Things can only get better, can’t they?
When I first started putting together my notes on Ometepe I really thought I’d be struggling for enough material to make it worth telling. But who’d have thought so much could happen in a long weekend. Here’s part two of the tale. Enjoy.
The disappearing swimming pool
Looking on the bright side we could have a dip in the pool – or so we thought. We began to suspect something was amiss – there was no signposting. Teresa’s saying is “Hay que preguntar,” you have to ask. I asked. There was no pool. Remember I said some of volcanoes in Nicaragua were active? Concepción is an activist, so to speak. One day she went into action, much to the annoyance of the pool which cracked and subsided. It was filled in. Health and safety, Nicaragua.
Singing in the rain
Our optimism knew no bounds. We still had the F4x4T (fabulous 4×4 trip) to look forward to. The night before the big trip the Nicaraguan heavens opened up and put on the most spectacular thunder and lightning display I’ve ever seen. The rain fell and ran like a river down the main street. We – or rather I – danced down the road. I took the opportunity to recreate Gene Kelly’s Singing in the Rain. Well, why not? I like to sing. I like to dance. So, that’s what I did. Then we waded across the road to our surprisingly dry hotel and I thought about those diseases you can get from wandering through dirty rain water.
Doing the maths: why F4x4T doesn’t compute
The day after the spectacular storm we looked out at a grey Nica sky. A man who was not Lester appeared. (Remember Lester? He’s the man who appeared suddenly. We thought he was going to be our driver on the F4x4T.) There followed a bit of a to-do when he beckoned us towards something that was not a 4×4.
Teresa muttered about claiming compensation – from a man we’d never see again and whose face and appearance we couldn’t remember. (I’m wondering if I need someone funnier than Tina Fey for this role but she has the right colouring… maybe Miriam Margolyes or the new-look Dawn French). Eventually, about 20 minutes later than scheduled we were coaxed into the vehicle. Let’s pronounced it vay-hickle since the real word is a total betrayal what lay before us.
It was doubtful whether the vay-hickle or perhaps – vay-hiccup could manoeuvre it’s way around the trecherous Ometepean volcanoes. I assumed splits-like-starfish-like yoga positions to remain in my seat as we bumped our way along and negotiated precarious rainwater-filled craters.
The Waterfall of San Ramon
Apparently, the cascade is spectacular. Note, I say apparently. The guidebook said you didn’t need a guide, the infamous F4x4T salesman said you didn’t need a guide, our driver who wasn’t Lester said you didn’t need a guide. The driver who wasn’t Lester said he’d charge us $5 to guide us to the waterfalls – on foot, that is (as I suspected the vay-hickle could not get up the track). But, we didn’t need a guide and we weren’t paying for a guide. We’d already paid $30 each for the damned not so fabulous transport. I wasn’t paying a penny more. I assumed a Teresa-esque posture on this matter. (Teresa insists Whoopi Goldberg should be cast in the film.)
It’s 3km up some precarious mountain to the waterfall. The first 2km were a breeze if you think of two back-to-back 90-minute Bikram yoga classed cranked up a notch or two. I quite literally dripped with sweat – even my rucksack dripped with sweat (albeit mine).
Then we had the final kilometer. Oh dear. We found ourselves on a very rocky track at what felt like a 60-degree incline or like several advanced Bikram yoga sessions rolled into one. Then we got to a point which said “proceed at your own risk”. Dear Teresa sat down and refused to budge. Like me she’s not a risk-taker. But on this occasion something came over me and I found myself stepping on slippery stones to cross the river.
Visions of me being swept to my death did cross my mind and minutes later my courage failed me. And then there was one. Sara disappeared behind a rock and I started fretting that her limp corpse had been washed upstream but then I heard her shout that she’d found the waterfalls. I scaled bolders, jumped down into the rock filled stream-cum-river and finally saw Sara in the distance at the cascade. We took pictures of each other as proof of our epic journey.
Little did we know that what we’d seen was a mere trickle in comparison with the real cascade which I’m told is amazing. The driver who wasn’t Lester took great delight in telling us a) where we’d gone wrong and b) what we’d missed is. The track to the waterfall had overgrown with all the rainfall. We’d taken a wrong turn. We didn’t see the spectacular San Ramon falls. Who said we didn’t need a guide?
Beaches, lemons and drunken fishermen
Remember that game – rock, paper, scissors? That was the F4x4T and some. But, there was more to come. After the waterfall fiasco the driver who wasn’t Lester drove us to La Playa Santo Domingo. A beautiful beach. Allegedly. Note, I say allegedly. When we got there there was no beach and what’s more the umbrellas were almost buried by the very, very, very high tide. Ironically, there was another group of volunteers from La Esperanza who’d been to the beautiful beach of Santo Domingo the day before (the day our tour was originally scheduled) and it was in the words of another tourist very beautiful. What a difference a day makes.
We sat down for lunch. Sara had lemonade while myself and Teresa felt we needed a beer each to make up for the catalogue of disappointments which kept coming our way. I asked for fish. “Oh, there’s no fish,” said the handsome waiter who looked like he could be in the remake of Hawaii Five-O. “The fishermen were probably out partying last night and couldn’t be bothered to go fishing,” he added matter-of-factly. You have to love Nicaragua and you have to laugh. There’s not a lot of stress here – that’s for sure. I chose the chicken instead.
Food orders take an age in Nicaragua. It even takes time at Tip-Top the country’s fast-food restaurant! I think they quite literally cook when the order comes. They might even go off to buy the ingredients. In the interim I decided to ask for a lemonade so it would be ready for when the lunch actually arrived. “I’m sorry,” said handsome Mr Hawaii Five-O, “we only had enough lemons for one lemonade.” Don’t ask. Maybe the lemon-picker had been out partying with the fishermen?
Political parties and fiestas
We were determined that Ometepe would not be a disaster. We were going to find some locals to talk to and have some fun if it was the last thing we did. There was a political party fiesta in Moyogalpa. We’d go there and mingle with some Sandinistas. As I’ve said Moyogalpa’s a small place. We could hear the speakers from the fiesta echoing around the neighbourhood. We wondered in the direction of the noise and found a stadium filled with hundreds of people. Only they weren’t political activists – they were religious fanatics singing “santo, santo, santo, santo, quiero verte” over and over again. We made a hasty retreat.
Calling time on the Nica Libre.
8pm and the blinkin’ bar was closing. We only had time for two Nica Libres. It was the loveliest place in Moyogalpa and it was closing. No licence to serve after 8pm. Furthermore, they didn’t seem to have heard of Nica Libres. I suspect it’s a Granada thing – there was the same issue in Matagalpa. After four weeks I was now something of an expert in the Nica Libre and was now giving instructions to bartenders. The next time we went to the bar there was a different barman we decided that rather than teach him the art we’d just take the ingredients – 7-year-old rum, ice, cola and lemon pieces – and make our own. Cheers.
Epilogue to Ometepe
We did tip the driver who wasn’t Lester – after all it wasn’t his fault. This fiasco may have sounded like one long moan but please believe me when I say we laughed at every single catastrophe. It was all so unbelievable.
All the others who went to Ometepe had a fabulous time and saw things that we didn’t see but ours was by far the funniest journey. When we got home to Granada and tried to describe the events to our flatmate Ana (who wishes to be played by Angelina Jolie in the movie) we were incoherent and bent double with laughter.
To be continued…