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Mombacho Cloudforest and Isla de Ometepe

The cross overlooking Masaya Volcano
The cross overlooking Masaya Volcano
We leave Granada this morning. I had an old lady with a walker come up to me asking for money. Instead of giving her money I asked about her story and she shared with me. An interaction then that could have been nuisance turned into a blessing for both of us. As we sat on the bus waiting to depart, I saw a woman sweeping up garbage in the central plaza. They are at least trying to keep the streets clean. She was using what looked to be a homemade broom – dried straw of all different lengths that were tied together and then tied to a stick for a handle. A bank sponsored garbage cans to line the sidewalks, so she will now have somewhere to throw the trash.
On the way to the Mombacho Reserve, I see multiple horses, cattle, and one pig grazing along the way. We arrive to the entrance and get off our bus and load onto an open air military vehicle converted into a safari style truck. I wonder why the vehicle switch is necessary, but as we climb up the stone cobble road, the way becomes very steep and slippery from the moisture, and rain and leaves that have beat down on this road. We climb and climb and climb, seeing birds, flowers and butterflies as we go. One red winged butterfly comes and flies right next to me in the bus for about 10 seconds (which shows how slow we are driving) as if to say “Welcome to my forest”.
We arrive at the top after about 25 minutes. Here there is a biological research center with some small exhibits inside about the cloudforest and wildlife you might see within the park’s borders. We then walk along the trail leading to the main crater. At the lookout all you can see is a huge hole – what looks like a large sinkhole – of trees inside. The view from the top was clouded by most, which gave it an awe-inspiring Jurassic Park feel. We continued walking seeing different plants as well as the orchid that only grows on this volcano and Volcan Madera on Isla de Ometepe. From here we pass through the tunnel, a large calving in the soil creating a trail to a lookout on the other side. After we return down passing the adventure canopy zipline tour near the base (we did not have time to do it, but I was told it is a great mix of cables and hanging bridges through the cloudforest. We board the bus and head to Rivas for lunch.
In Rivas we stop at a very nice seafood restaurant for a plato of fish, rice, vegetables, and fries (and yes, they even had ketchup for me). After lunch we head on to the ferry to Ometepe. It takes us about 1 hour to arrive from San Jorge to Moyogalpa, the port town on the islands. It seemed silly to take so long to arrive, as it looks like the island is right there, but it is a trick as the island is very large and one begins to notice that as you get closer!
Once we get on the island we have a local guide join us. We take a brief drive around the small town of Moyogalpa before heading in to Museo El Ceibo. This is a privately owned museum, by a man who farms tobacco and over the years has discovered artifact after artifact of pre-columbian pottery, weapons, tools, and petroglyphs on his property. He has them on display in an old horno (roasting house used for drying tobacco) for visitors to come and see. He also has on site a museum of the Nicaraguan currency – telling the history of the country through the stories and people on its bills. The museum lacks the background history explanations, which is why it is a good idea to go with a trained guide. Also on site, we get to see his own “cave” full of bats.
After this we continue on to Charco Verde, a lovely little hotel on the south side of the Volcan Concepcion. Here we are able to walk along the beach of the lake (not white sand, but still nice and with “Ocean” sounding waves. Also some dancers come and perform some traditional dances all dressed up in their blouses and skirts. They are very similar to the ones worn in Costa Rica as well – which makes sense sine geographically we are very close to them. After another meal of mashed potatoes, vegetables, chicken and fish, and relaxing conversation, we continue on to our hotel on Playa Santo Domingo, which overlooks the lake to the Northeast.

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