Thursday, February 24, 2011

Segment 30: On Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua (January 15 - 29, 2011)

Ometepe Island is somewhat mythical.  Having heard stories for many years about this island in the middle of enormous Lake Nicaragua, with two large volcanoes and tropical forest and low population, we were eager to explore...
the island has a fantastic shape, and the road system, primarily dirt, forms a rough figure eight around the two volcanoes (Volcán Concepción to the west, Volcán Maderas to the east)

our first campsite on Ometepe, next to a banana plantation outside of Moyogalpa

In Moyogalpa, Jeff met up with our friend Tom, and with two others, Daniel (San Diego) and Reto (Swiss), and together we left to cycle around the island.  Jason and Sonia stayed in Moyogalpa to await the arrival of Craig, due a few days later...

first off, we went to climb Volcán Concepción

White-faced monkey seen on the lower slopes of Concepción

...Tom and Daniel watch a magnificent sunset from near our cloud forest campsite near treeline...

A groggy Jeff as we start up for the summit at 4 AM.  This was to be quite an adventure, with poor visibility, falling rocks, steep slopes, a few minor getting-losts, dangerous footing, etc.

...first light found us in deep fog... clambering up steep rocky slopes with no clear trail

... at the summit (1610m), in whiteout conditions, and (elatedly) clinging on to the kniferidge in heavy winds, are (above) Jeff, Daniel, and Reto.   (below) Tom:

the fog cleared a little as we descended with stupendous views

... fun trail through the forests on the slopes of Ometepe...

this is the house where we had stored our bikes with the amazingly-friendly locals

Tom gave an impromptu ukelele lesson to the kids

after we descended, the skies cleared and later that day this was the view of Concepción

our stealth campsite on the edge of the lake

pesky giant centipede seen on Tom's socks in above campsite

Tom, clearly enjoying the ride as we progress around the island

a morning footbag break, excellent stretching/cross-training activity for riders

White-throated magpie jay, common resident on Ometepe

at San Ramón we briefly reunited with Craig (seen resting here) and Sonia and Jason

girl at breadshop in San Ramón

her pet parrot, a yellow-naped parrot who, from her unseen perch,  had greeted us with a raspy "Buenas" (Hello!) as we first entered, leading us to believe a cantankerous senior was in the adjacent room, only to discover that a parrot was talking to us.  Unfortunately, there is a black market for pet birds all over central America, and this species is particularly threatened.

fisherman at San Ramón

full moon rising over Lake Nicaragua from San Ramón

our not-so-stealth campsite at the San Ramón emergency helipad

Reto tops out a steep climb

this is how the locals move around

approaching the end of our figure 8 ride, on a brick surface with a great descent

from Ometepe, Jeff briefly returned to Rivas to meet up with a friend Katie (Newcastle, England), and had this very clear view of the two volcanoes

this is the passenger ferry, "Che Guevara"

back on the island, Jeff and Katie are ready for another loop of Ometepe.  Katie has rented a mountain bike for $4/day.

impossible not to enjoy this riding (photo C. Murray)

this character spotted at San Marcos

locals washing at San Marcos

Katie rests lakeside with Concepción dominating the scene

sunset from our campsite on the lower slopes of Concepción

effigy of Sandino, painted all over in the town of Altagracia.  This is a strong symbol for the governing FSLN party.

this sign says: "Don't buy baby birds from nest-robbers!"  The yellow-naped parrot seen previously in San Ramón was a victim of this

Katie with Volcán Maderas in the background

Maderas seen from our lakeside campsite (photo C. Murray)

At Zopilote, where we camped one night, we saw this graffiti scribbled on the lookout tower.  In French, it reads "There is nothing so precious in life as the feeling of escape, relief, and absolute freedom."  We agree.

  sunset view of Volcán Concepción from Zopilote's lookout tower

Our next stop was Finca Magdalena on the slopes of Volcán Maderas, from which we headed out to climb the volcano

we entered cloud forest soon after starting up  (photo C. Murray)

Katie working up through the cloud forest

dense ferns and many shades of green

these fellows hang out at the summit's crater lake and beg food from hikers

the crater lake below the summit of Maderas (1364m)  (photo C. Murray)

epiphytes all over the forest

super muddy trail  (photo C. Murray)

afternoon view out towards Concepción

the lower forest of Maderas

petroglyph on Maderas

Finca Magdalena.  An old commercial farm, it was converted some 20 years ago into a community tourism project.  It is one of the most impressive things we saw on Ometepe: amazingly friendly, many local villagers involved, and 100% Nicaraguan.
the gardens at Finca Magdalena

beans drying roadside

howler monkeys at the end of this single track:

great GREAT riding
cemetary on east side of island near La Palma

grilling guapote (local fish) and plantains on a makeshift steel drum grill, lakeside

great egret

we met up with Jason, Sonia, and Craig here on a local farm.  They had already been here more than a week,  relaxing, pitching in with work chores, and exploring the area.  Together we made tostones, or deep fried green plantains:
(photo C. Murray)

katie peels and chops, sonia mashes, craig entertains

the finished product: delicious hot fresh plantains served with beet/onion/tomato salsa

locals heading out to check their fishing lines in a dugout canoe

harvested sesame on the farm

Craig and the head of the farm

...great road as we ride away...

(photo C. Murray)

Next off we headed to the waterfall at San Ramón.  Along the lower section of trail we found fresh grapefruits in the trees:

Some amazing birds seen on the waterfall trail.  above: red-lored parrots.  below: Baird's trogon

Katie as we approach the waterfall in a thick gorge

Jeff after a dip in the pool  (photo C. Murray)

this waterfall is set in a stunning backdrop

...the trail descended through extensive orchards...
... from which we collected a handful of ripe mandarins

local after harvesting plantains  (photo C. Murray)

beetle on Jeff´s leg

after a week of no bike problems, Katie got a flat tire in the last kilometer of our 90km ride

it cost 10 Córdobas to repair, and the guy did it with this homemade vulcanizer