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The Chicken Ferry to Isla de Ometepe -Nicuragua

NICARAGUA | Tuesday, 27 July 2010 | Views [691]

Ometepe Island via the “Chicken ferry” Nicuragua July 20

We almost left a group member behind in Granada-we were supposed to leave at 1030am but he thought it was 11am-it was close. We were just pulling away when he came along the street! We had a fast trip in the minivan to reach a ferry across to Ometepe Island due to leave at 1230pm. It had started to rain as we pulled up at the ferry terminal at 1225pm!-there was no terminal building, just a few sheds about and a large gate. We had to make a mad dash carrying our packs along a driveway to the port area where there were a few boats tied up. We saw a large ferry but didn't head for that one-instead we were herded in the direction of an old wooden vessel looking already well loaded with baggage and a huge pile of sugar cane on the top deck and a very full lower deck -mostly Western tourists. We just looked at each other and thought “you have got to be joking”-the boat ( described as a launch) was old and leaky and had definitely seen better days. But no this was it-over the skinny little gangplank that looked barely able to take our combined weight of person and pack and down a set of steep narrow metal steps-made potentially lethal by a combination of rain and jandels! Walking into the crowded lower deck was no better- a wet metal floor with a definite lean to the left and very little in the way of seating left due to the fact we were late and there was another large tour group on board. I managed to score a seat next to a man who was seated right behind the mooring rope and pole. It was quite claustrophobic as the ceiling was low-barely standing height- and the windows were just small open squares along the sides of the boat-barely big enough to squeeze through in case of emergency. All sorts of disaster scenes were going through my mind- I could just visualize the newspaper headlines-”Ferry capsized in Lake Nicaragua!” There were life jackets stowed in the ceiling but not enough to go around-their main function appeared to be stopping the rain from seeping through from the top deck. Not that they were even doing that well-there was water dripping everywhere and as we got underway the rain was driving in from the left side of the boat. The staff tied up some very old well worn blue tarpaulins -one string tied to that of a life jacket-mental note to self-don't choose that one in the event of an emergency! The poor man next to me was copping a fair amount of rain-I gave him my umbrella to put up in a vain attempt to keep the rain off. One young guy a couple of seats in front of us was getting wet from every direction-water was coming in from the side and from above-he tried the umbrella trick-then put on a rain jacket-then just resigned himself to the fact he was going to be very wet. Thank goodness the water was calm-the lake has a reputation for being very choppy. I was prepared having taken a tablet but it was smooth sailing all the way-still I was very relieved when the hour long ride was over!

We were picked up by a truck and a ute and taken to our accommodation right on the edge of Lake Nicaragua and with active Volcan Cocepcion-1610m and a perfect cone shape- in the back yard. It last erupted in 1957. Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of the lake with an old lava flow forming an isthmus between them. It is green and lush with lots of primary forest and still unspoiled with crops of plantains, sesame seeds, coffee and citrus. Our hotel was great-it had a restaurant and nice rooms and lots of hammocks and deck chairs overlooking the lake. We went for a walk in the afternoon. We saw howler monkeys although they were very quiet-just moving about the treetops and watching us looking at them! Further up the track we were just heading up a slight incline on a narrow path, like a tunnel through the trees and bush, when we saw a huge bird with a wingspan of about a metre, just cruising down the path towards us-we saw him coming and we stopped-he saw us and he virtually stopped in mid flight and did an abrupt U-turn and took off in the opposite direction. It all happened so quickly and was like something out of a movie. I don't know who got the biggest fright-him or us! There were lots of birds living on the cliffs alongside the path-mainly a cormorant type. We also saw beautiful tropical flowers and butterflies- a gorgeous place to be.

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