. I decided to hike Maderas, having been told by other travelers that it is the more rugged and least developed of the two. Starting at 7 AM, I followed the trail through a number of coffee and cacao plantations and then slugged the remaining three miles through mud and rocks to reach the crater. By the time I hiked back down it was already almost 5 PM.

View from the base of Volcan Concepción

Horse cooling off in Lake Nicaragua
 After spending a number of days on Ometepe, I took the 12-hour ferry from the Island down south to the Río San Juan. The ferry left Altagracia at 6 PM and arrived at the mouth of the river a bit after 6 AM after a long, cold, and rather sleepless night. Despite my lack of sleep, I decided to bite the bullet and head another hour down the river to make it to Bocas de Sabalo, a sleepy river town where frogs and howler monkeys sing you to sleep and then 8 hours later join in with the countless birds and crickets to compete against the reggatone music starting to play in a strangely calming jungle cacophony.
View across the Río Sábalos, one of the tributaries of the Río San Juan.
Chillin' outside my room.
A day in a canoe is sure to keep the blues away.

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