Isla De Ometepe, Nicaragua

Perched in a tree house overlooking 360-degree views of Ometepe Island, my Kammok Roo and I rest in the greatness of the stunning view of Volcano Concepción. In one word, I would describe Ometepe as magical. I mean how can an island on a lake with two active volcanos not be?

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Incredible cloud formation next to Volcan Concepcion.

This was my final destination before flying home to Texas after 5 months in Central America, so my hope was to get my fill of adventure in this last stretch. And I did. I stayed at a permaculture farm/hostel called El Zopilote where I slept in my hammock camping set up including my Roo, Dragonfly, the mosquito net that fits around the hammock, and my Thylacine sleeping bag for $4 a night. It was the best sleep I got on my entire trip, under the stars, waking up in the fresh morning air and roosters announcing their morning debut. I brushed my teeth outside with a hose in the grass, utilized the compost bathrooms, and showered in ice cold mountain water. All the food the farm served was grown and produced in their farm. I was eating clean and living in the elements. Once again wifi was unreliable, so I really connected with people, myself and nature.

Hiking-Happy…

I went a little hiking happy the first 3 days. Staying at hostels, it’s easy to meet fellow solo travelers looking for something to do. A group of 9 of us got together and walked to Ojo De Agua, a watering hole in the middle of the island. We spent the day swimming and soaking up the sun, and hitched a ride back in the back of a local’s truck. (It’s totally acceptable to hitch hike in Nicaragua, according to my Lonely Planet guidebook).

The second day I was ready for more elevation, so my new-found Canadian friends Talia and Eva, Lukas from Prague, and my friend Roger from the Bunkabus and I all rented scooters and drove to the trailhead of the San Ramon waterfall hike. We parked our bikes and took 1 1/2 hours to hike up to the waterfall, but it was well worth it. The sun was shining, the water cool and refreshing. I even refilled my water bottle with the water flowing down the side of the rock face. We hung around the waterfall recuperating from the tiring hike, and were gifted a rainbow before our departure.

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My Second Volcano Hike Ever…

I was determined to hike at least one of the two volcanoes on the island, so I chose Volcan Maderas, the smaller of the two. At 7am the guide and six novice hikers, including myself, left from the hostel. It was cloudy on this day, and I should have probably waited to do the hike on a clearer day because half way up the volcano we were in a cloud forest. I didn’t mind, especially since I got so lucky on my first volcano hike in Panama, I just wanted to enjoy being outside and get some cardio. I definitely did not dress properly though, all I had was a tank top and shorts. I lost my rain jacket during the last stretch of my travels, but that would have come in handy because it rained on and off on us the entire eight-hour day.  So I just let myself getting muddy, messy, and cold… and honestly I never felt better.

Reaching the highest point of the volcano was anti-climatic because there was no view, but the most unique part about this hike was a crater lake at the top in the center of the volcano. The bad news is you have to hike down into the crater to see it. And only the water’s edge of the lake was visible due to the thick cloud coverage. And then you have to hike back up the crater and then down the volcano. In most cases hiking down is easiest, but not on this hike. Due to the moisture in the air, the trail was MUDDY. It was basically an obstacle course/ slip ‘n’ slide the whole 6 kilometers down. By the end of it all of us were soaking wet from rain, and mud was caked on all over our legs all the way up to our thighs. I would describe this hike as Jurassic Park-esque views, and training for the military. Our guide, a local Nicaraguan, does this hike 4 times a week, and showed us no mercy.

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The highest point of Volcano Maderas. Muddy, freezing cold, exhausted, and happy.

Revoltive Revolution…

Needless to say, the next two days my body revolted. Not only was I physically sore and exhausted after three days straight of hiking, but the morning after the hike I got stung by a scorpion. It may have been the most terrifying moment of my trip. Growing up in Texas, I thought all scorpions were deadly. After a few moments of panic and asking the locals, I found out that the scorpions in Nicaragua only have enough poison to kill insects and small animals. The worst symptom I had was a day of my lips and tongue going numb. So I recovered by napping, drinking coffee, and eating good food.

Even though I was living on a farm on the side of a volcano, there were surprisingly a lot of fantastic restaurants just walking distance. After a few days I grew tired of the organic, although very good, farm to table meals the hostel provided, and wanted to explore what more Ometepe had to offer. Making friends with other backpackers, we discovered so many unique, inexpensive restaurants. There was an Argentina restaurant, El Bamboo, with homemade tofu and hot sauce, comedors (restaurants out of locals’ homes) that would serve huge portions for no more than 80 cordobas (that’s less than 3 US dollars), and one of our favorite spots was an authentic Italian food place, Pizzeria Mediterranea, with a wood burning pizza oven.

