Weekly Photo Challenge: A Little Something Extra

This morning I had to make a quick trip to the mainland to get our new puppy his serum vaccines. Boarding the Estrella ferry, I always notice a little something extra on the deck in addition to passengers. Usually there are bags of live chickens, buckets of cooking oil, heavily tied feed sacks containing mysterious things that bump and wiggle inside the sacks, and tattered boxes containing who knows what.

Today, I encountered a little something extra…coffins! Twenty of them surrounding the deck of the Estrella. Now, I don’t know whether there was an epidemic at the Rivas hospital and the coffins contained contents I’d rather not think about, or the coffins were empty and sailing to Ometepe because of an epidemic on our island. Either way, it kind of freaked me! There’s always a little something extra, usually odd and bizarre, when traveling the sweet sea.


The Grand Opening of our La Paloma Airport

“All journeys eventually end in the same place, home.” ― Chris Geiger

I’ve taken pictures of our La Paloma airport strip on Ometepe Island for over ten years (See the links below). It came as no surprise when we were traveling through Ecuador, that I received a notice that our new airport opened. It was finished in 2012. We waited so long, we actually forgot about it, even though it is located two properties away from our house. That’s Nicaragua!

Can someone please post pictures of the grand opening for me? I posted on Facebook. Sadly, no one except for important dignitaries from Managua and Ometepe Island were invited. Our house sitters heard the party, but they thought it was a religious parade. That’s Nicaragua!

Not to be left behind, I’m flying out of our new airport to Managua next Sunday. From Managua, I’m flying to the states for my mother’s birthday. When I return, I’ll fly from Managua back to Ometepe Island and walk home with my backpack. Convenience at its best.

photo by La Prensa

photo by La Prensa

Keep reading. Want to fly with me?

In Perpetual Motion

When you’re on the road a lot, you’re in perpetual search of a good night’s sleep. ~Artie Lange

Traveling is exhausting! Lugging heavy backpacks… running for buses gearing up to leave the station…checking and rechecking passports (Are you sure you put our passports in your waist pocket?)…haggling for a cheaper taxi…always searching for a bathroom, then when you find the bathroom, you realize that you forgot to put toilet paper and hand sanitizer in your pocket…it’s like being in perpetual motion physically and mentally.

A never-ending succession of planes, buses, boats, taxis, and trains…always searching for a hostel that has wi-fi so you can check schedules or use google translate to say “My backpack fell off the bus. How do I find it?” (Yes! That really happened!)

In Quito, Ecuador there was a freak hailstorm. Hail the size of marbles blanketed the steep streets with a slippery layer of ice. We were waiting for a taxi with only umbrellas for protection.
IMG_2720 Always on the move.Read more.

Nicaragua: On the Threshold of Change

“He had the vague sense of standing on a threshold, the crossing of which would change everything.”
― Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Threshold. Nicaragua is on the threshold of change. That point of entering just before a new beginning. Join me in my photographic journey of the threshold of change in Nicaragua.

Doorways once leading to nowhere, are getting a fresh coat of paint.

There are many more pictures of changes. Read on.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life on Ometepe Island


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Street Life. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is a rural, agricultural area with colorful street (or volcanic path) life. Join me on a trip into Moyogalpa with our favorite moto taxi driver.


More street life ahead.Traffic jam ahead.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Inside Scoop on Corn Island

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Inside. Our trip to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua provided me with many opportunities to get the inside scoop on Corn Island.

From inside one island, to another. Looking out the ferry window. Adios Ometepe.
Keep reading. There’s more scoop.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Grand Homecoming

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Grand… a magical, special place…the “wow” factor.  After a long stressful trip back to the states, returning to my special island in the middle of a sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is a grand homecoming.

