This past weekend was by far the best weekend that I have had since arriving in Nicaragua two months ago (it’s crazy that it’s been that long)! Because September 14th and 15th are holidays in Nicaragua, we had a four-day weekend. Being that we had those extra two days, we decided to head to Ometepe, which is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe is noticeable to all travelers as there are two volcanoes that make up the island, Maderas and Concepción. We were all pretty excited because we had heard a lot of great things about Ometepe from past Program Directors and new friends in Nicaragua.

We headed out on Friday afternoon, and had to take a bus, two micros, two taxis, and a ferry to get to our hostel in Santa Cruz, which is a community in Ometepe. The view from the ferry was beautiful and showcased what was to come in the next couple days. The hostel we stayed in was very quaint, and the staff were all extremely welcoming and helpful. The seven of us squeezed into a room with five beds, but we made it work! That night, we just hung out and ate dinner as we needed to get some rest before a full day of hiking and kayaking.

When we had arrived in Ometepe, we met Roberto, who was our personal taxi driver for the weekend. He worked with a tour company on the island, so he knew all the ins and outs of what to do, where to go, etc. He suggested that we hike to La Cascada de San Ramon, which is a waterfall in the Maderas Volcano, and go on a kayaking excursion in the lake and down the river. We started our morning off with the waterfall, but first we had to hike about an hour and a half up the volcano. It was a great hike! The waterfall was about 160 feet tall, and boy, was it beautiful. It was almost like it was a hidden gem because it was tucked away into the trees. The water felt fresh and cooling after our hike, which had caused me and everyone else to sweat through all of our clothes. After enjoying the waterfall, we hiked back down the volcano and ventured off to the shore for some kayaking.

If anybody ever wants to learn how to kayak, then just go on a three hour trip in water that has a tendency to be decently rough when the wind is blowing. That’s what I did! It was weird because I was the only one who hadn’t kayaked in the past, but I guess I never grew up around it like some of the others. I made sure that I was in a double kayak, just so I could get used to it and have somebody else to help me get to our final destination. Props to Carissa for being an awesome partner, because there were definitely some times where I was tired, frustrated, and saying a few things to the kayak, water, wind, etc. that weren’t too nice. Part of the trip was down a very shallow river that was supposedly home to some alligators. Luckily we didn’t see any, but if we had, then I would’ve been hopping out of that boat and sprinting to land. Although some points were difficult and I was extremely sore and exhausted at the end of the three hours, I had a great time and would definitely kayak again – maybe just in calmer water!

The next day, we headed to Ojo de Agua, which is a natural spring for tourists and residents to visit. We then headed to Playa Santo Domingo for the afternoon to hang out by the beach and work on our tans. You would think that we would all already be tan from being down here for two months, but being that a lot of time is spent in programs and planning, we don’t have much time to ‘get some color’ during the week. The beach was very nice and relaxing because we got to chill and take in the views of the water and volcano. After a few hours on the beach, we headed to dinner near the beach to have a change of pace from the hostel food. We were able to sit right near the shore, so we had a great view as the day turned to night.

On Monday we left Ometepe to join Liz, one of our fellow Program Directors, and celebrate her birthday in Grenada. We had to get back on the ferry, which was a little bit rougher than the first one, and then take a taxi to Granada, which is "traveler central" - there are people from all over the world in the city, which is the oldest city in Nicaragua. We arrived in Granada, dropped off our stuff at our hostel, and headed out for lunch. After not having pesto or berry smoothies for two months, I was able to eat some as I got a chicken pesto sandwich and a strawberry/blueberry smoothie for lunch. I was perfectly content with getting another round of food, but my wallet wouldn’t have been too happy. We then went to a restaurant outside, which was nice because we were able to sit out on the street and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. It was great to celebrate Liz’s birthday in such a beautiful city!

We left the hostel the next morning, headed to breakfast (where I ate bacon for the first time since being in Nicaragua), and then traveled on back to Managua to the Manna House. This weekend was perfect, and I am glad I was able to spend it in a beautiful place with some great people! Here’s to our next adventure in Nicaragua!

- Michael Graham