Campin', Nicaragua Style
|Written by Jared on April 29, 2012|
Start: April 13, Isla Ometepe
This week was all about campin'. And meeting up with fellow overlanders we saw briefly in Guatemala. We didn't really do a whole lot aside from hang out, drink cheep booze and shoot the shit, but that's pretty much the definition of campin'.
We spent five days on Ometepe Island, pictured above, situated in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. And then headed to a small beach near San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Ocean for a few more days of lounging in the heat.
Mission number one was to figure out how to get Blue onto the island. We knew it was possible, but online and guidebook details were few and far between. Turns out it was super easy, just show up at the ferry terminal in San Jorge, talk to the nice people and buy your tickets on one of two ferries who can take cars. They each run three or four times a day, weather permitting, and cost us around $30 each way for the three of us plus the car.
We stopped by to reserve our spot early, then went back into town to resupply. When we got back to the ferry we ran into our friends James and Lauren from Home on the Highway. We expected to meet up with them at some point in the weekend, turns out we were taking the same ferry together, and they had cold beers for us while we waited. Convenient how that worked out.
The ferry took about an hour. This is a shot as we neared the dock of the main town on the island and Volcan Concepcion in the background.
Unloading the ferry was an adventure, crowds of people and 10 other cars trying to do the same thing we are. It was nice to ignore the touts offering taxi services after getting off a boat for once, just point at the US plates and they get the idea.
It was about an hour drive to our destination (it's a big island) called Finca Magdelena. It's a coffee and farming coop ran by locals with camping areas, a restaurant and rooms for rent. It seemed like a popular place for travelers, the trail leading up the second smaller volcano leaves from behind the farmhouse.
The sunsets were awesome, great views of Volcan Concepcion with its usual cloud cover.
James, Lauren and the three of us setup camp under a shady patch of trees. This proved a lifesaver as we both needed to spend a few hours diagnosing problems with our 4Runners. James has faulty O2 and TPS sensors and we have a possessed car alarm that likes to go off at the worst possible times. Neither of us were able to fix our problems, we'll likely have to wait for Costa Rica to find replacement parts.
The next day, after a very lazy morning, we drove out to a nearby point and popular swimming hole. We took a dip, snapped some photos and drank some beers. Livin' the life.
In between dips in the lake and running to our car fridges for cold beers we got to watch a little show that I like to call a Nicaraguan fire drill. A group of 20 or 30 guys were attempting to pull a boat out of the water, using chopped up palm trees as rollers.
After breaking a few chains, nearly tipping the boat over, and half an hour of kicking a soccer ball around, they managed to get it mostly out of the water to fix whatever was wrong with it.
The five of us grabbed some lunch at the restaurant on the beach. We had tostones, basically a squished and fried plantain with grilled chicken bits on top, served with hot sauce. Delicious.
The next day James and Lauren decided to climb up the volcano, we opted out, citing our previous traumatic experiences hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Instead we took a little tour of the island, visiting another sand spit which would have offered postcard-worthy views of the island had it not been cloudy.
This is a magpie jay, they've been everywhere since we hit El Salvador. We finally got a decent photo after half a dozen attempts of "sneaking up on it" with our 4Runner. As I write this there's one sitting in the tree five feet away making noises that shouldn't rightfully come out of a bird's beak.
Ometepe Island is famous for its thousand-year-old petroglyphs. We stopped by a museum on our way back to the campsite to check out the petroglyphs and other artifacts found throughout the island. I'm pretty sure we also saw a pre-Columbian dildo, along with some 4000 year old ceramics.
The next morning I decided to get a little crazy and make crepes, which was the result of a drunken discussion the night before...promises were made and had to be kept. After a bit of Googlin' I figured out how to make some bastardized crepes using pancake mix. They were a big hit with the crew. The recipe is as follows:
Mix the flour and pancake mix, slowly add the milk and butter. Add more or less milk based on the consistency, if you've never made crepes before, this probably isn't a good recipe to start with. Add the eggs. Stir the everloving crap out of it. We tripled that batch and it made way more than five people could eat.
Put just enough mix on a pre-heated non-stick pan to cover the bottom. Thin is better, if it's thick you're pretty much just making pancakes. If it's too thick, add more milk to the mix. Flip when the top is almost entirely cooked. Once you get good at it, it should take about 45 seconds to make one.
Delicious Apples of Deliciousness
Jessica's newfangled alarm clock also includes a thermometer. She pulled this out of her tent during the warmest day of our stay at Finca Magdelena. 103.5 degrees. Yeah, it was hot.
After spending another uneventful work day at Finca Magdelena we headed back to the ferry dock. This time Blue was alone aside from one other car and a motorcycle. The ferry companies will tell you to make reservations, as does Lonely Planet, but we wouldn't have had any trouble just showing up. Obviously, your experience may vary.
From San Jorge, where the ferries run to Ometepe Island, we headed south to the beach town of San Juan del Sur. After talking to a Canadian couple who camped with us on Ometepe, we decided to avoid the town and head farther up the beach to a more private campground.
Our target was a campground called Matilda's, although we ended up staying at the place right next door. The campground and beach were fantastic. All the facilities, none of the crowds. Definitely one of those places we would have never visited without a car.
We met James and Lauren again, along with Jill and Zach from Anywhere That's Wild and an Australian couple who are finishing up their trip in Panama. Although there was no cell reception, which usually means no internet while camping, we did find a rogue unsecured wifi signal which lead to Jessica spending much of her time on the beach situated in front of her laptop.
Circling up the wagons. It was a lot of fun to camp and compare notes with the other overlanders. We got the inside scoop on a few good spots in Costa Rica from Zach and Jill, and spent a couple evenings eating and drinking the night away.
One of those nights Blue gave birth, sorta. A cicada chose our wheel to shed its skin, and Kobus, ever the insect enthusiast, was on hand to document the transformation. Campin'.
Continuing our theme since leaving El Salvador, the heat was relentless. Even the howler monkeys spent most of the day straddling tree branches, waiting for the sun to go down. These guys climbed overhead almost every night, and would wake us up at sunrise with their screeching.
Our last night on the beach a few monkies decided to spend the night in the tree over my tent. It was hot and dry enough that we've been camping without a fly on our tents. I almost regretted that decision as I woke up the next day to find a giant pile of monkey crap not 15 feet from my tent. Dodged the proverbial bullet on that one.
A short five minute walk from our campsite on is another small bay called Sunset Beach. I would say that it's aptly named. We visited this beach each night we stayed, and every sunset was spectacular.
Jessica shot this timelapse video of the great hermit crab migration. Check out the crab that digs a hole on the left side of the screen about 15 seconds into the clip. We'll have a few more timelapse videos of this beach up on our facebook page soon.
Here's the gang enjoying the sunset, minus the photographer Kobus. James, Lauren, Zach, Jill, Jessica, and myself. T'was a good night! Apples FTW.
Up Next: 10 days campin' in Costa Rica and then our parents come down for a visit!