Monday, November 29, 2021

[RIVAS] Almost Ometepe


The officer looked at my passport. Asked a question. Ran to his supervisor. The officer looked at my passport. Asked a question. Ran to his supervisor. The officer looked at my passport. Asked a question. Ran to his supervisor. We arrived at Nicaraguan immigration at 12:05. I exited the building at 13:35. In that hour and a half, that immigration officer only managed to process TWO people, me included, as opposed to his other co-workers. While I’d like to think that he was just power tripping or being strict, he did stamp 90 days on my passport anyway. Perhaps it was the guy’s first day at work?


The continuation of the bus trip from there to Rivas was smooth sailing. A little over 30 minutes and we were already parking by the highway and those of us not moving on to Managua began to get off and get our luggage. I then walked to my Airbnb which turned out to be just a block away from the cathedral. The original plan was to take the ferry the next day to Ometepe. However, given the rather erratic bus schedules on the island and not knowing what to expect when I get there, I decided to drop the island trip and just consider Rivas as the R&R pitstop I needed en route to Managua.


Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca as referred to by the locals. Considered as the largest lake in Central America, it is known by many different names: Mar Dulce, Gran Lago, Lago de Granada. Suffice it to say that the lake and the twin volcanoes housed by the island play a vital role in many origin stories regarding the Nicaraguan populace, as I found out thanks to the outdoor exhibit along one of the pedestrian streets next to the cathedral. If I can’t visit the island itself, then I might as well just get to know it through historical citations, right?


According to legend, the people of Nicaragua originated from the pre-Columbian Amerindian population fleeing the tribal wars in Mexico. Escaping to the south, two of their high priests prophesized that their people would settle along the shores of a sweet lake with two rising calderas. That land area they are talking about is Rivas, while the two calderas are the twin volcanoes of Ometepe. The Nicaraos were said to have differed from the other tribes of Central America conquered by the Spaniards in that they actually banded together against the invaders instead of playing along with their game of divide and conquer.


Not that it matters, though. They still ended up being colonized anyway. For what it’s worth, Rivas is as Hispanic as it could be if you base it on the town’s layout. Grid system, check. Cathedral and plaza at the center of village life, check. Pedestrian streets at the plaza, check. I don’t believe they were able to preserve their cobblestoned avenues, but they seem to be recreating it while I was there, with some ongoing construction and laying of concrete and the twin volcano emblem along the pedestrian streets.


I still opted to go to San Jorge where the ferries to and from Ometepe depart and arrive. If not entering the port, you can head to San Jorge beach to see the twin volcanoes from the other side of the bay. The beach is not really a stunner. It’s muddy and full of little dead fish and there isn’t much going on there to be honest. The volcanoes will amaze your vision as it would from the highway coming from Costa Rica, but somehow my mobile phone’s camera just won’t do it justice.


If I were to suggest, I’d rather you stop along the highway going to Rivas if you have a car and are coming from the border with Costa Rica. There, you will find huge white windmills juxtaposed with the twin volcanoes at the center of the lake. That, I believe is a more poetic view, a juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made, not to mention that area is very rural and seems so tranquil.


If you are heading to Ometepe, you can just book your accommodations there, which I should have done in the first place. Activities involve hiking either volcano as well as some waterholes here and there. Ferries leave almost every hour en route to either Moyogalpa or San José del Sur. If island life is not your thing, you can also take a bus headed to the Pacific Coast for San Juan del Sur which has beaches and a Cristo Redentor statue on a cliff. As for me, I just rested and ate a lot. This is my R&R pitstop after all. No regrets!

[RIVAS] Almost Ometepe

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