For the next leg of our Isla de Ometepe journey we the bus from Moyogalpa to Altagracia where we changed buses, deciding to go vaguely in the direction of our hostel. Then at Santa Cruz we got off and instead of waiting over three hours for the next bus, we decided to walk to our hostel. This walk was on the dirt road leading to Merida where our hostel was based. The walk was enjoyable, passing through the plantations that lie on the flanks of the Maderas volcano, after around 6km we reached Hacienda Merida which would be our home for the next three nights.
Hacienda Merida was a collection of a few buildings right next to the lake with a concrete jetty and kayaks available to rent. Our dorm room turned out to be a double bed with a bunk bed and an en-suite, with no one else joining us during our stay. It was relative luxury for us and we enjoyed the privacy. The hostel was next to a school which we got a tour of and often saw the children around the place. Obviously, there were some hammocks too, no hostel is complete without these magnificent inventions and they were looking out to the lake which was perfect.
Note: the hostel’s food is decent if a bit expensive, we went out to one of the local “restaurants” (more of a house with some chairs and table outside) next to the dirt road and the food was very nice and so was the price.
The best aspect of the hostel for me was the jetty. During the evenings, it was an amazing place to just sit and watch the sunset over the lake and Concepcion.
Does Rio Istian really exist?
At the start of the day we had no doubts that the answer to this question was yes.
Our kayaking trip was on the cards for a while, Brendan had never been kayaking so we set off with some trepidation in a double kayak. The river supposedly lies at the middle of the two volcanoes in the centre of the island and is supposed to have a huge variety of wildlife. The highlight was apparently the caimans, because who doesn’t like pocket sized crocodiles.
The kayaking started well with a stretch down along the shore but then we decided to take a shortcut across a stretch of more open water which was a little bumpy due to the wind but after about an hour we arrived at the isthmus.
We went up and down the stretch of land, no river in sight. We were travelling in the rainy season so the lack of river couldn’t be attributed to climate. After floating around for a while looking at the birds on the bank and thinking about our horrific navigational failure, we sullenly began our kayak back.
Back at the hostel, after 3 hours of kayaking our arms were aching, Brendan had sunburnt his shins and we were a bit miffed to say the least. I checked the map and we had gone the right way so the only explanation in our minds was that the river isn’t real. The many websites claiming the presence of Rio Istian and its navigable waters had been some sort of sick coordinated joke intended only to cause kayakers anguish.
Another day another adventure.
Both of us love a walk. A walk up to a big waterfall in the cloud forest of a volcano was irresistible.
As with most places there was an option of a tour of some sort but this has never appealed to me. I’ve never really liked being told what to look at and what to do, so instead we got up early while the day was still fairly cool and started down the road. The walk to the Biological Station (where you pay a few dollars) was about 4km and from there it was uphill along a small concrete road winding through fruit plantations. The views of the lake were beautiful. After this section of about 2km the concrete disappears and becomes a track up through the rainforest following the river. After a kilometre or so the cloud forest gave way to a clearing where the 60-metre waterfall of San Ramon stood.
Feeling hot and sweaty we did the compulsory photos of us with the waterfall behind and then went for a dip. The water was cold and the bottom was a precarious mix of sharp rocks and sticks, but the sadistic plunge pool couldn’t stop us from cooling off.
The walk back down revealed the joys of getting up early as we had the waterfall to ourselves whereas everyone else was walking up closely packed together. Also, the heat at this point didn’t make for fun climbing so we were fairly smug. Walking back along the road was a fun mix of being very thirsty and being very aware of my previous and only sunburn experience which wasn’t all that pleasant. Neither of which did I want to escalate so the walk consisted of hopping between areas of shade wherever possible.
The sunburn incident had happened about a week prior to this and at this point I was shedding my skin like some sort of humanoid snake.
We met some amazing people through our travels and Isla Ometepe was no different. In Hacienda Merida we met a couple who were really friendly. We got chatting and it turns out the guy, Toby, had a strange story about Wonga loans. Interest rates with these companies are notoriously high and they aren’t usually the most trustworthy or understanding of companies. He told us how he had just come out of a 2-year legal battle with them. Now I’m sure this has happened before, people take out substantial sums of money with loan companies and when it comes to monetary disputes legal battles are inevitable. However, this was only concerning a loan of £24. We thought this was an almost unheard of dedication and stubbornness over such a small sum of money, I didn’t want to imagine what splitting the bill at a restaurant would be like with such a man.
You can’t trust the internet, you can’t trust Wonga loans but you can trust me when I say Isla de Ometepe is worth every second spent there.