Nicaragua: Where It All Began

Ometepe

Log: 20th July 2016 – 30th July 2016

• Nicaragua – a country that will always have a special place in my heart. When I finally decided that I wanted to travel I knew within myself that it needed to have purpose otherwise the fears that had been holding me back for years would continue to overshadow me. With my growing passion for yoga, I knew that this would be the key. I sought to find a yoga teacher training that would help me branch out into the world. From the moment yoga became a conscious part of my life, I was drawn to the quirky, playful, nature loving teachings of Meghan Currie. Three years on, I still hold close the understandings I have learnt and it was only a given I found myself drawn to the teacher training she held in Nicaragua. Nicaragua though? I knew nothing of the country, let alone how to pronounce it!  But soon enough this country would become the doorway of my travelling experiences and show me a world I had never known before.

Leon

After letting go of my slight disappointment knowing we wouldn’t get a chance to explore Honduras during this trip, we made a quick dash through the country. Nicaragua sweetly welcomed us with a magnificent sunset. I often find myself surprised when something that occurs every single day never loses its vibrancy and can still take your breath away.

Our first stop found us in Leon, a small colonial town that I didn’t  get a chance to visit during my first time in Nicaragua. Although this town gave a clear impression of the poverty that exists in this country, it didn’t take away from the peace and calm that radiated from it. The locals were kind natured and the fruit was cheap! It only took us an afternoon to explore and I soon realised that Leon had little to offer. It was just a perfect pit stop – reconnecting, recharging and enjoying the comforts of a bed.

My fondest memory from Leon was lying on the ground in the middle of Central Park staring up at the sky as bystanders curiously observed me. A fun little social experiment Neven convinced me to partake in. Only of course to get me out of my comfort zone!

Granada

Honestly during my first visit to Granada back in February, I wasnt genuniely impressed. I think after spending a month by the beach side, the magic of this colonial town didnt initially grab my attention. However, dont ever settle for first impressions. I was open to the new experiences this place had to offer. The humidity reminded me how spoilt I had become during my travels and I had a little taste of what Summer must’ve felt like back home. Neven and I spent most of our time, eating food, buying food or searching for food. (Yeah okay mum, maybe I put on weight!) But it can’t be helped when there’s delicious gallo pinto (beans and rice) to be had, big fresh tasty pizza with mushrooms (oh mushrooms how I’ve missed you), papayas as big as my arm and when an eccentric server gives you this magical thing that he tells you is deep fried cheese and latters it in honey and it tastes like a gift from the gods, you don’t question it! Okay so mostly my Granada experience second time round involved a lot of eating. But I enjoyed every minute of it.

Kitty Paradise and The House of Bottles

I’ll happily admit La Casa de las Botellias (The House of Bottles) has been one of my favourite hostels so far. Pure and simple – it was a kitty paradise and it had been a long time since my last fix! Okay, I wasn’t just swooning over the cats but had a fascination for the fact the house was built entirely out of bottles. The project was developed to bring awareness to sustainable living and aid in the issues of poverty. It was nice to see it flourishing even though the concept isn’t something that is strongly practiced in the country. Gisha, our amazing host, made us feel completely welcomed and I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with her. With her limited English skills and my developing Spanish, it made for a joyous language lesson. My only regret is not moving out of my comfort zone and speaking to some of the Nicaraguan guys who were active in a circus project. I shyly watched from the side as they played – juggling and handstanding and getting upside down on their aerial silks.

Volcan Masaya

It had been close to a week and we still hadn’t climbed a volcano. Both Neven and I got itchy feet and decided to visit Volcano Masaya – an active volcano best viewed at night. To be honest, I wouldn’t even consider this to be a “real” volcano, although I got to see the most lava I don’t doubt I’ll ever see in my life. On entering the park, you drive to the open crater. Not a single muscle was worked as we made the trip. Where is the challenge in that! Visitors are only allowed 15 minutes to view and its an incredible sight to be hold. The crater opens itself up over a flowing river of lava. I pictured the exposed and gushing veins of a beast and for that moment I was inferior to the powers of nature. I watched attentively as the lava splashed and spewed itself against the walls. I admit I didn’t expect it to look like this and I’m certain that its unsafe. No where in Australia would you get the chance to be close to something like this. A few months earlier the park was closed due to the safety of visitors, but I can only assume it negatively affected their tourism so they reopened it. My only advice, visit at your own risk!

