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Island Interlude (Days 201-203) – San Juan del Sur to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua | We're Not There Yet

We meant to leave the day before, but things got a little out of hand and we were in no condition to travel yesterday. Some of our new surfing friends convinced us to brave the bars, which we had previously considered to be the domain of the single, tank-top-clad surfer dudes and the women who love them. After a few drinks, we figured that we kind of qualified and so off we went for a lively evening that turned into a hazy morning. Good thing, too, because today was kind of a monster. We had a 35km ride back to Rivas, but then had to angle to catch one of the ferries (as opposed to the more frequent small boats) across the lake to Isla Ometepe. On our way out of town, we met our first other touring cyclist since Xela. At first, I thought he was just another gringo surfer on a rented beach cruiser, until I saw that his bike was a Long Haul Trucker (like ours!) and sported front and rear racks. Gabriel is riding with his brother to Costa Rica- but they were hanging out for a few days at the beach before the Ultra-Marathon on Ometepe, which they were both entered in. Because cycling enormous steel-framed bicycles up and down mountains for a few months sometimes isn’t enough. Meeting Gabriel was so uplifting and we swapped road stories and both agreed that the hardest part was behind us. We pedaled on in high spirits and made it to the dock in San Jorge minutes after a ferry had departed. We cooled our heels for a couple of hours until the next one, which we boarded just as a heavy rainstorm began.

View of Ometepe from across the lake

An hour later, we rode off the ferry and out onto the sole paved road that circles the island. About 5km into our ride, we came across some construction in the road and stopped to ask one of the workers what was going to be there. Turns out that they are working on a small runway that is supposed to be open early next year- and solidly intersects the only paved road on the island. Not that there is a ton of traffic, but one would think that a different piece of land, perhaps parallel to the road, would suffice. We rode on for another 11 km and came our chosen stop for the night, Charco Verde.

The ride to Chico Largo

We chose Charco Verde as our basecamp on the island on the suggestion of the first person we met in Nicaragua: the hotel owner at the place we stayed in Somotillo, on the day we had just been robbed. We never managed to look into other sleeping options before heading out to the island, and we saw that it was a pretty reasonable 11km or so from the ferry landing, so we just went there, really not knowing what to expect. There are one or two ‘hostel’ options along the road to Charco Verde and a few more options closer to the park. We chose the Chico Largo Hostel at $15 per night for a private room with bathroom. We were the only guests aside from a dreadlocked kid, who looked vaguely lost at all times. It was outrageously beautiful, right on the banks of the lake with phenomenal views of Concepción (the bigger, more active of the two volcanoes that make up the island) on one side and the fiery nightly sunsets on the other. Bright green fireflies came out at dusk, giving the whole scene the feeling of a Disney movie set. Our eating options were limited, but we made out alright at the slightly busier (and pricier) hotel next door.

The hotel grounds, Chico Largo

We spent two days in Charco Verde, not bothering to go to further points on the island because, well, we didn’t really feel the need to. The Charco Verde reserve was too flooded to take the comprehensive walks through the area, which gave us an excuse to spend more time sleeping in, reading our books, and taking in the nightly spectacular sunsets. After two days of lazing about, we realized that if we didn’t catch the ferry to San Carlos the following evening, we’d have to wait until the next week. All of a sudden, time had become a factor, so we decided to sacrifice a more comprehensive look at the island for moving on.

Hand painted map at the hotel

The only productive thing we actually got done during our stay in Charco Verde was to purchase our tickets to New Zealand. It was bitter-sweet- we’re really excited to see the country, but we had made so many plans in South America. Also, it was craaaazy expensive. The tickets definitely bit into our trip budget, but so did the robberies. And so, it’s official. We are leaving on Christmas Day from Panama City and arriving in Auckland, New Zealand…. two days later.

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