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Scootering Around...Our Final Days In Nicaragua

Some much needed R&R at Ometepe Island, a relaxed and magical island in the middle of a lake near Granada.


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We left on the 7.30am chicken bus bound for Rivas feeling drained from our time in Granada. Travelling through Central America has really taken it's toll on us compared to when we travelled through Europe via train. This would be our final long distance chicken bus in Central America as the buses are meant to be more modern in Costa Rica and Panama. The bus ride was surprisingly a lot of fun. The guys working on the bus were cheeky and it was an extremely entertaining few hours while they wound each other up. We arrived in Rivas and jumped in a taxi with an Egyptian engineer we had befriended on the bus. He was a lovely guy and was trying to see as much of Nicaragua as he could in 5 days (he'd just spent two days in Granada so I don't know how far he was going to get!). He completely agreed with us that Granada was not what he was expecting and he felt the life had been sucked out of the place. We were glad we weren't the only ones that felt like that!

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It was a short taxi through to the docks and then onto a boat for a slow hour and a half voyage over the choppy lake to our home for the next few days, Isla Ometepe. After walking around the main town to gain our bearings and find something to tide our hunger over until we got to our hostel we got into a taxi van. It was an hour van ride to our accommodation, Hostel Lazy Crab, which was opposite and end of the island in an area called Balgue.
The hostel is situated right near the lake in a small town with numerous little stores. It was chilled out and the amenities still rather new. We basically spent the next two days relaxing. The great thing about being on this side of the island is that you are limited in how much you can do...There is still plenty to do (e.g. Climb a volcano or bike to the main beach) but we needed some downtime, as I mentioned before travelling constantly in developing countries can get to you after a bit and we had hit a wall.

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After our two days of relaxing we headed back to the main town for the night as we had an early ferry to catch the next day. The day in town ended up being amazing. We stayed in our taxi driver's mum house, which was in a great area and cheap so we were pretty happy.
We discovered when we arrived that the town had it's major event of the year on that day, the rodeo. After a quick typical Nicaraguan breakfast of rice and beans with eggs we headed off on a scooter for the afternoon. I was pretty excited to be able to explore even more of the island.

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We spent the afternoon zooming down the road, trying to get through cows and seeing some sights along the way. We haven't driven since we left New Zealand and we realised how much we missed the freedom that goes with driving, even more so driving with the wind blowing through your hair. We ended going to the main spring of the island, the pools were full of people so we continued on! The pools are special as the water is meant to have healing properties to it. From there we stopped at a local baseball game in one of the towns. Baseball is massive here as it is the national sport of Nicaragua. Rather than seeing kids playing football you tend to see them playing baseball in their free time. It was awesome to hang out with the locals and watch the game while dodging rogue balls that came flying into the crowd. The guy we hired the bike off gave us two recommendations of where we should go on the island. The first was Charco Verde. A lagoon nature reserve on the island. It was cool to walk around the lagoon and enjoy the nature.

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Our last stop on the way home was Punta Jesus Maria which was also recommended from the guy we rented our scooter off. The area was pretty tricky to find as there are no signposts you just have to take a road and hope it leads there. We eventually found our way and came out to a black sand spit. It was a beautiful place with plenty of locals around, even a few bringing in their long line. The true beauty of the spit can be seen when you walk to the end and look back towards the island and the volcano. I really enjoyed this place, sadly we had to cut our visit short as a torrential downpour was threatening. Sadly we didn't manage to avoid getting drenched on our way back into town.
When we arrived back we started to notice all of the tourists that had injuries...all of them we discovered were from falling off a scooter! I have to say I have no idea how they managed it, unless they went down some dodgy gravel tracks at speed or didn't notice any speed bumps.

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It was an early dinner (delicious curry crepes) before we headed down to watch the sunset. It was a spectacular and one of the best we have seen so far. We met a fellow photographer, Derek and ended up having a great evening hanging out with him and heading up to the rodeo as the colours slowly faded from the sky. We had our warnings about going to the rodeo when we ate dinner...which basically included not to leave too late or flash any valuables....people drink to much alcohol and then cause problems. It was pretty crazy when we arrived, there were four people on horses in the ring, and so many people waiting to interact with the bull, the crowds were hanging over the fences. The way the rodeo went was someone rode the bull out and then they all tried to entice it to run after them. After two times of doing this the bulls got bored and just tried to go back into their pen. It was interesting to see how the Nicaraguan people enjoy spending there free time. As one of the restaurant owner explained to us, there isn't a lot of activities for the locals on the island so when things like the rodeo happen it is a big deal. I have to say it seemed as if the whole town was there!

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We left on the 6am boat the next morning and thankfully the lake was less choppy than our first ride. After dealing with the taxi drivers who told us the whole time that buses weren't running and we should take a taxi to the border...we saw a bus at the terminal. We jumped on and paid for the bus. As we were driving I started to notice who was on our bus...It was full of the hawkers that work the border. We were offered FREE exit forms for a price numerous times even on the bus. Things on the bus were going fine until 5km from the border the bus broke down (Well they let it run dry of diesel and then the starter motor was screwed!). After half an hour of waiting on the bus we got off and managed to stop a passing taxi who took us to the border...the best part was he didn't even try to over charge us for the trip. It was a massive relief as at that point it felt like we may never make it out of Nicaragua that day.

Exiting Nicaragua at the Costa Rican border is an interesting process as there are numerous official charges. You have to pay ($1) to get into the customs office (there are official signs about this), they have numerous hawkers outside trying to sell you you're exit form even though it is free inside and then they charge you again to leave the country ($2USD). On occasions they are known not to accept Cordobas (the official currency) and only USD. It is crazy! The total for border crossings in Nicaragua comes to $15USD ($12 entry and $3 to exit). We walked the five minutes to the Costa Rican Border. This in comparison to Nicaragua exit was easy.
The rules for Costa Rica is that you are meant to have a ticket dated for when you are leaving Costa Rica to enter. We didn't have one. I told the official we were flying out of Santiago and then tried to find our e-ticket. He got sick of waiting (after a minute) and said, "I like NZ." With that he stamped our passport and we had a 90 day visa...Easy as that! There are also no entry fees for coming into Costa Rica. We somehow managed to get the 10am bus to San Jose (I have no idea how we managed it). The bus compared to the chicken buses in Nica was luxurious! It had padded seats! Our first stop in Costa Rica was a 7 hour bus away, the capital San Jose.

Posted by chellebelle 19:42 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged people sunset bus down costa rica great leaving less real border relax scooter broken friendly rodeo crêpes curry ometepe vibe nicaragua.

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