Lake Apoyo

In need of some fresh water, we made our way to Lake Apoyo. Neven once stated that as travellers “we were never in a hurry, but always managed to be late.” This is how our situation played out when we arrived to the lake. It was late in the evening and we had a lot of trouble finding flat ground to camp by the water. After much frustration and exhaustioned we ended up parked out the front of a hostel. With the hostel being out of our budget we agreed to a cheap night in the car and to make the most of it tomorrow. The hostel offered free kayaking and table tennis and breaking the budget felt a little more worthwhile. I got to witness a beautiful moment when Neven reconnected with his friend Aurelie who he had traveled with back in the US. A nice reminder that regardless of whom or where we make connections, the world is never really as big as we think.

Ometepe

The island of Ometepe lies in the middle of Lake Nicaragua the biggest lake in the country. It consists of two volcanoes, the active volcano Concepción, and it’s dead brother volcano Maderas.

Ometepe was the only place I really wanted to revisit coming back to Nicaragua. I found the locals to be some of the kindest I had met so far and I was looking forward to rolling around in the black volcanic sand that left me so exfoliated last time.

Due to slight space miscalculations, we were first advised we wouldn’t be able to fit the car onto the ferry. “No worries, we can go tomorrow” I thought. And just as quickly as we were told no, a solution was devised. We can just put the car on and leave the ferry ramp open instead of closed. Of course, what a brilliant idea!! I watched anxiously as poor Neven drove the car onto the ferry and prayed that Rocinante (the car) didn’t roll off and into the depths of the lake during our journey.

Thankfully all three of us made it Moyogalpa safely and after exiting the ferry we found ourselves in the middle of a fiesta. The town was celebrating its day of Saint. Friends and family enjoying good food and drinks, locals dressed in traditional clothing and dancing through the streets. I really enjoyed the show of fireworks, minus the bits of debris.

The next few days we had the privilege of camping at the guesthouse of a sweet local family. Doña Martha reminded me a lot of my own mum, and spent most evenings preparing us delicious “vegetarian altered” local meals.

San Ramón Waterfall

So naturally Neven and I knew we were going to climb one of the volcanos but as a little warm up we decided to hike to the San Ramón waterfall the day before. I was a little disappointed to see that the pool of water wasn’t really deep enjoy to swim in but I still relished in its beauty and took the opportunity to enjoy some lunch.

Volcano Concepción

The view of Volcano Concepción from Volcano Maderas
The view of Volcano Concepción from Volcano Maderas

During my first trip to Ometepe, I attempted to climb Volcano Maderas with the girls I was travelling with. I say attempted because we only got to the first view point. A hard effort  of about three hours. We were completely unprepared and didn’t have it in us to do the full hike. Convincing myself I was now an “experienced” hiker, I was adamant to reach the top of Concepción.

So what’s a hike without a little excitement? There’s a military base just before the trek and they won’t allow you to climb unless you have a guide. As usual we planned to go without, which meant sneaking up before sunrise. In the morning Neven prepared breakfast as I gathered my gear from the car and to my sleepy surprise I found a scorpion on the backseat. I’m usually one to deal solely and peacefully with any sort of insect situation (most be part of the “aussie” stereotype) but a scorpion was a little out of my depth. I called for Neven and after nearly losing the bloody thing in the car and then through the backpack, we came out victorious.

As we began the climb I felt pretty relaxed, the first hour was almost a breeze as we passed the light vegetation. Oh how naive I was! The morning misted had covered everything and as we progressed I found myself crawling on hands and feet over rocks and boulders, convinced at each step we had fallen off the shoe string track. After an intense five hours the scenery changed and we were surrounded by plants that reminded me of something that must’ve existed when the dinosaurs were around. These big, hard and prickly plants which later I found out are known as “the poor mans umbrella” (and used as such) become my crutches as I made my way up and down. The jungle was dense and thick, sweat poured from every inch of my body and I made a short video to my parents adamant I wasn’t going to make it out alive.

Soon enough I felt the warmth radiating through the soles of my shoes and that icky but familiar scent of sulphur. Oh thank god! The top at last. There was next to no view but that expectation vanishes from your mind the moment you relish in the realisation of your accomplishment. It never gets old and I never get tired of striving for it.

The journey down only took us a sweet 5 hours, honestly a climb mountain goats would’ve been envious of. As I dragged my sorry legs back to Rocinante, I blissed out on my best hike to date.

Extra photos:

I found the hand of nature
The Hand of Nature

One Comment Add yours

  1. Janet Keogh says:

    I love reading about your travels. You are reveling out in the world and I truly admire your courage to live and thrive all over the globe. Miss your sweet voice and genuine smiles.

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