Monday, 24 February 2014

Isla de Ometepe... Part 2: Into the Mist

Wow, what an absence from writing. I guess I got caught up in all of the fun I was having... and I was truly having fun.

Coming from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), Isla de Ometepe is exactly that. An island consisting of two volcanic mountains, with an isthmus connecting them, making an hourglass shape. Arriving in Moyagalpa, on the northwest side of the island, I looked up in awe at Volcán  Concepción, its perfect upsidedown cone shape welcoming us to the island.

Our second day on the island, we made our way to the isthmus, and Playa Santa Cruz, where we had our sights set on staying at El Encanto, a guesthouse on a 4 acre banana farm. After hopping off the bus, we started walking with our packs on our backs, and arrived at El Encanto about 10 minutes later. There, we were told they were booked for the night, but kindly offered a suggestion as to another place to stay. And, so, in the heat, we walked, and we walked, and we walked. Finally seeing the guesthouse, I was so hopeful, only to be dissappointed yet again.

On our way back down the kilometre long driveway, we stopped to take a photo of a petroglyph, one of many dotted around the island, and made our way even further to a place called Little Morgan's.

On first arrival, Little Morgan's seemed like a great spot to chat with travelers from all over the world, party, and get cheap deals on local tours, with local guides. So, with gusto in our hearts, we decided to climb Volcán Maderas the next day, an extinct volcano on the south end of the island.

The next day, our adventure began, in full swing at 7 a.m. Off we went to climb Maderas, a 17km round trip hike. Our guide warned us of the mud, which, I think at first we didn't believe, as the rest of the island seemed so incredibly dry. Our climb took us through plantain groves, coffee plantations, and past locals' houses, where one woman called our guide over in panic. In a few moments, he came back with a coral snake, a highly poisonous snake, wrapped in a plastic bag. It was our luck, as it was a false coral snake, but still made my stomach turn.

Continuing our climb, we soon began to ascend into the cloud rainforest, where the hot air from below soon felt cool against our skin, and water dropped from leaves of plants and trees around us. The mist engulfed us, and the ground under our feet turned to soft mud, slick and slippery. We climbed, and climbed, some trying hard to keep their nice, new shoes out of mud holes and puddles. But it was no use. In time, I just let myself tromp through the mud, not caring that my feet were wet, or that my legs were caked, or that I'm sure I had mud on my face, which no one told me about. Legs burning, and heart pumping we reached the summit, and began to descend into the extinct crater lake, Laguna de Maderas, surrounded by cloud rainforest, and families of howler monkeys (mono). Surrounded by mist, and forest, the mono howled, letting us know we were in their territory. It was haunting.
After we ate lunch, we began our hike out of the crater, and down the mountain, where we took different trails than before, and came across a lone howler monkey eating leaves in a tree.
And as much as I wanted to, I was warned not to touch her, but doesn't she look cuddly?
Soon we were back at Little Morgan's exhausted, hungry, and thirsty for more water than we brought up the mountain, only to find a surprise that we were not expecting...

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