Monday, February 15, 2010


After the rum accident, I got up the next morning to walk around the town one last time before heading to Volcanic Island Ometepe in lake Nicaragua. I need to get enough money to last the 3 days 2 nights on the island as it only have 1 atm and not always working and transportation on the island is infrequent with cheap buses and expensive with 30 or so taxi on the island. I also decided to get a replacement rum but this time a less expensive version (5 year), after last minute email check and saying good bye to Joel and Eda, I was off to catch the bus to Rivas and from there to San Jorge and then the 12PM ferry to Ometepe.

There were few other people on the bus that are going to Ometepe as well. We told the bus assistant to tell us when to get off so we can catch a taxi for a short ride to San Jorge. The guide book mentioned one should get off near a shell gas station just on the outskirt of Rivas, but the evil assistant told us to get about 1km from the place, not familiar with the place and trusty of the guy, we all got off and there was two taxi waiting and nothing around the area. When asked how much is to San Jorge dock, the drivers wanted $3 per person! We have 7 people, and the German mom and young son said it should cost at most $3 per taxi! She argued with one of the driver for a while, but he just won't give in, and in the end he charged us $2.5 per person. This is the first time I got ripped off in Nicaragua. The taxis then take us to the dock in front the restaurant and had us go in to have lunch. Now I realized this is just a scam by the bus assistant, the taxi drivers, and restaurant. I step right out the restaurant to the ticket office to get my ferry ticket. The rude window lady refused to take my 200 cordobas bill saying she doesn't have 140 in cordobas, not believing her but unwilling to be bother with her, I decided to just get my ticket on board. One also need to pay 10 cordobas to get into the dock area...

One the boat I sat in the middle level with ac and movie, and was joined by the German mother and son. Most other tourists sat up top to get sun. I had enough sun damage and my skin needs some healing. The ride itself was under 1 hour through some rough water in the beginning. They were playing fast and furious I think. As we approached Ometepe the Volcano Concepcion loomed large with its perfect and symmetric slope/cone. While the smaller asymmetric Volcano Maderas hides in the clouds.

Once we got off the boat at Moyogalpa, I decided to stick with the German lady and her son, while other tourists all hopped on to a shared taxi. We were the only one left. I know there is a bus for Finca Madalena at 3:30PM. I was willing to wait for that one, but the Germany lady want to catch a bus to Altagarcia and get off at the intersection to road to Finca Madalena, so we were off with Altagarcia bus. When we got off the driver assistant told us a bus for Finca Madalena from direction of Altagarcia should come very shortly. Unlucky for us the bus left about 5 minutes before we got off at the intersection. So we waited for almost 2 hours and around 4 the next minibus finally came. The bus already some what packed, so we ened up standing. The road from here to Finca Madalena is unpaved rough road, going was slow, hot, and dusty. Then more people came on, and some had to sat on the roof of the minivan! By the time I got off, I was covered with sweat and dust. The German mother and son stayed at Finca a km or so early than where I am going to stay, we might see each other again as we all want to climb volcano Maderas the next day and the trail starts at Finca Madalena.

On the bus ride I met a couple from Vermont, and they had a local guide Willy with them (from Altagarcia). We decided to climb together. The Finca Madalena itself is actually 1.2km up hill from where the bus let us out, so more sweat for us.

As for the Finca itself, it is not bad of a place, clean and in a nice setting, better than what I expected based what Jenifer who I met in my last Central America trip described to me. It was clean and the "bed" is just a plastic stretch over wood frame. But for $3, one can't complain to much, beside I was the only person in the tiny 3-bed dorm, as there weren't too many tourists, most group/people got there own dorm room as well.

Soon as we settled in, we all quickly went for the shower to wash away the dirt and sweat. Afterward, we were greeted by nice dusk view of Volcano Concepcion!

There is no other choice to eat except in Finca Madalena unless you want to walk down to the main road and the walk backup. There was a nice breeze but we incline to stayed as the meal price isn't too high. I chatted with Nabi and Dave over the dinner. Nabi is a Korean American in her early 30s and Dave is white American in his early 50s. I think there are traveling for 1.5 month?? in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Dave is a dairy milk inspector and Nabi, I don't remember if I asked her, but she was from NYC originally and met Dave 3 years ago and have been together ever since. She is a bit "wild" and "crazy" while Dave is a bit more reserved, perfect match I think.

