Travel, Weekend Unexplored
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Weekend Unexplored: Ometepe, Nicaragua

“Mono! Mono!” We rolled down our windows, peering up at the trees to see a whole family of howler monkeys climbing from branch to branch.  They are found all over Ometepe, the majestic twin-peaked, volcanic island, and we could hear them early in the mornings, awaking us from sleep.  My friend J.G, her sister, her mother, and I were on our way to see the land that they had purchased years ago near San Ramon, on the southeast side of the island.  That morning we took a ferry from San Jorge, loading our car on the bottom level and then situating ourselves at the top to catch the cool breezes coming off Lake Cocibolca, one of the great fresh water lakes of Nicaragua.  Straight ahead, we could see Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas.  Photographing these volcanoes would only increase as we drove between and around them on the island.

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View of Volcan Concepcion from our hotel

Long after passing through the port town of Moyogalpa, the paved road soon turned to dirt as we traveled further southeast of the island, closer to Volcan Maderas.  We passed through a parade of cattle, honking our horn to skirt by them, and weaved through fields of plantain to get to the black stoned shores of San Ramon.

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Volcan Maderas behind fields of plaintain

J.G. and her mother would point out the many different trees on their land, including coconut, fig, cedro real (Spanish cedar), and pitaya (dragon fruit).

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A man cutting fresh coconuts from above

I found that both also had the uncanny ability to spot many different birds, monkeys, and butterflies at any given moment as I stood dumbfounded and squinting to see what on earth they were seeing.

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Urraca

Just a few minutes away from J.G’s property, the entrance to Cascada San Ramon led us to a steep uphill hike over river rocks under the lush canopy of trees.  We started to ignore the signs that indicated how many kilometers were left to reach the waterfall after clocking in three kilometers at the two kilometer mark.  At one point the trail seemed to disappear, and as thoughts of turning back started to emerge in my brain, two hikers coming down, beckoned us forward with “Just five more minutes.”  I’d heard that one before…skeptically noting that the comment came from a strappingly tall fellow in his 20s.  “But is it worth it?” I asked.  In less than 10 minutes, I would determine for myself that it was as we gazed up at the 50 meter high wall with water gracefully trickling down it.   The icy water was refreshing as we splashed it on our faces and dipped our feet in.  We still had to hike through the hot humidity back down but we rewarded ourselves afterwards by going to El Ojo de Agua, a swimming hole consisting of crystal clear natural pools in the middle of a botanical garden.

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Cascada de San Ramon

For three days, we dined on seafood such as fried and grilled tilapia served whole and drank from coconuts once they were cut from the trees.

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We stayed near the lagoon on the Chaco Verde Reserve, an area that has been cordoned off to prevent development and thus is now home to a variety of wildlife.  There, one can recognize the distinct chirp of the urraca (a blue bird with a black crest) among other birds and see lots of bright stars over the lake at night.  Along the trail around the lagoon early in the morning, we sat in the shade, welcoming the cool breezes that blew past us as birds glided, ducks swam, and turtles stuck their noses out of the water.

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Lagoon of Chaco Verde Reserve

I don’t remember how much time my friend and I rested on that spot but it was so peaceful and a favorite moment of mine.  Stillness was something that I appreciated, even on the returning ferry as I took one last look at the crown of clouds that encircled the peak of Volcan Concepcion.

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View from the Ferry of Volcan Conception on the left and Volcan Maderas on the right

For related articles, visit the TRAVEL page.

Author: Jenifer Lam

Featured image:  Flickr User: Hamish Fenton

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