Nicaragua II: Omotepe   Leave a comment

The volcano Concepcion on the island of Omotepe in Lake Nicaragua is often shrouded in clouds.

I continued south through Nicaragua.  I only spent about 2 1/2 weeks in this country but a lot went on during that time.  I took the boat out to the island of Omotepe, in the middle of Lago Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.  This island is deservedly popular with tourists, but it isn’t a touristy place.  Instead, it’s a world apart, one of those places you occasionally run into that seems to live in its own time frame.  There are quirky characters, some from North America, who’ve settled here alongside longtime farmers.  It is gorgeous and has a great vibe.

The island is shaped like a dumbbell, because of the two large and potentially dangerous volcanoes that make up the island.  I only spent time on the larger, northern bulge of the dumbbell, where the volcano Concepcion dominates many of the views (see image).  I stayed a few nights at a nice family-run place, Charco Verde.  It is right on the lake and not at all expensive.  Small cabins start at around $20.  I worked a deal where my room and all the meals were free if I did some photography for them.  Most of that photography was at a big fiesta I was invited to.  The area is very rural, with a simple lifestyle.  I watched locals coming to the lake to bathe themselves and their animals as the sun set over the beautiful lake.

The peaceful shores of Omotepe Island in Lake Nicaragua basks in the fading light.

The whole family plus their friends participated in the party, which took place in Altagracia, the island’s main town.  Everyone rode their beautiful dancing horses.  Most of these are arabians, so being the owner of two arabians I liked that.  But these are certainly better trained than mine.  They perform a sort of dancing dressage, which is part of the romance of the Nicaraguan cowboy.  If you have a good singing voice and a dancing horse, there is no better way to woo your beloved.

It’s a dance party on Omotepe, and the horses are getting in on the action.

A pretty Nicaraguan girl from the island of Omotepe pauses in front of her horse.

After the parade featuring the requisite religious icon, everyone repaired to the beach and proceeded to get drunk and do some dancing.  All except me; I was on the job.  Another one who did not drink was one of the families daughters, who I fell hopelessly in love with (see image).  The day ended with a raucous rodeo, the wildest and least organized one I’ve ever been to.  They were using an American flag, upside down, as a lure for the enraged bulls (see image).

A truly wild rodeo on the island of Omotepe in Nicaragua.

Omotepe had been truly fun and relaxing.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  But it was time to go, and I had chosen the more adventurous way to move on from the island.  As the sun set, I boarded the overnight ferry that heads down the lake to its main outlet, where the Rio San Juan heads east along the Costa Rica border on its way to the sea.  This route, Central America’s longest river, was originally proposed for the canal between the oceans, before Panama was ultimately chosen.  The canal would have likely been shorter and easier here, but the number of active volcanoes eventually nixed the idea.

I hung my hammock on deck and soon felt the strong breeze that presages a thunderstorm.  And boy was it a doozie, sweeping with fury across the lake.  Next up is the Rio San Juan and the final installment of my Nicaragua adventures.

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