Touring Ometepe Island

Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.~Gustave Flaubert

We’ve had company most of the month of February. I love when friends come to visit because it gives us an opportunity to tour them around the island and visit places we haven’t explored thoroughly. It also makes me appreciate what a tiny, yet beautiful place we occupy in the world.

We usually hire one of our neighbors to take us around the island. Luis just bought a new Suzuki 4 door vehicle. He will take us anywhere we want to go and his cost is $60 for the day. He says the more tours we take the sooner he will own the car instead of the bank.

Since we’ve lived on the island for over a decade, we know the places tourists like to visit. This February, we toured familiar places and one new-to-us place. Join me for a tour of Ometepe Island.

First Stop, El Ceibo Museo

It has been years since we visited the Pre-Colombian pottery museum. Named for a giant Ceibo tree at the entrance to the long dusty road that leads to two museums, the Pre-Colombian pottery and the coin museum, this is the place to learn all about the pottery excavated on Ometepe Island.

Along with the museums, they have added a hotel, pool, and a new restaurant/bar, where we were treated to shots of cojoyo: a potent fusion of corn, rice, pineapple, and sugar, made on the farm. The indigenous people of Ometepe had consumed it for generations. Our guide poured the syrupy liquid into shot glasses made from black bull horns. We drank it like tequila, with a lick of salt and a bite of mimbro, a very sour fruit resembling a small pickle. Strong, but rico! The other drink he poured reminded me of chicha, a potent fermented corn drink that I sampled in Peru.

The museum had been remodeled since the last time we were there. The guides told the same intriguing stories about the pottery and its uses. There were scalpels made from sharpened obsidian, volcanic tools and arrowheads, burial urns of all sizes called zapatos, and an intact burial site with gifts for the deceased for his/her onward travels.


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Four Places on Ometepe Island to Study, Love, and Stay Close to Nature

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

On Valentine’s Day we took our friends on a tour of Ometepe Island. Our neighbor has a new touring van, and for $50 for the entire day, he took us to our four favorite places.

First Stop: Charco Verde Nature Reserve

Slowing down to observe nature is an art. By examining the shapes of trees, the colors of the flowers, or noticing the ways a landscape can change over time with different effects of light, always provides me with inspiration in the natural world.

I am fascinated with the study of ethology, or the study of non-human animal behavior…especially the Howler monkeys. On the Charco Verde trails we always see Howler monkeys. Depending on the time of day, they are either swinging gleefully among the branches, howling loudly, or napping peacefully in the tree tops. This morning, they were snoozing.

The cormorants gathered to feed at the edge of the green lagoon, while the goats wandered and bleated along the trails. Butterflies, iguanas, and  hurracas ( like big Blue Jays),  fluttered, fled, and flitted throughout the dusty trails.

It was a beautiful morning to be up close to nature. It never fails us.

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Place Where the Gods Pee

About six miles out of Moyogalpa, one can find a tranquil emerald-green pond called Charco Verde.  The lagoon is an extinct parasite crater of Concepcion Volcano. Steeped in legends and mystery, Charco Verde was a sacred spot for the Nahuatl ancestors, where the indigenous population practiced rituals such as sacrifices, reincarnations, and supplications to the gods. The algae infested lagoon was called Xistletoet by the Nahuatls, which means “Place Where the Gods Pee.” They did have a sense of humor!

Today, Charco Verde is a protected nature reserve where many varieties of local and migratory birds congregate, as well as Howler monkeys, armadillos, rabbits, and deer. Walking the well-maintained trails through the dry tropical forest that surrounds the reserve, we encountered herons, monkeys, cormorants, egrets, woodpeckers, magpies, and a variety of tropical plants and trees.

Fishermen cast their nets daily.

IMG_5597Gardens display duendes, sort of like mischievous little gnomes or leprechauns hidden among the foliage.

IMG_4453Map of the 1.7 kilometer trails through the reserve.

IMG_1807Majestic Concepcion volcano casts its enormous shadow into the green lagoon.

IMG_1801Herons and Egrets wait patiently for breakfast.

IMG_1792Zapolotes or buzzards circle the lagoon, always picking the ripest morsels of flesh.

IMG_5600This tranquil lagoon has a history of magic and witchcraft. Read the Legend of Chico Largo here.

IMG_1805The Howler monkeys take daily siestas in the tree tops. This little one says, “Who’s there?”

IMG_1788Cowboys herd their stray cattle back home. Who knows? This cow may be the cowboy’s father who made a pact with the devil. Legend has it that one can call forth the devil in Charco Verde, trade one’s soul for riches, and when the devil recalls the soul, he turns the deceased into a cow. Our local butcher says he found several cows with gold teeth.

IMG_1796No need to be petrified about these legends. Life in Charco Verde is abundant and full of vitality. Next time you are wandering around the lagoon, watch out for the cows. It could be a deceased relative.