Sunday, March 15, 2015

Getting To Ometepe Island

The thing about traveling with kids is the actual travel part. Getting to Granada, Nicaragua with 2 kids by myself was hectic, sort of like Mr. Toad's wild ride with lots of whining, too much luggage, and a little vomit. Once we were settled into our Granada house, things were much easier, every day life but in a different language and with a good dose of adventure thrown in. I was able to pack my overstuffed day bag backpack and head out the door with minimal fuss. This is why I was dreading packing up my bags and transporting us from Granada to Ometepe Island.

Lake Nicaragua is pretty huge at over 3,000 square miles. The kids kept calling it the ocean. Getting around it or across it is an all day ordeal. The first step was a hired van ride from Granada to San Jorge, the ferry port town about 75 kilometers away. After a beautiful ride through the Nicaraguan countryside with only 2 random security checkpoints we arrived in San Jorge. We knew San Jorge was the place to catch the ferry to Ometepe Island, but that's all we knew. We were dropped off at the ferry terminal, where there was a small waiting room out of the sun. There were snacks, dogs, and a cast of characters to people watch.

The only thing we were lacking was a schedule. And tickets. Or anyone to tell us what ferry goes where, when, for how much money and who we buy the ticket from. There were a few backpackers with delicious Irish accents fumbling with the same issues, but it was much more outrageous with an Irish lilt.

There were two boats at the dock. One substantial looking one that seemed to be able to take vehicles as well as people, and one that was more like a panga on steroids which was listing to starboard even while completely empty.

Oh, and the wind was blowing off the lake onshore about 25-30 knots.

All of the sudden at some random time for some random seeming reason locals started lining up and piling into the panga ferry. We watched as our Irish backpacker compadres joined the herd. The scene seemed to defy all spatial reasoning, it was the clown car of ferries as dozens of people complete with bags and livestock disappeared into the bowels of the little boat.

My gut was yelling, "Noooooooooooo! Wait for the next one." While we were anxious to get to the island, the wind was building and watching that full ferry bash drunkenly into the waves we knew we did the right thing wait it out in hopes of getting on the larger boat.

About 90 minutes later (thank goodness for Mary Poppins who kept the kids happy during the wait) we had some tickets in our hands that looked like they were made by kindergartners on toilet paper. It was time to make my way down the crumbling dock with 1 large rolling duffle bag, 3 small rolling suitcases, one large backpack, and two kids, one of whom was small enough to get trampled or run over by trucks full of livestock rolling onto the ferry. I was relieved to drop my bags on a bench and settle in for the one hour boat ride.

The seas started out rough with the high winds, but steadily settled down as we made out way closer to the island. Zach spent much of the journey at the bow of the boat like a salty pup, relishing every splash and wave.

Naia stared out the window despondently and eventually fell asleep.

As we got closer we could see, feel, and hear just how different this little island was from the hustle of where we just came from. Ometepe Island is simply two volcanoes linked together in  the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Maderas Volcano is dormant and covered in cloud forest. Concepcion Volcano is active and dominates the landscape, with the town of Moyogalpa nestled in its lap. This beautiful little spot was our new home for the last week of the trip.

We still had one more bit of travel to do. Getting off the ferry, all 6 of us and our mountain of luggage folded into a small taxi and made the short trip up the main street of town to our hostel. Hospedaje Soma is a dreamy little place to stay. The grounds are beautiful and filled with paths and hammocks and geckos and colorful birds and a sweet old dog. The staff was friendly and accommodating and very good with the kids. There were drinks and water on the honor system, board games always out to play, complementary delicious breakfast, family style dinners. and a fresh breeze as you fall asleep to the sound of Howler monkeys in the shadow of Concepcion.

Totally worth the effort to get there.

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