San Juan del Sur and into Costa Rica
Isla de Ometepe is an island with an active volcano on it, in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua, which is a massive freshwater lake that allegedly also has sharks in it. island is split into two bits with a volcano on each. The main volcano, conception is very active and in fact the day that we left was spewing out black smoke, and there was a news bulletin about it on the radio in the taxi to our next stop, San Juan del sur. We ended up travelling to, and spending the next few days with a Canadian guy Adam. When we arrived on the island we were hoping to get a bus to the other side to stay on a farm, but were told that there was a dispute between the two parts of the island, something to do with Spain gifting a ferry to the other side, so road blocks had been set up meaning that no vehicles were able to travel between the two sides. Pain in the arse for us. So we got a mini van as far as we could, and got dropped at one of the road blocks with a little guy and his family, and his chicken....in a box.
He showed us to a place called charco verde where we ended up staying for the time we were there. It was very nice, right on the lake with a beach, and the volcano in the background.
We intended to try and climb up the volcano but never got round to it. Instead we got up really early and went wandering about the reserve right next to our hotel, saw loads of monkeys in the trees just above our heads which was pretty amazing.
We then rented bikes that didn´t work and set off to the other side of the island, 16km all uphill, at 12 o´clock in the baking sun. Seemed like a good idea at the time, until we realised we might have to cycle the whole way back. We ended up paying for the bikes to come on the bus with us because we had horse riding booked in the afternoon. We cycled to a natural spring where we went swimming, and ate watermelon which we bought from a farmer on the way. We took a horse ride in the afternoon up a hill near to where we stayed. Jenny enjoyed this very much. My horse was an old stinking nag that didn´t really seem up for the whole affair, sauntering about at a nice leisurely pace which suited me. We spent a couple of days total on the island and then the 3 of us headed for San Juan del Sur.
San Juan del sur is a beach resort on the south pacific coast of Nicaragua. The town and the beach itself were nothing special. Jenny had a bit of an episode when we were trying to find suitable accommodation, as it was all quite expensive and some of the places were very nasty. We ended up in quite a nice place though right on the front. We caught a bus to one of the nicer beaches the next day, having hired surf boards. The beach had very big waves. I´ve never surfed before so was crap, although managed to kind of get up a couple of times. Jenny was doing better until her board flew up in the air and smacked her in the face. Caught her just above her lip. She is fine now, although thought all her teeth were falling out, and I´ve had to put up with having a girlfriend who looks like she has a black moustache for a few days, given the bruising. She´s fine now though.
We met up with another couple Sarah and James who we travelled with to costa rica. Staying in the same place as them at the moment. The day before we started travelling with them James had hired a canoe to go out on one of the lakes and had found a dead body in the water. When he paddled back to the shore and told someone about it he had been told that they knew about it, it had been there for a couple of days (in the baking sun), and they proceeded to do nothing about it, as if it was a completely normal everyday thing....despite people swimming in the same water.
We had to flee San Juan del Sur because Semana Santa is this week and everyone in Latin America heads for the beach. Apparently hundreds of the locals drown each year because of getting pissed up and going swimming. Apparently all the robbers go to the beach too, and poison is put down to kill all the stray dogs, so didn´t much fancy waiting around to see all the dying dogs. There were hundreds of locals sleeping on the beach when we left. We left for the border at about 7 am and the beach was mobbed with people all drinking and swimming fully clothed which was interesting.
The border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was an absolute joke. We had to queue for 2 hours and when we got to the front there were people all barging in. Then we had to do the same at the costa rican side. We then bought a ticket for a bus to Monteverde up in the mountains, and were told to go up the road to wait for it. We walked quite a way and everyone kept telling us that it was 1km further. Eventually we just stopped at the side of the road and tried to flag the buses down. This didn´t work very well, although eventually we manged to get one after a couple of hours, and we had to pay again.
We managed to get as far as Liberia, a town in Costa Rica, and stayed the night there. Yesterday we caught 3 buses and managed to get all the way up to where we are just now Santa Elena/Monteverde, where there is lots of nature stuff to do. The third bus that we caught yesterday was a bit of a joke as well. A Chicken bus with about 100 people on it, sitting and standing, that took over 3 hours to travel the 50km to where we are just now. The road was ridiculous and so dusty. Got here eventually though. Planning to do a night-time nature walk in a forest to try and see some tarantulas, sloths, frogs, monkeys etc. Should be interesting. Planning to spend a bit of time here away from the chaos of semana santa.