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Morning’s catch in Lake Nicaragua, from comedor Juliana’s. Muy delicioso!

Never Too Old For Adventure…

After a few days of recovery and exploring the plethora of food options on the island, I was ready for another hike. A new group of companions emerged due to the natural ebb and flow of travelers, and this time myself, Laura from Sint Maarten, Claire from Canada, Marco from Italy, and still Roger, went on a quest to catch the sunset. And this was nothing short of a quest, indeed.

I led the pack to the lookout spot I remembered from my hike up Volcano Maderas. It was further than I remembered, and we were all hurrying up the steep incline to avoid missing what we came for. We reached the top, and an incredible view we did see. Not so much of the sunset, which was still amazing, but more so the huge storm rolling in. We witnessed the relentless strobe of lightning mark the storm’s territory, as it rolled over the island we had a hawk-eye’s view of from above. Of course your initial reaction to when you see a storm is, you must get back home, right? Well looking back, I think we would have been better off staying at the lookout, but that wouldn’t have made for such a memorable adventure. Instead, we went with our first instinct and headed back. It was getting dark, and we had an hour-long hike ahead of us.

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Witnessing the storm volcano-side.

 

I Live For These Moments…

We walked right into the storm. At night. Through jungle and crop fields, with lightning so graciously guiding our path. We hurriedly descended down the side of hilltops, the trail quickly transformed into a river. Soaked, no rain jacket, and this was no match for my waterproof Vasque hiking boots. We trudged through knee-high streams of muddy goop in the darkness. Oh yeah, and I had no headlamp, bad planning on my part. I was guided by the light from a companion’s flashlight ahead of me. Not only were these conditions sketchy, but we also hurried so skillfully, we got lost. I got us up there, but no way I could navigate back in a massive downpour in pitch darkness. It didn’t help that Laura mentioned the 4 German girls that got lost out there for days because they hiked by themselves. They survived, and I believed we could too. But that definitely shook my confidence. The savior in this scenario was Roger’s GPS watch. Thankfully he thought to track our hike up, so we had a guide to follow on the way down. We had already gone off the beaten path in our panic to beat the storm, so our plan was to walk parallel with the original trail, until we ran into something. Maybe an hour passed, until we saw a flashlight in the distance. A local man saw our lights and was coming to direct us off his property. He was very kind though, and showed us the way. We weren’t so far off our path after all, and in fact probably shaved off a few minutes from the trail we unintentionally created. We arrived back to hostel, standing proud in our dripping and muddy attire, feeling everyone’s eye’s on us, telling them by our demeanor that we just returned from an incredible adventure. And it was only 6:30 in the evening. To celebrate our survival, we ordered a bottle of rum, and took shots to seal our happy ending to a memory that will forever tie us.

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Our relieved faces after surviving the “hike of horror”

Travel Creates A Special Bond…

Throughout my 5 months of traveling, I’ve met some incredible people from all over the world. Fellow travelers on the search for their meaning in life, just as I am. Maybe the likeminded openness of people who decide to travel independently creates the bond, all the unknowns travel brings, or just mere timing and coincidence that enables a strong connection to emerge. But whatever it is, I’m thankful for all the awesome souls I’ve met along the way. I believe each person you connect with in your life is there to teach you a lesson or lead you in the right direction of your own, individual path. Many times it was difficult for me to let go of some of the bonds I created, but I realized that that is just how life is. It’s always changing, nothing is ever stagnant. And traveling teaches you that lesson very quickly, because you create and lose relationships in a matter of days. And with that, I developed a trust that there is always something better around the corner. The next day I would meet someone really awesome, but I would equally cherish the ones I had before.

And The Story Continues…

It goes with the saying, ‘with every end there’s a new beginning.’ The only reason it’s scary to start over is because it’s unknown, but I choose to shift that fear into excitement with knowing that there is always an endless possibility of fulfillment in life if you allow it. Simply have faith that your life can be everything you want it to be. Countless adventures occurred in Ometepe that I can’t even begin to recreate in words. The Nicaraguan “rodeo,” butterfly gardens, chicken bus rides, choco bananos, beer festival, the list goes on and on.

Nothing could have ever prepared me for what I experienced on this trip, but everything I experienced prepared me for all the unknowns I’ve yet to encounter.

 

 

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