America, can you still hear me?
Broken down cars, and late night power failures; Ometepe is where our trip gets interesting.
We left for Ometepe Island from glorious San Juan Del Sur on Tuesday with fellow hostel guest, Canadian Mark, to San Jorge. The cab to ferry combination took about 4 hours door-to-door and was relatively comfortable minus the horrible bible-verse-screaming preacher who took advantage of a captive audience on the 1 hour ferry ride to Ometepe.
Ometepe is a 2 volcano island in the middle of a huge freshwater lake in Nicaragua. It is an eco-tourism destination for both Nicas and Gringos. There are a few highlights worth seeing so we wanted to check them out on our way north to Granada.
We checked into Hospedaje Soma on a blisteringly hot Tuesday (around 95 F and sunny all day) and the heat wouldn’t let up until Thursday. We are on a budget so we never spring for A/C, and this saves us around $6-$10 / night. This has not been a problem so far, a strong fan blowing at its highest setting is enough to continuously evaporate the sweat off of your body and keep you cool. You wake up dehydrated, but with a few extra Cordobas in your pocket. However, our experience in Ometepe is that the power is less reliable than elsewhere in Nicaragua, presumably because we are on an island. When it’s 90 F at night and your fan shuts off every night between 4am and 6am, you are faced with a choice you would prefer not to make at that hour: 1) you are done sleeping, just get up; 2) try to sleep in a pool of your own sweat; 3) Apply massive amount of bug spray, go outside and sleep in a hammock. We tried #3 and found that earplugs were the secret to success since the combination of roosters, dogs, bugs, and other unidentifiable sound signatures were impossible to ignore without them.
On Tuesday we scouted the town and prepared for a full day of adventuring on Wednesday. We found a 10 year old 4×4 Suzuki Jeep-ish thing and rented it for the whole day for $45 + gas. We found some other gringos to stuff in the back to split the cost with as we journeyed to the Island’s multiple eco-highlights. The first was a beautiful 180 M high waterfall, pristine and protected by a challenging hour long hike and 2 hour drive on the worst road you have ever been on. On our 2 hour drive, we ignored some valuable foreshadowing. The jeep that we rented was loose to put it lightly. I could turn the steering wheel 180 degrees without altering our trajectory. The brakes missed the mark as well and stubbornly pulled to the right. I assured Seema that in a manual car, I could use the gears to slow us considerably in an emergency (we also weren’t planning on driving very fast). She doesn’t know anything about cars so it worked out. On our drive to the Cascadas (waterfalls) our car made it 75% of the way before it died on the way up a hill. We waited for awhile, tried a push start (3 girls pushing, didn’t work), and then magically the car started back up again and we were on our way. We had come too far to turn around and go back.
When we arrived at the waterfall grounds something interesting happened to the car: it felt as if the 4×4 transmission dropped right out of the car and the 4×4 shift rod started slamming wildly left and right, so much that Seema’s list of responsibilities improved from Navigator to Navigator-and-shift-knob-thingy-holder/stabilizer. At this point we were much too far to turn around. We hiked to the waterfalls, which were amazingly refreshing and when we arrived we saw something relatively interesting… Imagine you have just made your way through 2 hours of terrible road and a 1 hour hike, you are finishing your climb as the top of the waterfall begins to reveal itself beyond the final peak of your hike. Suddenly, you hear a magical flute being played in the distance and before your eyes you see a handsome tan Spanish man in a speedo playing a bamboo flute standing atop a rock with this heavenly waterfall behind him. At this point you may think you are in a seriously demented version of heaven. I thought for sure the next thing I was going to see was a unicorn or at least an albino leprechaun.
On our way back we went to some nice mineral springs and the car died a few more times. One time it died fortuitously on the top of a hill so no push start was needed. Then another time i discovered that you could also roll start the car going backwards down a hill if you didn’t make it to the top – got pretty good at it. Seema was thoroughly enjoying this.
Ultimately, the car did not make it home. We came to a rolling stop as the sun was going down, and we knew (i.e. Seema knew and eventually convinced me) we couldn’t risk being stranded in the middle of nowhere when it’s dark. We decided Suzie (The Suzuki) had died its final death and it was time to call the duder who rented us this caca de perro (dog shit).
As a side note – if you know Seema – you know this is her hell. So have a little prayer for her sanity while we are still in Nicaragua. 😉
Duder sent his brother to come get us. He was a nice enough guy and brought us back before it got dark. When I asked the duder in Spanish what the hell happened with the car he said “Hay un problemita con el carburator.” The funny thing about this line is the addition of the suffix “ita” to the word problem. Adding “ita” to a word signifies that it is small and unimportant. I casually disagreed with this hombre, and we were on our way.
We had a few beers that night and were glad to be safe, healthy, and happy. All’s well that ends well.
Ometepe made us miss home a bit (paved roads, real supermarkets, electricity), but we are still thrilled to be adventuring.