“Where are you headed, chele? I’ll get you a ride!”
It’s 5am and I’m waiting for a bus on my way to the port of Moyogalpa. A dog barks loud enough to seem twice its tiny size, waking up the lady that runs the vegetarian restaurant. She comes out of her house smiling, offering me a cigarette while she calls her brother to ask him if he can give me a ride. Only here, I think to myself.
I’ve spent the last 3 days of my 10 days stay on the island of Ometepe at a small town called Santo Domingo. Days go by walking along a shore hit by winds strong enough to bring down tightly tied hammocks, interrupted by seemingly wild horses and cows that casually drink from the waves of fresh water.
The island stands still in a lake so large it takes several hours to cross by ferry – granted, it’s not exactly a 2015 model, but this thing is MASSIVE. It houses not one but TWO volcanoes, one of them still active. Getting here feels like landing at the island from that show Lost, minus the polar bears.
My first week was spent on the opposite shores of Santo Domingo, in another tiny enclave called Merida. From there, you can hike one of the volcanoes to get to a crater lake where it’s freezing and raining because you’re surrounded by an almost-permanent cloud. It’s kinda like hiking Mordor with no ring.
This is a strange, amazing place. Naturally, a place of such singularity can only attract peculiar characters. Only in the past 72 hours I’ve met TWO couples of 60 year old backpackers (both bought me beers), a runner that came here to enter a 100km race that requires you to hike both volcanoes (one of them twice) and a local tour guide that fluently speaks SEVEN languages but has never left the country, defying every theory I have about language learning.
Back in Merida, I met a German dude who left his town 4 years ago for what was supposed to be a month-long trip and has never gone back. He traveled for a while with an Italian personal trainer who abandoned the shallow lands of Miami to work with fat people all over Central America. He says it’s more rewarding and I believe him.
I’ve crossed paths with the same British scholar 3 times, each time at a different and extremely distant point of the island. He happens to come from the Sandwich Islands – yes, where the actual word originated – which I find hilarious.
As I get to the port, I meet again with the fine vessel that brought me here: a two-story boat made of wood that leaks enough water to have a bottom floor pool about 4-inches deep (fear not! I’m wearing flip-flops this time).
I think about the weird, interesting discoveries I’ve made on this island.
Ometepe is unique because it’s not trying to be so. Like art, it’s only interesting because it doesn’t feel forced. It just is. As Nicaragua plans to build a second inter-oceanic canal through this very lake backed by Chinese capital, I can’t help but wonder about the island’s soon-to-be floating Asian neighbors and the changes they will bring.
I came here to travel, but mostly to travel within. I had grown tired of the music business I encountered in NY. It felt like entering the same rat race I had worked so hard to leave behind, this time packaged in a form of “art” that seemed far from it.
I feel different as I leave. Like I’ve left something behind. Not sure yet of what it is, but it’s more than the sea horses.