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Santo Domingo, Isle de Ometepe, Nicaragua

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Conception 2laguna on Maderasferry to OmetepeConceptiongirls in Santo Domingo

Isle de Ometepe is definitely one of the most exotic places I’ve ever visited. Located in the warm tranquil waters of Lago de Nicaraga, the island of Ometepe is comprised of two majestic volcanoes that loom like giants in the mist. Volcan Conception, the larger of the two, is still active and a constant plume of thick white smoke bellows out of its crater. The smoke rises slowly, cloud-like in the air, and is often indistinguishable from the patchwork of cumulus that drift slowly above the lake. In many ways, mighty Conception looks like a natural cloud-factory. Its picture-perfect form and even sloping sides bring to mind drawings I saw in books about dinosaurs as a child. I suggest you all look up Isle de Ometepe on “Google Earth,” as this volcanic island is truly amazing.

Eric and I ended up spending one more relaxing day in Granada before heading to Isle de Ometepe. Our journey consisted of two short bus rides followed by an hour-long boat ride (picture of Eric and me above) . During the boat ride we met three other travelers; all were girls that happened to be heading to the same part of the island that we planned to visit. After sharing a taxi to Playa Santo Domingo, we all checked into a hotel and spent the rest of the day hanging out, swimming and making mad, passionate love. Joking. . .

The shallow waters of Lake Nicaragua proved to be some of the warmest I’ve ever experienced. This lake is uniquely known for being one of the only lakes in the world that contain a dangerous species of shark known as bull sharks. In addition to swimming in the lake, we also swam in a laguna located inland on the island. The waters of the laguna turned out to be much cooler in comparison to the lake itself.

The next morning ,Tuesday, Eric, myself, and one of the girls named Dasha, all ventured out to climb Volcan Maderas, Conception’s sister volcano. Although smaller and less daunting in comparison to Conception, the hike up Maderas proved to be a very taxing and exhausting chore. The hike started with a 5 kilometer trek up a crude trail that snaked its way over jagged rocks and fallen tree branches. The trail was also very muddy, which added an additional element of danger and challenge. The trek was basically one unsure step after another . . . and then another. After nearly 5 hours we reached our intended destination, a muddy laguna located near the summit of the volcano (picture of me above). We were all exhausted as we each sat down to enjoy our meager lunch, consisting of a single mango. The mango did little to curb the incredible hunger we had each worked up; however, its sweet, pulpy flesh tasted like the nectar of the gods.

Although they allow visitors to climb the volcano without a guide, it’s highly recommended that you take one. Apparently last year two Americans were hiking Maderas when the sun went down. They ended up slipping to their deaths and were only found weeks later when a search crew located a patch of the volcano that had vultures circling above it.

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After hearing that story, needless to say, we opted for a guide. Our guide was a local man who was probably sixty-five years old. He was very thin and the skin that hung on his body resembled a wrinkled, wet, brown paper bag that loosely framed his fragile bones. He was also a chain smoker, so it was unbelievable to me that he was able to accomplish the feat of climbing this rugged volcano, day-in and day-out. Even with the tip we each gave him, I’m sure he must earn a paltry amount for such unforgiving work. I wouldn’t consider doing the trek up Maderas again for less than $500. It was an experience many people would describe as “adventurous,” or “challenging,” or perhaps even “rewarding.” As for myself, however, I would be more inclined to use such adjectives as “hellatious,” or just plain “masochistic.” We spent the rest of the day eating and recuperating.

The next day, Wednesday, was a travel day from start to finish. It began by waking up to the buzzing of our alarm clock at 4:30 A.M. The power had been out for hours, so we had experienced a restless night of sleep without our fan working. We stumbled around the room, trying to pack our bags in time to catch the 5:00 A.M. bus back to the ferry terminal. It all made for a delightful experience. The rest of the day consisted of the following: an hour and a half bus ride to the ferry dock, an hour-long ferry back to San Jorge, an hour-long taxi to the border of Costa Rica, three hours crossing the tightly secured border, then a 5 and a half hour bus ride to San Jose.

The only saving grace was that the last bus we took was a first class bus, not a chicken bus. They showed two American movies during the trip, both of which were embarrassingly bad. The first was a buddy-cop movie, featuring Queen Latifa and some wash-up from Saturday Night Live. The second was even worse and featured the Wayans brothers as two undercover cops dressed up like white girls. That was actually the name of the movie: White Girls. As I’ve written on previous trips, it’s sad that most of the so-called “American culture” that gets exported abroad is among the worst available. And we wonder why the rest of the world views us as such shallow savages.

After 13 long hours of travel we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica. Eric and I have still been traveling with Dasha. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, but is originally from Moscow, Russia. Dasha is a great girl. She speaks nearly perfect English, Spanish and, of course, Russian. Dasha’s the one in the picture above showing the cleavage. She has the kind of Slavic physiognomy that reads like a volume of Tolstoy.

Our stay here in Costa Rica will be a short one. Eric already visited here over New Year’s with his family, and the country in general is a little too touristy and expensive for us. San Jose has turned out to be surprisingly pleasant, however. Tomorrow, Friday, we’re off to Panama. It will be the final destination on the Central American leg of our trip. From there we’re looking to fly to Colombia and spend the next 4+ months on the massive continent of South America.

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