From Diary 2 and the central part - I'm still in the central part...
17/12. I got a hot tip about how to get to Isla Zapatera, and it have to be tested. Another massive breakfast at the hostel, containing pancakes and fried eggs, and I'm off to San Jorge. It is by the nice NIC-2 most of the way, mainly through flat cattle land. After an hour, I am at the little ferry town San Jorge. It is a poor part of the country to judge from the town houses.
Unfortunately, they do not have any connections with Isla Zapatera either. However, a creative guy assures me, their ferries connect to Ometepe, and it have its share of Petroglyphs. As no surprise, he can arrange everything for a symbolic fee. Well, it is a rather large island in the huge lake, and I go for a off-road bike., as I can't bring the car.
Then I have to pay a tourist fee, a fee for parking and the ferry of cause (half the price of the parking!). It is an old ferry, but it actually make me feel more safe, compared with a brand new "Danish" one, build in Italy by a company who only have been making sink-weights for fisherman's nets. It leaves on the dot, and it is an hours smooth ride. Ometepe is made up by two huge volcanoes and a few smaller. The highest one is close to 1700 metres, the other near 1400 metres.
A friendly guy awaits me at the dock, with a huge sign with my name on. I get a rather new 200 CC off-roader, pay a fee for cleaning it afterwards, and off I am. As my primarily target is the illusive petroglyphs, I head straight for them. Here are several groups scattered around the little volcano, and I get a drive around the large one.
It is a beautiful island. Real fertile, and with only little settlement. And so many houses have real nice gardens with numerous flowering bushes. I pass the airport - actually, I cross the landing strip. It is closed by a rope, and I feel safe. Here are some small fields with beans, corn, bananas and alike. A cowboy with a mixed group of horses and cows, uses the road.
I pass a little village with a tiny church. Beans are dried outside most houses, and they are not big at all! I reach the northern coast, and it is a nice sandy one. I still have to get used to the sweet-water plants, at a beach like this. It is a nice, sunny day, and even I don't freeze, going on a motorcycle in T-shirt and flip-flops.
Here is a lot of forest, the huge Cebia one of the more common trees. Then I kind of find the first petroglyph-site. Driving with my GPS in the pocket is not efficient! It is a Finka named El Porvenir. I pay the fee, but fail to find anything. I follow a trail way up the volcano, but only see trees. Back again, it turns out the first group is in their garden, the rest down-hill.
After some more fumbling around, I finally find the four carved stones. I know art is debateable (as a banana taped on a wall with gaffa just have been sold for $200,000), but I have expected a bit more. They might have lost the edge (literarily) through time, and the shadows from the trees does not help.
The second group is a bit more impressive, although they
are in the shadow as well. Here are several "monkey-tails"; spirals which in
Denmark is known as "Sun-signs". Spiral of life?
I finally find the Aztec calendar I wanted to see. It is covered by a little shed, covering the sight as well. The last one I find, is actually pretty easy to see. I find my way out to the sealed road. It is sealed with concrete tiles, and in most places, they are covered in fine sand. It is not like ice, more like newly fallen snow.
The next sight is way up the volcano, bye a narrow and challenging foot-path. On the way, I pass a sign for a Zopilote. If it is like the Mexican Cenote, it is worth the detour. If it had been. Well, two frogs call it home. The petroglyps stone is just as disappointing.
The last sight I have in mind, is the corruptive organic coffee producing finca of Magdalena. It is the centre for 26 families in the area, and use to be a rich man's farm. Another fee, and the guide that strongly recommend him self, doing it in English, and he is hired. I guess that was a good call, as we walk around the forest for an hour by a network of small trails.
Some of the groups of volcanic rocks we pass have petroglypes on them. I had only found a few of them, and spend more time getting out again! We pass a little field with coffee plants, some bananas and the cattle fields. Horses are roaming free in the forest, destroying the trails.
Here are a lot of birds, and the island is home to three
species of monkeys, although I suspect they are brought here by man. I see
the howling monkey quite close - almost close enough for my
I drop the bike at the shop, swallow a rather good omelette with vegetables and run to the ferry. This time, it is a little boat, just as old. The sun sets over the lake, and it is pitch dark, when we reach the mainland. I have 72 kilometres home, and might have speeded a bit. But here are hardly any traffic, neither many horses and dogs. Home, I start deleting pictures of small boulders with allegedly should have petryglyphs on them. Archeologically, it was not a great experience, but Ometepe is a nice island. Petroglyps on Ometepe.
18/12. To set an easy target, I just going to explore a bit of the Reserva Nasional Volcán Mombacho. It can be done by car! Well, if you got 4WD, which they claim I don't. I can wait an hour and take the truck, but I rather walk the five kilometres, 1000 metres height. The first three kilometres is through small farms with mainly coffee patches, the usual plants and a steep path. Then I turn rural and real evil! It is, after all, a 1345 meter classic volcano cone.
I have to walk on my toes for long stretches, and I appreciate the new shoos I got this morning. Some howler monkeys are making noise, and I do see them in the tree tops. The leaf-cutter-ants have made some impressive highways, even cut them in the the sides of the trail. A colony of what look like large yellow tailed starlings, have weavers nest - unless they are plundering them?