We also chatted with few other people who had done the volcano hike today and a couple actually went up from the other side and came down this side. They said it was lot muddy on our side. O well....

Our guide told us we leave at 7AM, so I call it a night at 10.
There was lots wind at night and my dorm is on the windward so I got some draft coming in, with the super thin sheet, I kept on waking up, luckily I was able to get enough sleep in.

I got up around 6 to take few photos and order my breakfast. We were off at around 7:28, I guess the German mother and son won't be join us.

Our guide Willy is a bit funny and talkative and shows some of the plants, insects, etc along the trail. A group of hikers pasted us, but their guide looked like just marching them along boringly. Willy is a bit chubby, and I thought he is not fit, but he was able climb very fast and coming down very fast too. He competes in the local annual volcano run!

We lucked out on our hike as there was nice breeze and since most of the trail was shaded, we didn't get super hot, and I ended only need 1 1.5 litter of water instead of the two. Also the trail wasn't super muddy either, not the terrible condition Jenifer described. We got back down around 4PM. There is a crater lake 300+ feet below on the other side of the summit, and stopped there for lunch break. I just had bars and chocolate while Nabi and Dave had cookies, bread-frijoles-tomatoes. During the hike we chatted on many different topics included how Asian (Korean and Chinese) are so into with rate race and keeping with the Jones. I told Nabi that she is a rare breed. We also discussed how the TV/Movie portrait Asian Americans in past and glad finally few started to broke the stereotypical Asian role. I told her I hated Sandra Oh's ugly look, and she promised to use Sandra as her facebook profile :)

After we came down, I decided to pay Willy 120 cordobas ($6) and Nabi and Dave want to give Willy $10 each. The typical rate is $5 per person.

The only atm on the Island was broken when Nabi and Dave visited, so they are running low on cash so they needed to negotiate with the management to reduce what you own by few $ as well cook the pasta their brought with them. I offered some money to them, but they were able to just squeeze by with what they have and needed the atm to be working when they get to Moyogalpa the next morning to catch the ferry to San Jorge and on ward to Granada. In the mean time I was convinced by few people to take the river way of crossing the border into Costa Rica. Instead of the notorious road crossing of Sapoa/Penas Blancas with border bus at Rivas, I decided to take a 10 hours 7PM ferry tomorrow from Altagarcia to swampy San Carlos on the Southeastern corner of Lake Nicaragua and then another boat over the border to Costa Rica town of Los Chiles, from there a two hours bus ride to Ciudad Quesada (also called San Carlos) and switch to another 1.5 hours bus ride to La Fortuna, a new destination I added just now since I had one day to spare. It is going be a very long Journey, over 24 hours with some waiting time for the immigration office to open at 8AM in San Carlos and the 10:30AM boat ride to Costa Rica. I hope to get to La Fortuna before dark!

This morning I said goodbye to Nabi and Dave as they left at 7AM to Moyogalpa, I decided to goto Altagarcia at 11AM, this give some time to walk around the Finca for some macro photos of insects. When I got back to Finca most people has left with exception of a group of volunteers?? but soon they left as well. I was left to try to get a splinter from my right thumb, but without much luck, hopefully it will not get worst.

I got to Altagarcia around 12:15 and decided to get a lunch from a place recommended by Dave and Nabi, and there I met Willy, he lives there with his family (owns the hotel). He told us yesterday he had clients that wanted to climb volcano Concepcion at 4AM today, but it didn't pan out and he had too much to drink as well and got up around 9. Initially he didn't remember that I climbed with him from yesterday! Anyway I had a fish soup (with two whole fish, very yummy), again recommended by Nabi. I asked Willy if he can exchange my $20 bill for me as I needed the money to pay $10 for the ferry. I might need to hit the atm in San Carlos to get me over the border to Costa Rica, that ferry costs may be $7, hope that atm works!

Anyway I will probably stay at La Fortuna for 2 nights and then catch a jeep-ferry-jeep shuttle to Monteverde. I will ended up with 1.5 less days in Monteverde, and hope that is enough.

Ok, time to goto the dock to get my ferry ticket.....

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