Row row row your inadequate boat into choppy water, if you see a crocodile then don’t forget about the bull sharks too.
Now, I’m not sure that’s the children’s nursery rhyme that we all fondly remember but it’s what applies best to the boat situation on the way to Isla de Ometepe.
We arrived that the dock in San Jorge to get our tickets when I noticed a rare sight, a timetable, which applied to the boat we were supposed to be catching. We quickly got our tickets from the booth and after passing a security gate ran for the boat (lancha) which was the smaller but cheaper option to get to the island.
We were the last ones on so had nowhere to sit, so instead perched by the deafening engine and many dubious holes in the boat. As I stated in my post about buses, height can be an issue in Nicaragua when it comes to comfort, and the boats here were no different. Let’s just say my head and few wooden beams had become well acquainted by 10 minutes into the crossing.
Note: You can check the timetable online using this website to save the mad scramble we experienced.
Lake Nicaragua, according to Wikipedia is the 19th largest lake in the world by area. But come on, are we sure it’s not some elaborate ruse, a prank gone too far? Can the internet really be trusted? Looking at the waves which were reminiscent of the English Channel, I wasn’t convinced of its status as a lake.
Brendan was a little worried about the conditions due to some trouble with sea sickness in the past. This feeling wasn’t helped by the optional life vests were even being put on by the locals, which usually doesn’t bode well for the journey ahead.
I think sea sickness was avoided by both of us during the choppy crossing, by staring up at the towering volcanoes rising from the murky water of Lake Nicaragua. Thanks to this, memories of the sea back in England quickly diminished. Concepcion, the largest of the two volcanoes, rises nearly 1600m from the lake to its summit, it was shrouded in cloud but that couldn’t take away the awe that we felt looking up at it.
Our boat finally landed in Moyogalpa, the main link to the rest of Nicaragua, after a crossing of around an hour and a half. Moyogalpa is a small town with a few restaurants and shops and it acted as our place to rest before heading to the Maderas side of the island the following day.
We stayed at the Landing hostel in Moyogalpa which was perfect as it couldn’t have been much closer to the dock and it had a great roof terrace which was equipped with two of the largest hammocks we’d ever seen. So, for much of the day that remained, we lay there chatting and utilising the decent internet until the need for food struck.
We headed out and encountered a taxi driver that had offered us a ride when we arrived earlier on, he asked us if we had heard about the bull riding. Of course, our attention was immediately grabbed, he gave us directions and we set off around the corner.
Firstly, this place was mad.
The bullring was a shoddily constructed structure made of a strange disorganised lattice of planks and lots of chicken wire. Neither of these added up to anything that I could imagine stopping a mildly disgruntled bull never mind a bull on the rampage but it was Nicaragua so I just went with it. There was raised seating for those wishing to pay, but being stingy backpackers who still had to make it to Panama we couldn’t afford that expense. Once we had had a look around it was dark and the children had already found their way into the structure of the ring which wasn’t really that hard owing to the many holes. Some braver ones leaped into the ring itself.
The show took a while to get going, but once it did it was awesome. Each rider mounted a bull in a tight little pen and then the door was lifted releasing the bull and the rider into the ring. The riders ranged in age mainly young men but the youngest looked about 14. Not many of the riders lasted long on the bulls but that was only half the entertainment. Getting control of the bull afterwards was always difficult and watching the people scramble up the sides of the ring to get away from the horns of the bull was a dramatic spectacle.
After taking it all in and keeping our distance from some of the more drunken members of the audience we headed for dinner very close to the hostel. An extremely well cooked beautifully marinated steak and a homely environment to eat in was just what I needed after the excitement of the bull riding. Then to bed ready for another part of the island and more incredible experiences of this rural part of Nicaragua.
I’ve been convinced that it is in fact a lake…
But seriously its enormous.