As I pass 600 metres, it turns significantly more moist. Here are way more bromeliads, ferns and Peperomias. Some large Begonias starts to be epiphytic. A strange slow-mowing creature in the roadside turns out to be a Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine; Sphiggurus mexicanus. It hardly have any spines, but is quite.
As I reach 1000 metres, the clouds close the trail slightly. I still don't feel the cold, as I'm huffing and puffing my way up. When I reach the top, and the cold wind, I do! A soaked T-shirt and cold wind is a bad mix. Well, it does dry out soon. I get a little cup of the local coffee and get my breath. Apparently, only a few walk to the top, and not like me in 75 minutes.
I head out the trail, looping the huge crater. The top part is a truly cloud forest, with all its special plants and hardly any light. The trees are so packed in epiphytes and mosses, and I appreciate the excellent trail. The viewing point, on the other hand, is a disappointment by now: Just a cloud.
The trail follow the edge of the huge crater, but due to the dense vegetation, it is hard to see it. A narrow and deep crack leads to yet another cloudy view, but it have started clearing a bit. I continue the trail, trying not to make too many photos of the dark green wall I'm passing.
Here are a lot of small insects, but I don't see many other animals. Here are several species of Begonias. One have leaves like dinner dishes. I reach a slightly open area, and new plants are found. Then it become a highland meadow, and here are flowering plants. The two most impressive are terrestrial orchids, one bright yellow or orange, the other huge and bluish.
From up here, there are a slightly misty, but real great view to the huge lake I visited yesterday, and Granada. Just around the corner, some steam are oozing up from the dept of the earth, having a slight hint of sulphur. I guess it is a dormant volcano, not a dead I'm walking.
I return to the biological station, and get yet another shoot of coffee. I have some time for the truck down - and I'm NOT walking! I head a bit out the trail again, where it is clear by now. Then the slow drive down, and off to yet another volcanic crater. It is through a real rural area, but not when I reach the target.
This is flooded with a huge lake, 200 metres deep and around 450 metres in diameter. My planed hostel is closed, but they recommend a resort, down the road. Apparently, they work with my Granada hostel, and I get fifth night for free. Well, I think I have the day, and the lake is a nice sight, and Reserva Nasional Laguna de Apoyo must offer some more.
I got the time, I wait exploring till tomorrow, and spend the last hour and
a half working. It is a popular place, although fare from full. Bar-dinner;
a veggie burger, and then more work. I actually see some familiar faces here
this evening. They have spend the day travelling up here from Granada -
without a tour on Volcán Mombacho: I like having my own transport!
19/12. Considering this is a bonus day, I have an easy day (planned). I chat with an real charming Italian girl, which I shared dorm with, then enjoy my traditional Nicaraguan breakfast at the porch, facing the lake. Laguna de Apoyo is around 550 metres in diameter, and 200 metres deep. Despite it being a national park, here are quite some hotels and alike along some parts of the sandy shore, although hard to spot from the shore.
Another long chat with a gorgeous Irish girl, and when she rush to her taxi, I set out exploring the shore of the lake. It is rather hard, as only small patches have a sandy beach. I find some small animal trails along the shore in the dense forest, but fail to find any interesting plants here. It is only around 80 metres height, humid and warm: Just like I prefer it.
I make a lot of photos over the lake and along the shore, but they tend to look alike. After several kilometres, I find the little road, leading home to the hotel. I stop for a short chat with an American, distributing Coca Cola refrigerators in Nicaragua. Guess you can ask for a worse deportation.
Back for a yet another cup of tea, but then I get the cabin-fever. In an attempt to catch the entire volcanic crater, I head for Catarina, and that turns out to be the right choice. The road into the little town is aliened with nurseries and pottery shops, all so colourful. The centre of town, on the other hand, is real dead and humble.
On the other side, the road is lined with even more pottery and alike for local weekend visitors. The road ends at a huge slope, leading all the 450 metres down to Laguna de Apoyo. I think I manages to get the entire crater in the frame, just as I wanted. I do a loop in the live part of town, along with a short in the dead centre.
The next town in line is Masatepe, and despite it is only around ten kilometres away, they have never seen a tourist, it seems. As in all the other towns and cities I have been in in Central America, the Farmaciea - drugstores, seems to be among the most numerous. I have to find out why. It turns out, they have one box of most pills, and sell the pills individually. I also learn a tire-fixer in Nicaragua is called a Vulcaniza. Strange how that change from country to country, despite the common languish.
I buy a couple of tasty bananas at the central square, and call them lunch. After a tour around the central square, here are not much else to see, and I head further on towards west. The next little town is San Marcos, another little sleepy and dusty town. Another tour around the square, pass the church, and I can say: Been there.
I head home, and order a smoothie with pineapple, passion fruit and dark rum. Find a hammock in the shade of some palms in a quiet part of the garden, and relax for almost an hour. I'm just not good at it, and despite quite some show from birds and squirrels, I start working at four.
I spend some time talking to a real funny and interesting
Australian girl, who talk me into joining the Trivial Persuade contest this evening. I team up
with two Canadians, who live here now, and two Swiss, and we rock! It does
get too late, but it was fun taking with them. Laguna de Apoyo and some
small towns around.