Exploring Isla Ometepic, Nicaragua
Jan 23, 2009
|Isla Ometepic is an island within Lake Nicaragua that was formed when two volcanoes rose out of the lake. There are roughly 45,000 people living on the island and it was touted as a very interesting place to explore.
The ferry dock was just a down the road from our hotel so we decided to give it a try on the 9:00 AM ferry. We have never had a problem getting on a ferry at the last minute anywhere with the motorcycle; it seems there is always a spot in a corner somewhere.
This was not the case today. The ferry is very small and they had some large trucks on it. We had to wait until 10:30 AM. This did give us a chance to what the “going-on” around the ferry and the dock.
The lake was extremely choppy due to the high winds that are prevalent at this time of year. The ferry, as well as the small, rustic passenger boats that cross the lake, use a rope to tie off one end of the vessel and use it as a pivot point to turn into the wind. The ferry did not look too stable making the turn and we had some second thoughts about getting on it at 10:30 AM after watching it.
The small, old, wooden passenger boats were quite scary and we definitely would not have gotten on one in this chop. As we waited we watched a small aluminum fishing boat, like you might see on your local lake in Canada, come across the lake using a large plastic bag or tarp for a sail. The waves were high enough that the boat pretty much disappeared when it entered a tough in the waves. These guys are nuts!
When the ferry arrived at 10:00 AM it was complete chaos. All the vehicles started towards the ramp at once, vying for a spot, even though they then had to try and turn around and back on. This was amidst a hoard of people walking off the ferry as well as he porters carrying baskets, bundles, barrels and assorted cargo.
We finally got loaded, just ahead of the last vehicle, and it was touch and go whether we would fit in the tiny corner they put us in. At least there was no fear of it falling over; there was no place for it to fall to.
The ferry made the turn with the aid of the rope and once it was headed into the wind it felt a lot more stable. I used to have some problems with sea-sickness but have not had any trouble for years; until today. I was not actually sick, just feeling like I could get sick. It was an hour to get across the lake and I was pretty happy to see the dock.
As we approached the dock a guy suddenly dove off the boat and began swimming to shore. He was towing the pivot rope which he then tied to a building under construction near the shore. Once the rope was in place the ferry used it to turn around and back into the dock. It was pretty bazaar.
Getting off was a challenge as I had to swing the bike around to face it towards the ramp. There was another guy with a small motorcycle parked beside me who gave me a hand. Just as we finished the police boarded, searched this guy and hauled him away, as well as his motorcycle. Apparently it was a good thing we did not get too friendly with him.
The exit ramp was rickety and led to rocky, potholed area full of water. Once you negotiated that it was us a small hill and onto the main street. All the while you are trying to wind through the mob of passengers, porters and vehicles try to get on and off. It was quite a scene.
The last ferry back leaves at 4:00 PM so I tried to get a ticket and make a reservation. No, just show up at 3:30 PM. No problem. Oh well, we will see.
The island itself is beautiful. It is lush and full of life. There are two main towns; the one we landed at and one on the opposite side of the island. There is a paved road between them that runs along the shore so we opted to take a tour along this road. We only had a few hours.
The road is fairly narrow and you need to keep the speed low to avoid the people, cattle, horses, oxen, pigs, goats and chickens that are on it. The homes along the road are very modest. Some are no more than shacks. Obviously this is a very poor area. It would appear the main activity is growing bananas as we saw many plantations and several large trucks fully loaded with bananas.
We stopped for lunch at a hotel/restaurant on the beach and it was surprisingly calm. It was in just the right spot to be sheltered from the wind. Even the water was calm although it was still chocolate brown and not too appealing for swimming.
We reached the town on the far side after lunch and after a brief search could not distinguish which dirt road would continue around the island. We tuned back and found the road that led to the south section of the island where the smaller of the two volcanoes was situated.
This was a very bad dirt road and after a few kilometers we decided to turn back since we would be running short of time to catch the ferry. We took our time riding back to the ferry dock and timed it about right.
There was one short delay on the way back. We came upon a small crowd that seemed to be beating up a woman. As the crowd cleared a little it became apparent there where two women fist fighting on the road and the crowd was trying to break it up. It was all over in a couple of minutes but a bit disturbing to watch. These were not kids but grown women, likely in their 30’s.
We had no trouble getting on and the lake had calmed down considerably. It was an interesting day and well worth the trouble it took to get to the island. The only regret was that we did not plan on staying overnight as there looked to be other areas we could have explored.