Morning shakes us awake and its ascent day on the 1,394m dormant volcano of Maderas. Our prompt guide, whom has been changed from the guy we met the night before, meets us in the Hacienda before the sun has barely had a chance to cast its rays across Lake Nicaragua. No time to waste, it’s onto the dusty road for the short walk to the trail head.
The hike stars off pleasantly enough passing through dry terrain where we stop to check out some large rocks scattered throughout the fincas containing petroglyph images. We also stop to pick and eat fresh coffee beans from small plants growing beside the path, and our guide shows us a small local plant that curls up when touched.
Two hours in we start to encroach upon the higher slopes of the volcano and into the cloud forest, where the pleasant dry path takes a turn for the worse. Soon we’re working our way up a moisture sodden track, ducking, diving and wrapping ourselves around obstructive trees and finally finding the ankle deep mud we’d been promised. Howling dogs in the distance give things an eerie feel, and our guide informs us they’re strays who come into the forest hunting small deer. We pass burrows where armadillos spend their day sleeping before coming out to eat at night, and everything starts to become covered in soft green moss that looks like a layer of fluffy fur.
Reaching the precarious summit three and a half hours after we started, we made our way onto the narrow crater ridge, some of which has recently slid away, being buffeted by the strong winds. The cloud became so thick as to make any views impossible, and with the knowledge that some hikers opt to descend into the craters lake (christ knows how?) we decide to leave the bathers in the bag for another day and briefly enjoy a Snickers snack on the windblown ridge before descending.
With howler monkeys shrieking in the distance we stepped over columns of leaf cutter ants desperately trying to carry leaves too big for them. Six and a half hours after we left we are back at Hacienda Merida, showered and ready for another spectacular display of colour presented by the setting sun. Thanks Ometepe you’ve not disappointed.
Darkness sets in and the blinking red lights of the distant wind turbines remind us that Nicaragua appears to be taking ecotourism seriously. However with plans and supposedly construction works already underway to construct a new canal connecting the Caribbean and Pacific oceans, this little piece of Central American heaven sadly probably won’t last.
Hearing that the ferry had been suspended back to the mainland during our stay, we trying our luck to get off the island and fool heartedly try to cross the Costa Rican border and reach Tamarindo in a single day. Running into a bunch of girls at the back of the ferry, Sarah returns to the van with a hitchhiker, Canadian Erin, happy to join us for our border to beach challenge.
Thankfully arriving at the mainland port early enough, we made haste toward the frontier of Costa Rica, reaching the checkpoint just in time to get stuck behind three busloads of travellers. Unperturbed by the wait, we get stamped and do the usual run about to adhere to the vehicle import process. Our only hiccup came when Erin’s customs officer refused her entry as she didn’t have her proof of return flight on her, and refused to be of any further help. With a little bit of Sarah’s basic Spanish the girls avoided making eye contact with said male officer, approaching a young female officer instead and doing their best for a sympathy vote. It worked and after three hours we finally made it into Costa Rica.
Check out beautiful Lake Nicaragua before it’s too late! Or you can just check out our pics on Flickr.