Tuesday, 11 November 2008

... Central America: Hi-Ho-Silver!

I woke up this morning to the sound of Urracas (white-throated magpie jays) and the waves of the lake lapping against the shore at around 5am. There is no daylight savings here and so most of my trip thus far has seen these early rises. Still, that means I have seen some gorgeous sun rises and had the opportunity to do a spot of exploring before everyone else gets the same idea. Life is obviously hard for me right now!

Everyone else was woken to the sound of one bloke screaming that he had just been stung by a scorpion! I wasn't much help - not realising his predicament I had 'shushed' him as I was trying to get a pseudo National Geographic shot of a bird. Thankfully the hotel staff, who armed himself with a huge machete, took one look at the culprit, picked it up, pulled off its tail and then told us 'not poisonous'. Apparently the only poisonous thing on here are the coral snakes. At least I was able to make up for my earlier faux pas by providing some first aid supplies. I think the blokes ego was bruised more than anything else. The scorpion had made itself a bed in his underwear after all. From then on I began shaking out all my clothing!

Santa Domingo is a little community on the Island's 'waist' between the two volcanoes. It is apparently a popular spot for most people to head to namely because of the fact it has the best beach. Unfortunately we've come at the end of the rainy season so the water level is still quite high. So no beach but many people still went into the lake for a swim. Lago de Nicaragua (Cocibolca) is Central America's largest lake. I actually felt like I was staring out into an ocean, it really is that huge. Statistics I have found state it is 8624 sq. km, 177km long and 58km wide. The lake drains into the Carribean Sea via the Rio San Juan and the West side is only separated from the Pacific by 20km. It apparently contains freshwater bull sharks (admittedly the REAL reason I didn't go for a dip - if I can't see what is possibly below me I don't want to know). Whilst it would have been very cool to have seen one from a distance it is apparently very rare to see one, their numbers have apparently greatly decreased due to their slaughter for sale to foreign markets.

Ometepe is famous for its ancient stone statues and petroglyphs depicting humans, animals, birds & geometric shapes. They are dotted all over the Island and there happened to be some about an hour away from where we were staying (it takes a long time to travel anywhere here). I decided that a cool way to go and see some would be by horse back! Lets face it, the roads here are rough & rocky so this seemed like an ideal way to do it and so myself and 4 others did along with our guide, who was fantastic.

The petroglyphs were fascinating and we had a great view of Concepción to boot. Our guide also showed us a banana tree, dragon fruit plant, passion fruit plant, coffee plant and cinnamon tree.

Interestingly it took us about an hour to get there but our guide, upon seeing our comfort level increase, had us all cantering and/or galloping on the way back in about 30 minutes. I had a fit of giggles and also got some pretty nice blisters from the stirrups. I knew there had been a reason for packing jeans.... hmm.

As the sun is beginning to set and I drink my fresh coconut water that I got for myself, all I can think of is how Ometepe is the sort of place that belongs in a Tolkien or Daniel Defoe book.

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