Ometepe – an inland jail

It was an island that broke my will. In Granada Nicaragua, George had quickly cemented plans with Klaus to caravan together to Ometepe, a notoriously windy island formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua. Cue the kiting fantasies.


I had read that you need reservations to get on the ferry since we would be taking our trucks with us to Ometepe. We, being us, arrived with no such reservations. The scene was chaotic. George and Klaus made first contact with one of the officials who told us to pull to the side. He’d see what he could do. I got the sense that if we got on this ferry, it would be at a premium gringo who doesn’t plan price. We were the last two trucks to get on. At the time, I was grateful for the luck. In hindsight, this was just the island luring us in.

Once the ferry set off, we learned that it was necessary to pay even more money for Sonja and I. Apparently, the first price was just for the boys and the trucks. Hmph. After paying up, the rest of the ride was uneventful. We landed and soon found a place to set camp in a hotel parking lot complete with a dramatic volcano view.

There was a lot of good in the subsequent few days. Good company, free internet, lots of wildlife, hammocks with a breeze, volcano views. The bitterness slowly crept up on me though. We started to run a little low on the essentials, because we were cooking all our meals. The only stores near by were little tiendas, which stocked only basic pantry basics. Show me some vegetables people. The heat was stifling and taking care of the domestics (cooking, cleaning) was infuriating as the dry hot wind kicked up dirt. Each gust was another little backhanded slap for me.

We did manage a waterfall hike in the heat and a tour around the island. It felt good to stretch my legs and stand in the cold water of the falls. George and Klaus tried to kite a few times. The first attempt led to a standoff with a bull as George was fiddling with his big red kite and left him walking back to the camp spot barefoot along a beach used for animal watering. When they again tried, George thought the apocalypse had come as a swarm of flies enveloped them. Luckily for me, the flies didn’t move in the direction of the campsite.

Finally, we decided to get out of dodge and make a run for the border. After visiting both ferries, it became clear that a reservation was required – no ferry today, back to camp. With much hassle on the phone that afternoon, George secured us a ‘reservation’ on the afternoon ferry the following day. We were of course the first to arrive at the dock, not wanting to take any chances. This was a good call because the reservation list it seems was an arbitrarily long list of names scribbled on a sheet of paper. As the departure time approached, cars started arriving and pulling in font of us. Sometimes I miss Canadian’s respect for a queue dammit. George got his game face on and got Vida onto that blasted ferry. Klaus also managed to pull on with a lot of arm flopping from the ferry workers. Were the hands flapping in every direction meant to be helpful and guide Klaus and that big Mercedes on to the boat?

Finally, we pull away from the dock. George and I are on the clock and hoping to make the Costa Rican border crossing that day. We would be flying to Canada and DC in two days time from San Jose. Shortly there after, an official came around trying to explain some update to us. After clarifying with our fellow passengers, we learn that there is a stranded boat in play. Our ferry is now heading to the boat, which we will tow back to the dock we just left. Super duper. No border today. Just let us go Ometepe.

Eventually we dock and find a decent campsite for the night. There was little sleep to be had due to the howling wind all night though. The following morning, we hauled ass into Costa Rica. At the border, it felt like the island was still trying to hold on to us. You are required to get no less than 5 stamps and signatures on your temporary vehicle import permit just to leave Nicaragua.

Granada, finally some competition for Antigua

I knew I was going to love Granada when we pulled in.  Touristy yes, but with that came beautiful colonial buildings, nice cafes, and a well-maintained central square.  We of course headed to get our internets fix.  That night, we decided to camp out along the lake.  Scouting the area, we came across two Mercedes trucks (German travellers, of course).  We asked to crash next to them (safety in numbers and all that).  The next morning, we chatted with one of our neighbors (Sonja, Claus, and Mia).  They joined us for breakfast at one of the restaurants along a pedestrian street.  We then strolled around the city.  Did I mention Claus is also a kiter?  The men soon hashed out a plan to head for the nearest kite spot (oh gee).

Managua – not so capital

After leaving the coast, we made a stop in the capital, Managua.  The city doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet.  It didn’t help matters that it was excruciatingly hot.  We had a look around what would be a central square in any other city: large church (caving in and complete with bullet holes), museum, government building, park, and a fountain.  The church has been frozen in time.  It was condemned after the last major earthquake in the early 70s.  The building was shot up during a civil war. In any case, the place was deserted.  Time to go.