Boarding the ferry for the hour-long trip across the sweet sea, I peek at our active volcano, Concepcion, about 10 miles away.
IMG_0483Ometepe…how I’ve missed you! I zoom in for a grand view.
IMG_0479My island home! How majestic! How grand!
IMG_0492The waves splash against the ferry window, blanketing me with a warm breeze. How refreshingly grand!
IMG_0501The clouds over Concepcion paint a grand vista.
IMG_0506Only 30 more minutes! I’m so excited. It’s a grand, magical island.
IMG_0511Is the airport near our house open yet? I’m anxiously awaiting the grand opening.
IMG_0529The little launcha chugs past our house. Isn’t she grand?
IMG_0514“Almost home,” I shout excitedly as we pass our house.
IMG_0543Life on Ometepe Island is priceless! What a grand homecoming!

Born Out of Necessity

Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
~Mark Twain

Satisfying one’s basic needs..and a few wants..while living on a primitive island in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America can be quite challenging at times. Many things on Ometepe Island are born out of necessity due to lack of reliable infrastructure, transportation, and supplies.

But, that certainly doesn’t stop the creative and motivated people who live here.

I. Shelter
With our gift of two bags of cement for Christmas, our neighbors made a new addition to their kitchen. Shade is a necessity on our beach….always. Homemade ladders and handmade metal reinforced columns help to complete our casita.

II. Transportation
What do you do with a broken Jet ski? Of course, you make it into a fishing boat. Mechanics rebuild motors in the ferries with spare used parts, while a creative entrepreneur designs a tandem bicycle out of used bicycle parts to rent to tourists. Handmade carts haul wood for cooking fires and the ferry transports a mummified horse for the local rodeo.

III. Utilities
Tall water tanks supply gravity fed water during water shortages and everyone is an electrician when the lines get tangled or we need 220 v. Just hire a neighbor to climb the pole to fix the electricity in the neighborhood.

IV. Flood Insurance?
In 2010, while we were building our house, the lake rose to the highest levels seen in 60 years. It rose into our yard and washed out our road. Materials had to be carried on our heads as we sloshed through the lake. We crushed old roof tiles for a stronger road bed and hired a tractor to deliver bricks. The tractor got stuck, but with the help of many strong men and several attempts, we were able to push it out of the lake to get the bricks to the house. There is no such thing as flood insurance, so this idea was born out of blood, sweat, and tears to build our house.

V. Communication, Banking, and Free Luggage
My woktenna was born out of a need for a faster internet…and it works great! I even won third place in a contest for the most creative way to get online. Have you ever seen a tent bank? Born out of necessity, this bank opened in a tent until construction was completed on their new bank. Disgusted with paying high prices for your luggage on airlines? I needed a way to transport my books for my lending library, thus my homemade travel vest was born…and it’s free. I can waddle through airports with 40 pounds of books in it..no questions asked.

VI. Creative Outdoor Living
Aware of crimes of opportunity, we can’t leave hammocks or other lawn furniture outside unprotected. In fact, I got lazy and left a hammock outside two weeks ago, and it was stolen! Sigh…but that’s another story. With leftover bricks, I made outdoor furniture. The workers building our casita were so impressed with my outdoor furniture, that they made a mini-brick ferry.

VII. Health

Walter, our local mosquito exterminator, fumigates the houses with his homemade fumigator gun. Johnson lifts weights made of two tin cans packed with concrete.

Necessity is the mother of invention. That holds true on Ometepe Island. It involves taking risks, but great things are born out of necessity.


Our La Paloma Airport

Our island was very tranquil, an oasis of peace. In 2003, we often walked along the beach from our house, through a winding, dusty horse path where an old airport strip was located. The runway was built by Cuba, but hadn’t seen any action since the war. The old airport strip washed out every rainy season, leaving holes the size of Mack trucks.

