Ometepe is a decent-sized island which was formed by two striking volcanoes: Concepción (1,610m) and Maderas (1,394m). This is the largest volcanic island inside a fresh water lake in the world. The two volcanoes are joined by a low isthmus to form one island in what some say looks like the shape of an hourglass. When you look at a map – it looks more look like 2 fried eggs to me. Or boobies.
After a 2-hour bus ride, mas o menos to Rivas from Granada, it was a bumpy old ferry ride across to the island. And then an even bumpier one hour taxi ride to Little Morgan’s.
I had read you could see the volcanoes from your bed this ‘backpacker’s resort’, which was right on the lake. We were met by the owner, Morgan – a rough & ready Dubliner with a shaved head, a gravelly voice and a devilish grin. He was decidedly unlittle.
(Turns out, the place was named after his now 3 year old son, “Morgan-cito”. A beautiful blonde bush-boy with dirty feet, a delightful sense of humour, and a talent for drawing.)
He showed us into a beautiful casita featuring beautifully polished twisted trees throughout. It had a gorgeous open-ceiling bathroom off to the side.
We dumped our bags and followed him down a rocky path. The night garden was magically lighting up with fireflies. The path opened up to the bar with a dirt floor and glimpses of the lake. There we were warmly welcomed by the rest of the staff and quickly got settled in.
We had a few drinks, a feed & a couple of games of pool & sang Scottish Steve (who we had picked up in Granada) a happy birthday.
The next morning I woke up early to the sight of Maderas and a blue bird with a pretty long tail feather, by my window. I walked down to the cocina to get a coffee and was greeted by dozens and dozens of brightly coloured butterflies, bouncing about – all excited about the day.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was lucky to score some rare photos of Concepción sans its usual cloud cover that morning. The photos were taken from the ‘Mirador’, which was a treehouse that had been purpose built to enjoy the views.
Over breakfast, we were lucky enough to catch wind of a ride with one of the other travellers to a nearby waterfall. Pierce was an unruly-looking engineer from England who was driving from Canada to Argentina in a Honda CRV which was just like mine back home but a whole lot more battered. He was an articulate string bean of a man with moppish hair, a gentle soul & a bunch of interesting travel tales. He was a very unlikely candidate for someone who had spent a night in a Mexican jail. I instantly took to him.
The walk was very do-able for me. A little harder for Skye. The waterfall was suitably impressive at 40m tall but strangely, it had an extremely shallow pool forming at the bottom. I stripped down to my togs and went for a wade anyways. It was bracing, so it was just an in-and-out job.
The next day was Halloween and the staff at Morgan’s had decided to have a dress up party.
Morgan’s gregarious sister, Kate reminded me of Cameron Diaz. With a multiple personality disorder. And I mean that in a nice way. I think she may be a compulsive liar. I mean that in a nice way, too. She is definitely one of the funniest women I have ever met in my life. We girl crushed instantaneously – as her serene mother, who I had met earlier in the day had predicted. We discussed potential costumes for the night with the fervour of a pair of teenagers. She would go as a lil sex kitten. I would be Eve. Minus an apple. But what the hey. She was a make-up artist from LA, and generously offered to do mine. I was well excited. I missed my dress-up antics with my good friend Andrea and her crew of wig-wearing friends (who had become mine) via many a crazy night back home in Sydney.
It gets dark here early, and as such – the party got started early. A good number of people – a mix of the locals and guests made a cracking effort to come up with something that resembled an outfit for the party. We had a little adventure race to kick things off. The pot of gold being a very generous bar tab for the winning team.
I think Morgan had originally the sound business idea of charging folk a couple of Cords for some of his industrial strength party juice, but that intent got lost somewhere along the line and the party became a bit of a rum free for all. 4 barrels later, the party was a bit of a shit show. There was a lot of dancing. A lot of banter. And a lot of hooking up going down.
That night, I laughed until I was doubled over, nearly peeing my pants. And I cannot for the life of me even remember what was so funny. It was definitely one of those loose nights where you had to take the attitude of, “Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, you may as well join ‘em.”
I do recall clocking more than one guest looking a bit like a deer in headlights. To be fair, one of the staff members was at one point, doing an impersonation of a drag queen gyrating on the bar. I was totally vibing off the good energy of these mad hatters. It was a big fun night.
The next morning, there were a lot of sore heads and hasty departures. It seemed we had scared off a lot of people. I, on the other hand, had fallen in love with the whole fucken lot of ‘em:
Sabine the little pocket rocket from Germany, bouncing around like a kid on a pogo stick; Richard who would have to be the tallest Asian I have ever met, who had impeccable taste in music; Shannon the Californian surfer chick who was an introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body; and ‘Queso’, the wild woman from WA, with more energy than the Energiser Bunny. And at the heart of it all was “mad-dog Morgan” who despite looking like someone you wouldn’t want to cross in prison, clearly had a Heart of Gold.
