The hospitality I received in Isla de Ompetepe is almost unrivalled (with the exception of my time in Madrid). After renting a scooter for the 2days on the island, and getting lost more than once, i not only almost crippled myself from the impact of the pure rock-road, but nearly died after veering off-course when i hit a large rock in the road and turned in front of a bus.
This was just the start!
I stop at a finca along the way to get out of the heat and find something cold to drink, compose myself. The guy there let me sit with him and we talk for the few mins I’m there in spanglish. Before I leave I thank him and give the bike a quick once over.
The bike itself had some fairly loose brakes, part of one brake handle was missing, the battery cover wasn’t screwed in so fell out somewhere on the road, oh and the mirrors were loose so i couldn’t see behind me after 10 seconds of riding. To make it better, the headlight didn’t work so once dusk arrived i couldn’t even drive it.
Just to make things even better I hadn’t found my hostel before dark so needed to stop elsewhere.
I stopped at a placed called La Omaja, literally the next place I found, to ask for some directions. The hill was steep and winding and I couldn’t drive up in the dark so I had to push it- I can only compare it to pushing a moped up a winding staircase- after a hundred meters uphill my legs are on fire (I have patella tendonitis and compartment syndrome) and I can barely walk now. The owner sent some people to fetch my bike for me and gave me some water and a place to sit and rest.
I explained that I was staying at Monkies Island but couldn’t find it and they told me i was only 2mins away (just my luck!). They also offered me a ride there and allowed me to leave the moped with them overnight and collect it the next morning.
Once I’m dropped off at my hostel I realise I’m the only guest, so i get a private room with en-suite i stead of the dorm room. It’s a family run business and I think this made the experience better for me since I spent my first night drinking and playing cards and domino’s with the family. Getting around the language barrier is always an interesting experience in itself but it was an exchange, they improved my Spanish and I helped them with some English, the way we were talking and learning about each others lives and customs I almost forgot I was a foreigner!
The next morning they cook me an amazing breakfast and they helped me to arrange pick up for the moped. When he (finally) arrived, the guy I rent it from was not happy and kept saying things very quickly in Spanish and pointing at me and the bike. I understood nothing but the father, the boss at Monkies Island, argued my case for me and the guy left saying I only need to pay for damages still. No problem!
So my only full day on the island was a little wasted since I could hardly walk anywhere but i still took a short walk for about an hour or so and the rest of the day in the hostel was great: more time hanging out with the family, learning about island life, trying so many different foods. I’ll never forget it.
I took a short walk back to La Omaja (the hill still killed me even without a bike) to thank them again for the help they’d given me the night before and stayed there for dinner and a few beers. Walked back to my hostel after to pack my bag and get ready for my last sleep on Isla de Ometepe.
I had to be up early the next day to catch a bus to the other side of the island, 1) to sort the bike with the guy I rent it from and 2) to get the ferry out again. They told me its about an hours walk to the bus stop and I thank them and start to make my way before the father offers me a ride on his bike instead to the bus stop.
Even with all the ups and downs (and not just the volcanos here) Ometepe was such a unique experience I’d recommend to anyone- just use more common sense than I did renting a bike when I don’t even have a license for back home!
As much as I want to see almost every part of the world, I hope somewhere down the road life takes me back to Ometepe so i can do it again, properly.
If you end up on Isla de Ometepe after reading this, please get in touch so i can re-live it through you.