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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

La Isla Encantada

NICARAGUA | Thursday, 27 November 2008 | Views [3505] | Comments [1]

Petroglyph - including a basin

Petroglyph - including a basin

I thought I´d put down some of our other impressions from our time in Ometepe, as it really is an exceptional place.  The first thing that strikes you is the volcanoes (Concepción – the active one, and Maderas, the dormant one).  There´s just no getting away from them, and on the Concepción side, the perfect cone is an ever-present feature towering over you – not threatening, exactly, but certainly a powerful presence.  It hasn´t erupted lately, but it still effects the people – on our first trip from the north to the south side of the island our chicken bus had to negotiate a huge mudslide that had devoured the road for about 30 metres – and this wasn´t just any old mud, but fine black volcanic sand and grit, interspersed with gnarly boulders.

A volcanic mudslide engulfed the main road around the island

The second thing that hits you as you walk up the main road in one of the towns is the domestic animals – which are everywhere.  chickens, pigs, goats, cows and horses – they all wander around minding their own business, eating grass and titbits but totally free of constraints.  We were intrigued to know how everyone knows whose animal is whose – but I guess they all go home at the end of the day.  The more independent-minded animals are obvious – we saw the odd cow with a hobble (a rope tied around its neck and foot), and escapee pigs had triangles of sticks tied around their heads so that they couldn´t get through the triangular styles (ganchos) that separate people´s landholdings on the island.

One thing we learnt later at Finca Bona Fide was the local rule for finding other people´s animals on your land – first time, you send it back with a warning, second time, you cut off its ear and send it back, third time, you eat it.  I guess from the fact that all the animals seem to be free-range, there are a lot of animals that end up getting eaten.  Saying that, we didn´t see any earless animals so maybe people just skip from one to three!

The Ometepeans also seem to have a interesting take on animals.  We saw guys riding oxen – with saddles!  We also saw a chap walking a horse whilst riding a bike….

Emerging in the morning at Finca Magdalene, we were often amused to find horses, cows, pigs and chickens wandering around eating the garden

The Maderas side of the island is fantastically beautiful – the slopes of the volcano rise up behind you, covered in rain and cloud forest.  Opposite, you have the constantly shifting vista of Concepción, grey and black and devoid of vegetation above the lowest slopes.  Sometimes the top will be visible with a cloud of steam blowing from the crater.  At other times atmospheric conditions will create a neatly delineated ´cap´of cloud over the crater, whereas again, sometimes the cloud simply rolls down the mountain sides like an enveloping blanket.  When we stayed at Finca Bona Fide, in two weeks I never tired of staring at the volcano, particularly at sunset, when the orange tinted clouds over the summit would be supplemented by those rolling over Lake Nicaragua.  Sometimes the massive blue lake would merge with the sky.

That´s an ominous looking cloud coming out of the volcano...

The weather on Ometepe was also spectacular – at night you could see lightning storms all around you, far off on the mainland and travelling over the lake.  Rain storms would blow towards you – we usually had at least ten minutes notice of rain, as you could see it coming.  We had our most violent thunder storms when we were at Finca Magdalene and Bona Fide – thunder directly overhead that shook the walls violently, and lightning that made an indelible image on your closed eyelids.  As Rachel wrote, November was also the season of violent winds.  It would be fine and clear.  Then a storm would ride across the lake and suddenly we would be in the centre of a terrific windstorm, blowing books and crockery around the open kitchen, and lashing the land with incredibly hard rain.

In the morning and evening the mountain above us would echo with the eerie (and quite frankly bizarre) calls of dozens of male howler monkeys marking their territories – something like a very loud guttural growl.  When we were in Finca Magdalene we were really privileged to observe a family of howlers on the roof next to our balcony, breaking off bunches of papaya leaves before eating them.  First the dominant male came and had his fill, and then the dominant female and her babies, followed by the rest of the troupe.  The entire time one monkey would sit sentinel in a nearby tree, on the look out for threats.

Howler Monkeys making a meal out of Papaya leaves!

One of the numerous maze-like petroglyphs around the foot of Maderas

I climbed up Maderas with the crew from Bona Fide.  The path up the mountain is a narrow, steep defile dug into the rock and excavated by water that must gush down it at every storm.  Around the path is impenetrable cloud forest, tree limbs covered in hanging bromeliads and lichens, hidden birds and howler and capuchin monkeys calling somewhere near.  Toward the crater the local people have a strange legend of little people. Unwary men by fall in love with them and disappear, or sometimes they´re only visible to children, who play with them and are then enticed away into the forest never to be seen again.  These stories struck me as much the same folklore of fairies and goblins in the mountains in Europe.

We didn´t see any fairies.  However, I did have a rather bizarre experience that many of my pictures at the top of the mountain had strange mist-like artefacts on them – but only when I took a picture of the path – if I took one of the ground, the pictures came out fine.  No doubt a weird refraction effect through the cloud.  Or maybe it was the little people interfering with the camera… - the lense also wouldn´t retract when we were on Maderas – it worked fine when we left….

The narrow defile that is the path - plus weird refraction artefacts on the image...

At the top of the mountain we climbed down the steep crater sides to the lake in the middle.  The cloud enveloped us here.  Some of the party went for a swim – David´s head was soon lost in the mist – their voices were amplified by the crater walls.  On the whole mystery thing, this place was like something out of an Arthurian legend – a perfectly still lake, bordered by reeds, with seemingly no other side.  Soon, it started to rain, and the cloud rose quickly, revealing the lake in its entirety and the steep forested crater walls – much smaller than we´d imagined, but perfectly formed.

Ometepe was simply one of the most beautiful places we´ve been so far.

 Swimming in the mist in the crater lake

To see more pictures of Ometepe, click here:

http://journals.worldnomads.com/rachel_and_daniel/gallery/13963.aspx

Tags: free-range animals, ometepe, petroglyphs, volcan concepcion, volcan maderas

Comments

1

Me encantan las islas son muy Bonita's

  Velasco Maria Oct 17, 2014 12:18 PM

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