I think it was me who started the post-party craziness the next day. What can I say? I like a beer buzz early in the morning. No better way to sort out a hangover, right? And at some point that one innocent hair of the dog turned into the whole goddamn dog. The staff have rubber arms; it was decided by Morgan that it a day off for everyone in the country (or at least the part he ruled); and before you knew it – it was all well & truly sideways again.
A few hapless potential guests did walk in to the utter freakin chaos that was reigning sometime around 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. People dancing on tables, drinking direct from wine / rum bottles, near-naked receptionists, and snooker-table gymnastics.
There was a lot of dirt, smeared make-up and left-over glitter in amongst the mess they walked into. I must admit despite my own drunken haze, I could tell it was a scene that would have deterred even the most foolhardy of partiers. Two of them decided they were up for it. One turned around & walked out. Probably for the best.
It was a long day. Most people had put in a hard day’s work of drinking & people started sneaking off to bed. Not Morgan & his intrepid team. These guys were pro-fucking-Fessionals. I did my own sneaking & slept like a log that night.
Next day Shannon (who was on her day off) & I were invited to go riding around the islands with a motley crew of backpackers. Quiet Aussie Tom told me as I was getting on the back of his bike, that he didn’t have travel insurance. So therefore he would be taking it easy. And he would get me back in one piece. I’m not convinced he had shedloads of motorbiking experience, but I believed him on both accounts.
The roads on Ometepe range from okay, to shithouse, to are-we-still-even-on-a-road?
I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post about the time I broke my foot in Greece on a moped. I felt more than a little stiff everytime we slipped in the mud / hit loose gravel / came across an unpredictable animal (eg, chickens, pigs, dogs, cows).
Turns out cows win the crown for Most Likely to Cause A Motorcycle Accident.
So naturally the whole Greece ordeal flashes back to me in the split seconds before we hit said cow. Fucker was walking one direction one second, then decided to REVERSE out of his herd, and then cross to the other side of the road right in front of our path as we tried to avoid them.
The bike and both of us on it, fell to the side of the road in slow-mo. And all I could think was, ‘thank Christ, we’re not in India’. I do recall at some point, also wondering how much a cow would cost to replace. And if my travel insurance would cover it.
We had hit the cow with considerable force, but he didn’t seem hurt. I do recall him kinda looking back at us with a bit of cow-ish disdain, and hurumphing back off in the direction the herd was going.
Why he felt the need to be a goddamn individual at that particular point in time – I will never know. We both (Tom & I, not the cow & I) had a few scrapes and bumps and things. I had a big trickle of blood streaming down my left leg but it was a surface scratch only. I was a bit shakey but think it had more to do with Greece, than anything else. The bike had lost a mirror but that seemed to be the extent of the damage, there.
We dusted ourselves off, continued on, and landed in a beau’ful place called La Presa Ojo de Agua, where natural springs were the centrepiece for a lil haven … just what the doctor ordered. The locals had built a pretty decking sympathetic to the natural environs, and had laid out a few sunchairs by a simple comedor, where we grabbed a bite to eat. We lazed around in the waters, had a couple of beers, and then moved on.
As we made our way home, Tom & I ran into another problem when the bike wouldn’t change gears. Foley the Kiwi and Shannon came back to look for us because we had been missing for quite some time. Shannon has much better Spanish than I, so she asked one of the neighbours if we could use their phone to call the rental place (I fortunately had the foresight to obtain their number in the likelihood of something like this happening.)
The owner of the bike shop came back with a piece of rope and a screwdriver. Men over here are real handymen. They have to be. They simply don’t have the money to pay plumbers, electricians and mechanics to come fix their broken shit.
Despite having a boyfriend who did nothing but smoke bongs and bang on about car engines for the entire 18 months that we dated – I know amazingly little about gearboxes. But I do know that not even MacGyver could fix a broken gearbox with just a rope and screwdriver.
It was not long off getting dark and we were on one of those are-we-still-even-on-a-road? roads. So I asked Latin MacGyver how we were going to get back to the shop. He pointed at his bike. A spanking new big red thing with a real comfortable looking seat and a massive engine. I could tell Tom was well excited to be riding a real bike. I silently had a mild panic attack. It looked expensive.
We made it back. I was I admit, surprised when the Nicas didn’t overcharge us for the cost of damages to the bike. The lot of us had some dinner & beers across the road. I thanked Tom for getting me back in one piece. And swore I’d never get on the back of a bike again. Then Shannon told me she’d organised a free ride home for us all. On the back of a bike.
I do think in all reality, that’s me & bikes done. Now let’s just hope the Love Of My Life doesn’t turn out to be the Easy Rider.
Skye left for Little Corn Island the day after the Cow Incident. I spent the next couple of days chilling out at Little Morgan’s getting to know the guys there a little bit better. One thing is for certain, none of them had lived an ordinary life. And especially not Morgan himself. Man that guy’s got some wild fucking stories. A chapter unto themselves, methinks.
And so I left them with a promise of returning to share a week of celebrations… the girls are all leaving. And there are a couple of birthdays to be had (including mine). I left my big bag there, chucked a few things in my day pack and took off to Little Corn Island for a week.
Thursday 3 November