The walk to the bus stop was hard in Granada’s heat. The smells of the market were a benchmark for the town as we trudged along the main road in search of the station.
It wasn’t a station in fact, more of a dusty yard with a few school buses in it. One thing must be said for Nicaraguan transport, they are remotely organised. The bus was labeled Rivas and so we gave the porter our bags to chuck ‘delicately’ on the top of the bus.
We sat down and I began talking to Ben from Bristol, a friendly chap who was over visiting his girlfriend from Honduras, Meli. The hot bus journey down to Rivas was melted away into the sounds of Led Zeppelin and as we exited the bus we were ushered to a taxi to the port town where we would get a ferry to the island. Things were falling into place and we had gained two new travels friends who we shared lunch with, waiting for the next ferry to Ometepe.
And there it lay. A dorment volcanic island, steeped in cloud and drenched in mystery. My retreat for the next few days. My target, to climb the peak to the right. Volcan Maderas. 1394m high. One of the only places on the Pacific side of Central America to have a cloud forest. An area of forest full of humidity and an abundance of plant and animal life. I had no idea what to expect, but I was running off of the determination to find out.
The ferry left on time, a rarity. And the journey was spent on the top deck in the blistering heat, made bearable by the dramatic views as we crawled our way towards the island. It was all very exciting and on the way I had managed to persuade Meli and Ben to hold off on their island beach retreat and join us for a couple of days in the forest on a coffee plantation that we had been recommended by a number of people we had met so far. I took a wander around the top of the ship and managed to find the bridge. One of my favourite pictures of the trip, is of the driver, who didn’t mind me sniffing and poking around his little captain’s cabin and snapping away.
As the ferry pulled into the port, we were confronted by a lot of local touts trying to lure us into their taxi service around the island. I used the trademark manoeuvre of auctioning them off on each other until the price was reasonable enough for us all to pay.
The destination, Finca Magdelena. A small, very hard to access farm on the north east side of the island, a good, long, bumpy ride from the port.
And so we set off, in our big 4×4 with our driver, who didn’t speak a word of english but never hesitated to slow down and point out the good looking girls along the drive, always followed by a cheeky laugh. During the drive I mainly had my whole arm out of the window, firing away shots at the beautiful scenery.
The road swiftly turned into dirt and the dirt quickly became potholes joined together by intricate ridges, playing havoc with the suspension and our backsides. The driver had to stop at one point as we had apparently broken the steering column. A few phone calls later, he decided that he would push on with the car in it’s current state, ignoring it’s injury and fulfilling his task of getting us to the Finca. We passed football games, drying seeds, fields, marshlands. The most diverse drive of the trip so far.
And as it turned from afternoon into dusk, we hurtled up the rough path to the farm, off a main dirt track street, into the forest, into the wilderness, far from reality.
I stepped out of the minibus to find an old sleepy farm, well kept with beautiful flowers and a porch dining area with a small reception. We checked in. My room was cheap and looked cheap.
It fit the surroundings. I would have felt over-accommodated in anything grander. The mosquito net was the main feature of the room and graciously thanks its presence. After settling in, we spent the night on the porch, with some local food and the view of a storm on the other side of the island. I was in heaven. I was where I would have been happy for the rest of my days. I was….
And as the night went on, the scenery changed and the noise of the jungle came alive and I slept to the calls of nature, in my small cupboard, under my blue mosquito net, in the middle of nowhere.
I awoke at 7.30am. Today was the day. We had to summit the volcano. Our guide was ready outside, while I made the final checks on my day sack contents. Not enough water. I bought some from reception, retied my boots, had a quick carb filled breakfast and stepped off the porch into the wild.
I remember every second of this walk. I remember each stage of the climb. I remember how I felt, I remember what I say. This day of all the days I have experienced so far, I knew I was alive. And I pushed my self to my own limit. On the way up and on the way down and it was worth every second. Every hour of agony, every minute of pain, every second of doubt.
The trail began as a steady climb, a gradual slope, with time to stop and take some shots of the local leaf cutter ants.
And also some howler monkey.
And even a strange little caterpillar.
But soon all I could concentrate on, was the pain and screaming ache in my legs and feet. It was an arduous walk. The water and powerade kept me going, I must say. But to overcome the barriers you have to push through, your mind becomes introverse and locks itself away inside of itself.
I am proud of myself for making it. To pushing every step of the way even though every muscle in my body with an ounce of sense urged me to stop, to turn back, to give up. And when I got to the top, I knew what true, pure achievement felt like. Undiluted happiness. A goal had been reached and I was entranced.
Even though there wasn’t much of a view at the jungle drenched top. Apart from the mystical cloud forest. Where every branch, twig and leaf had been covered in a vibrant green moss due to all the moisture in the air at cloud level.
That wasn’t the end of though, we walked down further into the crater lake of the volcano, where we had lunch and sat and watched the cloud roll in over the sides of the crater and revelled in the climb and dreaded the descent.
The climb down was far from a walk in the park. Each step hurt my already exhausted knees. Each tiresome step hurt my tender feet. Each wrong footing resulted in my boot getting lodged between rocks. And every muddy scramble, came with the danger of a fatal fall.
So again I locked myself away and allowed only my body to feel the pain. Before I knew it, I was recounting the beginning of the climb, but in reverse. The small bridge, the gravel pathway, the wooden stiles, we were nearly there. And eventually, we were there.
And I had the best Sprite of my life.
That night, the ozzie couple, Kylie and Aaron turned up! Which was an amazing surprise, to finally bump into them at our last stop was a really good ending. We spent the night with laughter, which spilled over into the next day where I woke up to a small racoon bear creature who chased me around a hammock.
I could hardly walk as my legs recovered so the day was declared another lazy day, spent with the guys, taking pictures, eating in a local’s front garden and debating wether to do some more walking.
We thankfully decided against going for a walk and spent the evening watching the greatest sunset of my life.
The next day we had another truck ready to take us back to the port and to drop Ben and Meli off at the beach resort I had persuaded them from.
Ometepe is not a place that either my words or pictures can give justice to. I would strongly recommend that you discover it for yourself. It is worlds away from what you expect and could possibly conceived and I give this post as a thank you to the island and the people who made it so special.
We are nearing the end of the journey now. Only two days till the flight.