Cows That Hike, Bikes that Don’t Work


The bike is making strange squeaking sounds and it is becoming abundantly clear that I never learn. I have never had a good bicycle rental experience. Yet, when I arrive on Ometepe Island in the early afternoon, I rent a piece of crap from my hostel to go cruising. At first, everything seems fine and I’m enjoying myself, riding the paved road that is mostly devoid of cars. The occasional motorcycle passes or a horse-drawn cart lumbers along.

Moyogalpa, the largest town on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua, means in the local language something like ‘place of mosquitoes’. Sometimes, I think, I must really hate myself.

I arrive after the hour long boat ride from the port of San Jorge, which is adjacent to the city of Rivas. The water of the lake is calm. I have decided to stay in Moyogalpa, instead of in one of the other small villages located around the island because I only have two nights before I have to catch a bus. If I were to do it again with more time, I would spend a night or two staying in the different villages, seeing the local attractions. There is a waterfall, a wildlife reserve, two volcanoes for climbing, and much more. The island, in short, is pretty massive and a trip in itself for the lover of nature and frequent power outages.

The situation on my bicycle is starting to deteriorate. The brakes hardly work, the gears need tuning, the cables need to be replaced, the bottom bracket needs to be oiled and tightened. Actually, the bike needs to be thrown into Lake Nicaragua. However, at first I don’t let this bother me. I visit Punta Jesus Maria, an amazing little isthmus that gives one an incredible view of Concepcion Volcano and Maderas Volcano in the background.

I push on to Charco Verde, a wildlife reserve about 11km from Moyogalpa. The problem is that I have to be back in Moyogalpa at 6pm to check the status of a hike I want to do the next day. When I arrive at Charco Verde I have no time to explore the reserve. I grudgingly slog back to Moyogalpa. For some reason, I never learn.

The next day I have my guide, who I’ve had to hire solo for lack of other hikers, to hike to the viewing point, El Floral (1000 m), of Conception Volcano. We take one of the infrequent buses in the morning to the trailhead aptly named Concepcion. We are joined by another guide with two hikers, which does not sit well with me since I’m paying $25 for a guide myself. I power ahead as to leave them behind and to alert my guide that I will not be chatting with the other hikers. Perhaps he takes the hint a little too far, because before long we are blasting up the mountain. We pass a group at a rest stop that started the hike an hour before us.


The hike to El Floral takes us about an hour and forty minutes. They tell you it takes three hours. At the viewing point while we rest we are joined by some other groups and all the guides come over and sit with me and my guide. They seem pleased to be talking with someone who is white and can both speak Spanish and hike fast.  They ask me if I want to keep going to the summit, but I decline, saying I just felt like an easy hike that day anyway. To the summit is another 2,000 meters up at basically a 45 degree angle. I had already sweated through my shirt and jeans, and am content at El Floral, where cows sit and look at the hikers with a mix of confusion and contempt.

My hostel The Landing is nice enough and a stone’s throw from the dock at Moyogalpa. After two nights, instead of spending more time on the island, I opt to take the early boat back to Rivas, en route to Grenada, where I actually end up taking an afternoon trip to Masaya. Sometime just riding the bus is fun, especially in Nica.

Ometepe is worth a visit, but it needs time, and copious amounts of bug spray. And don’t depend on charging your electronics.

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