Our next destination in Nicaragua was Ometepe island in the middle of the largest lake in Nicaragua, Lake Nicaragua. We could have got a four hour ferry straight from Granada but decided to go the other way so we could get there earlier and avoid too much seasickness (I'd read the crossing could be pretty rough). So we got the bus south and met an Austrian couple who also happen to speak fluent Spanish. They negotiated a good taxi rate to the ferry dock however the driver tried to charge us more once we'd got in the car, saying that there were two docks and it would cost more to take us to the one we wanted (the one that everyone with backpacks goes to) but the other couple kept arguing and he gave in. The boat was one of the worst objects of transportation I've seen so it was lucky the crossing was an hour. One guy working on the boat spent a lot of time pumping a wooden stick into a pipe, possibly to keep the engine cool, but at the same time splashing water all over the floor. The seats looked like they had been salvaged off the local chicken buses, when really they should have been on the way to the tip.
Anyway, we made it (for the bargain price of 80p) which is the main thing. Before we went to Ometepe we researched accommodation and so much of it got really mixed reviews on Tripadvisor so we decided to book somewhere that was consistently good. Although we didn't actually need to have booked ahead, we were glad we stayed there. We had a lovely big cool room with a ceiling fan- much better than the portable ones- there was a nice garden and terrace area and they did really good breakfast which was included. Also the staff were really friendly.
We spent our time travelling by bus and walking as it was far too hot for bikes and we weren't brave enough to hire a scooter or motorbike. This meant it took quite a while to get anywhere but that was fine as there was no need to rush. The island is beautiful and consists of two volcanoes and their surrounding land where the main industry is farming. We saw loads of animals wandering in the road, including a lot of pigs. On our second day, we just missed a bus so sat at the bus stop for nearly an hour for the next one where we saw more cows and horses go past than cars. "Muy tranquilo" as they would say here.
On our first day, we took a bus and then walked for an hour to get to a beach. The walk was lovely and peaceful although also rather sweaty. We spent a bit of time on the beach, including some time for Simon to try and erase his farmer tan lines, had some lunch then wandered back up the road to a pool called Ojo de Agua (Eye of Water) which is fed by a natural stream. According to the man who sold us the ticket, it has rejuvenating qualities and we would leave feeling 10 years younger (I think I just left feeling less sweaty). It was lovely to cool off there however we didn´t have long as we had been told by Bob, at the hostel, that the last bus would pass at the main road just after 4pm. So off we went to make this bus and got caught in a storm where we got absolutely drenched. A kind family offered us some shelter but we had to keep going for the bus and by then we were squelching in our shoes anyway. Unfortunately it seems that some of the information that Bob gave us, as nice a man as he was, was incorrect as the last bus was actually at 5. We were told this by a local, sheltering in the large bus stop with his rum. So we spent an hour wringing out our clothes, shoes and socks whilst watching various animals wander in and out of the bus stop. When we got back to the hostel, I actually felt a bit cold. I'd almost forgotten what that feels like!
On our second day, we were back on the local bus again, but not as far, to a small nature reserve called Charco Verde. We spent a couple of hours walking round and saw loads of lizards, some birds, two snakes, and the highlight, a group of about nine howler monkeys. They gave their position away by one of them making loud noises that almost sounded like a dog barking. We watched them for a while including two with babies on their back. One of them made a leap above the path we were on which was pretty spectacular. After lunch and our long wait at the bus stop, we went to a sand split where you can get great views of both volcanoes on the island. If it's good weather that is. It wasn't so we just saw some cloud. From there it was walkable back to where we were staying but about half way back a kind person gave us a lift for free.
We spent the evening at the hostel as they were cooking dinner that night and had a great chicken curry. We spent some time talking to Johan, the other person who looked after the hostel (Bob was only there to give us incorrect information on the first day) that evening, and the previous day. He's local but had lived in London for a bit and travelled round a lot of Latin America. He was dismayed at the construction of the new canal through Nicaragua as once it's built (they've already begun), all the ships will pass through Lake Nicaragua and life will be very different not just for the islanders but for a lot of Nicaragua. It would be really interesting to return once it's been built and see how it changes.