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The Vagabond Adventures: leg three

The Vagabond Adventures: leg three

“If you don’t have any plans, you can end up doing some interesting things” -Karl Pilkington

Lago de Nicarage, Lake Nicaragua, is the largest lake in Central America and the 19th largest in the world. It dominates the Southwest part of Nicaragua. During our previous trips, we traveled the sliver of land between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean. Our final destination was la Isla de Ometepe, an island inside Lago de Nicaragua composed of two volcanoes. Volcan Concepción, an active volcano, makes up the Northern half of the island, while the extinct Volcan Maderas is connected by a narrow strip of land. It was by far my favorite place during my whole study abroad.

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We took a one hour ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa on Isla de Ometepe. We chatted with the ferry workers and they let me “drive” the ferry!

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We stayed in a hostel called The Landing Place in Moyogalpa. Cheap, clean beds, our own bath, and a room full of hammocks on the top floor. We ate at Mar Dulce, an Argentinean restaurant up the road, multiple times during our stay. They had the most delicious smoothies.

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Our first adventure was going to the Ojo de Agua, the Eye of the Water, springs of mineral waters that are supposed to have healing properties. It cost $3 to get in and was a little disappointing. It was basically a swimming pool they flowed the water through and the water was not warm. They did have a rope swing to jump into the water and we had fun floating around, talking to other tourists.

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The second day, we hiked the trail up to the San Ramon waterfall. 3 km, that felt more like 30, straight up the side of Volcan Maderas. The trail was not always well marked and included climbing up rocks and over trickling water. It was one of the harder things I have ever done. The 350 feet waterfall waiting at the top, however, is more than worth it. We waded in the cold water pooling at the bottom of the waterfall. This was what I had been searching for, a natural waterfall I waded into and could stand beneath the falling water. We had fun playing in the pools, finding some water creatures, and drying off in the sun. In all, it took the whole day between our ride from the other side of the island and the hikes up and down the volcano.

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One thing checked off my bucket list

For our third day, we decided to explore the island a little more freely and rented dirt bikes. There is one big road that loops around the island, so it’s hard to get lost. The road was nicely paved for about 2/3 of our trip. Our end destination was El Caballito’s Mar Kayak Tours. Between day two and three, I was getting a full body work-out. We paddled along the lake shore and up into a river, about a 3 hour round trip. In the river, we saw birds, alligators, lizards, monkeys, turtles, and sleeping bats.

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If I ever return to the island, and I sincerely hope I do, I want to do the hike up Volcan Concepción, about an 8 hour trip, and hike up Volcan Maderas, about a 6 hour trip (not back to back!). There were also many beaches and a few small towns we didn’t get a chance to explore.

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire

“Love is a burning thing and it makes a fiery ring. Bound by wild desire, I fell into a ring of fire.” -Johnny Cash

Costa Rica sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Most sources site there being as many as 50 dormant volcanoes and 6 which have been active in the last 75 years. Perhaps the three most popular active volcanoes are Volcán Poás, Volcán Arenal (the most active volcano), and Volcán Irazú (the tallest volcano) next to the city of Cartago.

Parque Nacional Volcán Poás is in the central highlands of Costa Rica and only about an hour and a half ride from San José making it a popular day trip. It’s last major eruption was in 1910, but it is active to this day. There are two craters near the volcanoes summit. The main one being Laguna Caliente, which can at times shoot water into the air like a geyser. We did not see an geysers, but you could see smoke curling out of the crater. On a clear day you supposedly can see both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean from the summit, but we could only see a glimpse through the clouds.

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The fauna around the volcano is interesting as well. The humidity from the volcano makes these ferns grow to enormous sizes. They are called Poor Man’s Umbrella, and probably would provide some shelter in a down pour. Which happens every afternoon around here; this is the RAIN forest for a reason.

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Nearby Volcán Poás is Catarata de La Paz, commonly referred to as La Paz (The Peace) Waterfall Gardens. There are 5 waterfalls and wildlife preserve (think zoo). The animals include 5 types of jungle cats, monkeys, the ever present but rarely seen sloths, birds, snakes, and frogs.

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One of La Paz’s claims to fame is the largest butterfly observatory in the world. Here you can see butterflies at all stages in life and they will rest in your hand if you’re gentle.

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I only remember seeing 3 out of the 5 waterfalls. I believe two are off a side trail we did not take.

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Templo Waterfall 85 feet

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Magia Blanca Waterfall 120 feet, the viewing platform is actually behind the waterfall

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La Paz Waterfall, 121 feet

While both of these places are beautiful and showcase the rich bio-diversity of Costa Rica, they are very touristy. All the paths are paved with handrails and a lot of stairs. You view the waterfalls from afar (although they were so misty I’m not sure you’d want to get closer). This was a good introduction to the landscape of Costa Rica, but left me wanting something more authentic. I was on a quest to find a waterfall where I could swim right up to it. My love for Costa Rica was only just beginning.