airport and Franchesco's house

In 2009, the path through the old airstrip, led us to Francheco’s new lemon yellow house. Side by side with horses and cattle, we wandered along the path to visit Francheco. IMG_3112Then in late 2009, we noticed a for sale sign on a fencepost at the old airport strip. Uh oh!  Francheco’s house was torn down piece by loving piece…a new airport was in progress. IMG_2060Soon, there was a buzz of activity with surveyors, numbered sticks planted in the old airstrip, and red paint splashed over ancient trees.  IMG_4503Then, the machines came. Big, loud earth moving machines.  It reminded me of The Lorax. For months we awakened to the beep, beep beeping of the earth movers leveling and gouging the old runway. They called this progress in the name of tourism. IMG_4873 Graders, backhoes, and dump trucks arrived by ferry. Experienced workers arrived from Managua. Promises were made to hire local workers and they filed to the new airport office to fill out applications. Sadly, no local people were ever hired to work on the new airport strip. IMG_4844Several months later, the runway was ready for asphalt.  IMG_4809In late 2010, asphalt smoothed and caressed the runway. IMG_5042The fence was installed around the perimeter of the runway to keep out the wandering cows and horses.  IMG_0485Last December, 2012, the custom-house was completed.  IMG_1491 Soon, the control tower will be finished. IMG_1487We’ve heard so many dates for the opening of the airport that our heads spin…2010…2011…2012. But, this is Nicaragua and we run on Tepe Time on the island…slow..no worries…no rush. The time for the grand opening will be sometime this year.  I’m still not sure what to expect when the airport opens, but as always I’ll post the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of our new La Paloma airport.

A Voyage Across the Sweet Sea

In 1866, Mark Twain described the volcanoes on Ometepe Island, as “two magnificent pyramids clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine.” Since we had been island bound for several months, the time had come to voyage across the sweet sea for some Christmas shopping on the mainland.

Leaving the port town of Moyogalpa.

Leaving the port town of Moyogalpa.

We boarded the 9:00 am ferry and chugged past the picturesque port town of Moyogalpa, where layers of green foliage spread softly like cake frosting into the sweet sea of Cocibolca.

The roof of our house on the far right.

The roof of our house on the far right.

Fifteen minutes later, the wind-churned waves carried us past our house (on the far right) and the quaint little community of La Paloma, where houses dotted the black sand beach in vibrant hard-candy shades of lemon yellow, sour apple green, and watermelon pink. The rafts of Puesta del Sol bobbed gently in the waves, signaling that the windy months were upon us.

Now we have a view of both volcanoes..Maderas, the dormant volcano is on the right.

Now we have a view of both volcanoes..Maderas, the dormant volcano is on the right.

Rounding the point of Jesus Maria, the twin volcanoes came into view. Mark Twain described them as “summits piercing the billowy clouds.”

The new airport is almost done.

The new airport is almost done.

During the California gold rush, Cornelius Vanderbilt invested heavily in a land-sea route across Nicaragua, avoiding the grueling wagon trail ride across the United States fraught with bandits, diseases, and accidents. Twain opted for the Nicaraguan route in his 1866 trip back east.
As we glide past the new runway, I wonder how the airport will change Ometepe. The runway and the terminal are complete, with only the construction of the tower remaining. It won’t be long, now. What would Twain think if he could have soared through the billowy clouds to our oasis of peace?

They are constructing the tower, now.

They are constructing the tower, now.

Quite a dramatic entrance to Ometepe. I hope the plane can stop in time before it reaches the volcano.

The Ferry passes by on its way to Moyogalpa from the mainland.

The Ferry passes by on its way to Moyogalpa from the mainland.

Waving to the ferry passengers returning to la isla from the mainland, I wonder what the first-time tourists think. Will they enjoy their stay? An hour’s trip across the great sweet sea is always a feast for my senses.

Nice view of our active volcano, Concepcion.

Nice view of our active volcano, Concepcion.

During Twain’s time, the cross-lake steamer bypassed Ometepe on its way to the Rio San Juan. Too bad, for if Twain would have had an opportunity to visit our lovely island, I know he would have written about gorging his senses on the ravenous beauty and mysteries surrounding us. A voyage across the sweet sea is always an adventure…one that never ceases to amaze me.