April, May 2003


We boarded a luxury bus in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and headed for Managua, Nicaragua. On arriving we were swarmed by folks recommending hotels. They explained that the last bus to Granada had already left, so we'd have to stay at their hotel in Managua. Managua is a bit of an armpit, so we weren't too excited.

But after going to the bus station anyway, we had no trouble catching the next bus to Granada. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice a colonial town it is. We chose a little hotel near the central park, and had fun exploring the town for the next couple of days. People were friendly, the beach was nice, the park was pleasant... all in all it was a good town. We'd have stayed longer if we could.

But we wanted to get to La Isla Ometepe. After an interesting day of travel we arrived: bus, taxi, wait, boat, bus, wait, bus, walk 1 km uphill. I was amused to find myself on a "chicken bus" for the first time with a real chicken. We rested for the evening and got up early the next morning to attack the volcano.

We ate breakfast, took a couple liters of water, and set out to climb Volcán Madera. It's been extinct for a long time, so it's a great jungle trek now. We saw lots of butterflies and blue jays, and some sort of wild jungle turkey. There was one snake and lots of howler monkeys. A few of the monkeys would stop and watch us when we stopped to watch them. And I tried not to take it personally when one of them emptied his bladder from 8 meters up and only 2 or 3 meters from the path.

The trail is only 5 km long, but it takes 4 hours to get up the volcano. It's pretty steep the whole way. Then at the top we descended into the crater. Now it's a big mud filled lagoon, but it's pretty tricky getting down to it. It required climbing down on a rope as we picked our way between boulders. But it was great to see the little pond, and we had the whole place to ourselves. I highly recommend the hike, even for folks that might want to avoid the last difficult part.

Coming back down took only 3.75 hours... but if felt longer. I guess we let our guards down, because we were attacked. First, Angela was attacked by ravenous caterpillar. It was a vicious bite--nearly visible to the naked eye--but somehow he got away before I could get his picture. Then, almost at the end of the trip, I was charged by a bull. A big snorting bull with huge sharp horns. And an udder. So while I suppose the zoologists among you may claim my "bull" was in fact a "cow", I'm sticking with the bull story. All ended well after I hid behind a rock and she eventually got bored.

Hazy sunset from our hotel (view of Volcan Concepcion) View of beach from Maderas Angela on the trail Matt going down the steepest part Lagoon Maderas in the extinct crater Lagun Maderas

After that we had a couple lazy days walking around the island and relaxing on the beach. It used to be two volcanic islands until 200 years ago when an eruption filled in the narrow strait between the two islands. Now it's the biggest freshwater island in the world. We contented ourselves with photographing the second volcano since it's wind-swept, steeper, and even taller than Madera. The beach there was great--soft sand and water warm as bath water. The only downside was that the sand flies got a bit annoying. And everywhere on the island the locals were friendly, always happy to answer questions and sometimes just starting conversations up themselves.

Wading in the warm water

Last modified: 14 September 2003