Isla Ometepe, ‘Two Mountains’, Lake Nicaragua

From San Juan del Sur, Meghan and I decided to travel together to Isla Ometepe, an island on Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua. The name ‘Ometepe’ is derived from the Nahuatl (the indigenous Mesoamerican language) words, ome (meaning ‘two’) and tepetl (‘mountain’) and it is the largest volcanic island inside a freshwater lake in the world.

After a short taxi ride to the ferry port in San Jorge (with a quick stop off at the Tica bus office in Rivas to book my ticket to Costa Rica as I heard it was important to book this in advance), and caught the 11.30am ferry to the island. The ferry cost 45 cordoba and the journey takes about an hour and arrives in the port town of Moyogalpa on Ometepe. The water was relatively calm but I heard it can get pretty choppy, thankfully that wasn’t the case the day we went!

When we arrived in Moyogalpa we had initially thought of staying in The Cornerhouse, a B&B and restaurant really near the port. Unfortunately it was slightly out of my budget, but the rooms are really nice and the owners were really helpful – the food is delicious too!

We grabbed a taxi from here to Merida, pn the other side of the island, where we planned on staying at the Hacienda Merida. The one thing I have to say about the island is that getting around is difficult and expensive! There are chicken buses that are affordable but they are very infrequent and as we wanted to get to the hostel before it got too late, a taxi was our best option. It took about two hours to get there and it was a beautiful scenic drive through the countryside roads of Ometepe.

At Hacienda Merida we settled into the dorm, with just the two of us, two bunk beds and an ensuite bathroom, it was pretty comfy! There were, however, a lot of insects and creepy crawlies, so I was very thankful for the mosquito net! It’s in a beautiful location, right on the shore of the lake, with a platform where you can dive into the lake and go for a swim in the cool, refreshing water. The sunset here is spectacular too, with a view across the lake and the two volcanoes on either side of the island, Concepción and Maderas.

The hostel has a number of dorm rooms and private rooms and there is a large dining space beside the kitchen which serves breakfast and dinner every day. During out time there, we had a couple of buffet breakfasts and dinners which were all you can eat and delicious! The breakfasts included juices, coffee, fruits, eggs, bread and at dinner they served salads, pasta, guacamole (with egg! I’d never had that before and it was YUM), vegetables, chicken, pork and a dessert. The total cost of my stay there was $46 which was two nights’ stay @ $7 per night, 2 breakfasts, 2 dinners and a couple of drinks from the bar (tax is not included but added on top of most bills in Nicaragua).

There are lots of options here to do various hikes, kayaking and volcano tours from the hostel but we opted to spend the day at Ojo de Agua, a natural spring where you can swim in pure and supposedly medicinal fresh water from the volcano.

We took the chicken bus for 35 cordoba from just outside the hostel to Santa Cruz and from there hiked for a couple of hours along Playa Santa Domingo with a stop off for some delicious ice tea and a bite to eat at a hotel right on the beach with stunning views across the lake.

Cost of entry to Ojo de Agua is $3 and as you enter you pass through fields with horses and lots of plant life before reaching the spring. We arrived just after midday and it was relatively quiet with just a few people bathing and relaxing by the spring. It got a bit busier later on in the afternoon but apparently it was still much quieter than it had been the past weekend (being Semana Santa). The water was absolutely gorgeous and we swam, bathed and relaxed on chairs in the sun, reading and drinking coconut water. You can get rum coconuts there and although I was tempted (!) I opted for the virgin coconut!

I have been reading the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh on and off throughout my travels, just picking it up every now and then taking it in. It’s a tiny book and teaches techniques for being mindful in a story-form throughout. At Ojo de Agua, I read the part which tells the story or fable of ‘Three Wondrous Answers’, by Leo Tolstoy.  The story tells the tale of a certain emperor who thought that if he only knew the answers to three certain questions, he would never stray in any matter.

What is the best time to do each thing?
Who are the most important people to work with?
What is the most important thing to do at all times?

You can read the full story here (I won’t go into it all now), but in line with the last few days of learning about the Toltec ‘Four Agreements’ and generally thinking about beliefs and values in life, the moral of the story really hit home. That is, there is only one important time and that is NOW.

The present moment is the best time to do anything, as who knows if you will have another opportunity?
The most important person is the person you are with right now.
The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.

I think that there may be some truth in the healing qualities of the water at Ojo de Agua, after all…

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