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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Nicaragua Part 2

    Tuesday, August 15, 2017
    San Ramon Waterfalls, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

    The beginning of the hike up to San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    The beginning of the hike up to San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    A semi-profane statue near the entrance of San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A semi-profane statue near the entrance of San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Since yesterday was a long travel day, I had planned to follow tradition and rest up for most of today. But, soon after I woke up, four other guests at the Hospedaje Soma invited me to join them for a hike to a waterfall part way up Volcano Madera on the far side of the island. They had hired a mini-van driver at a flat rate of $80 for the whole day, and the more people who went, the cheaper it would be. So, always looking for a way to pinch a penny and hang out with actual humans (instead of staring at a screen), I decided to go for it.

    Some German girls who passed us on the hike up to San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    Some German girls who passed us on the hike up to San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    A short paved section on the hike up to San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A short paved section on the hike up to San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    After putting on my clothes and grabbing breakfast to go, we all piled into the van for the 90-minute journey. Nearly three quarters of the trip was on the main road (paved with smooth, flat cobblestones) that arcs around the southern half of Volcano Concepcion, the bigger of the two volcanos that form Isla de Ometepe. As we made our way through the isthmus that connects Concepcion to Maderas, we hung a right turn, where the pavement immediately gave way to a gravel road that was way more bumpy than the back of an alligator. This road surely must put a great amount of wear and tear on any and all vehicles that traverse it.

    The glorious San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    The glorious San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Sarah and Sion enjoy the San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    Sarah and Sion enjoy the San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    The swimming hole at San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    The swimming hole at San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    After a short while of getting thoroughly jolted, we arrived at the entrance for the San Ramon Waterfalls. After paying the very reasonable entry fee of $3.00 at a small booth, we ascended up a straight driveway through some manicured gardens, then stopped for a bathroom break near a restaurant. Surprisingly, there was not a labyrinth of souvenir stalls to negotiate. I guess Isla de Ometepe has not reached that level of tourist saturation…yet. Our crew included Sion and Sarah, language teachers from Swansea, Wales; Tony from Washington DC, who is studying to be a surgeon; and Simone from Melbourne, Australia, who got laid off this past spring and is on a six-month trip criss-crossing the globe.

    Sunbathing at San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    Sunbathing at San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Starting the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    Starting the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    I was surprised to see a sign nearby that said, “Waterfalls 3 km.” That’s less than two miles! “This hike should be a breeze,” I thought. The first section of the hike was indeed fairly easy, passing through small clusters of trees set within large fields on the bottom slopes of Volcano Madera. But, as we entered the jungle, the terrain became more challenging, with a steeper incline and some technical rocky creek crossings. The slippery rocks made it quite a challenge to keep our feet dry, and there was even a bit of climbing and clambering involved, which is always fun.

    Traversing a rocky creek bad during the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    Traversing a rocky creek bad during the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Some small falls during the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    Some small falls during the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Proceeding ever upward, it seemed like we were going to keep hiking and climbing forever. Thanks to the intense tropical heat, I was sweating buckets, completely drenching my shirt. For quite a while, I thought I heard waterfalls roaring off in the distance, but they simply refused to come into view. At some point, I began to have serious doubts about that “Waterfalls 3 km” sign at the beginning of the trail, and vocalized it. That’s when someone informed me the hike was two hours each way. That made more sense. “Waterfalls 30 km is more like it,” I thought.

    Hiking back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    Hiking back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    A nice view of Lake Nicaragua during the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A nice view of Lake Nicaragua during the hike back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    The crew, left to right: Sion, Tony, Sarah and Simone, after hiking back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    The crew, left to right: Sion, Tony, Sarah and Simone, after hiking back down from San Ramon Waterfalls on Volcano Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    As my feet and lower leg muscles started to feel fatigued, I spotted a series of laughably small waterfalls up ahead. I thought, “That’s it? I want my money back!” But, onward we trudged. Finally, after ascending one last steep pitch, we stepped out of the jungle, where we immediately got gobsmacked by a magnificent, sky-high cliff completely wallpapered with bright green moss and foliage, and graced by a gentle cascade of water that bathed the whole area just below with a refreshing, cool mist. And there was even a swimming hole at the bottom and a hill for the sunbathers with large rocks to sit on!

    A view of Santo Domingo Beach from Exotic Island Cafe on the east side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A view of Santo Domingo Beach from Exotic Island Cafe on the east side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    A bamboo / tiki theme at Exotic Island Cafe on Santo Domingo Beach, on the east side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A bamboo / tiki theme at Exotic Island Cafe on Santo Domingo Beach, on the east side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Measuring in at 164 feet tall, San Ramon Waterfalls is not the biggest falls I’ve ever seen (that would have to be Niagara), but it’s simply the best. It’s truly a stunningly beautiful place. The cliff, which is shaped like a nearly enclosed semi-circle, gives the whole place the feel of a treasured secret spot–even despite the fact there were 30 or 40 other tourists there! As groups of clouds passed quickly overhead, they repeatedly turned the sun on and off like a light switch, which provided a quasi-psychedelic light show–although with fewer colors–on the intense green of the cliffs and jungle. If I were lucky enough to have this place to myself, I feel like I could just melt away into a hazy, happy death.

    A painting of a psychedelic naked lady at Exotic Island Cafe on Santo Domingo Beach, on the east side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A painting of a psychedelic naked lady at Exotic Island Cafe on Santo Domingo Beach, on the east side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    A scenic scene at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A scenic scene at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    After a half hour, it was time for us to pry ourselves away form this paradise and head back down to all of the other paradises that awaited us at other spots on Isla de Ometepe. On the hike back down, we heard the haunting cries of some howler monkeys, which we saw jumping around in the treetops, as well as the ever-present whine of the cicadas. Climbing back in the van, we headed over hill and dale on the bumpy gravel road to Santa Domingo beach, where we stopped at Exotic Island Cafe, a small, slightly tiki-themed restaurant where some of us ate and swam in Lake Nicaragua.

    A small hut at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A small hut at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    A small gathering of humans in the water of Lake Nicaragua at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A small gathering of humans in the water of Lake Nicaragua at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    A small crowd brandishes a selfie stick and bottles of beer in the water of Lake Nicaragua at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A small crowd brandishes a selfie stick and bottles of beer in the water of Lake Nicaragua at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Our final stop of the day was Punta Jesus Maria, a sunset viewing spot on the western side of Volcano Concepcion. Hanging a left off of the main paved road, we proceeded down another bumpy gravel road a little ways and pulled up to a complex of small rustic shops and restaurants set on a narrow peninsula. For an hour or two, we sat next to the beach, some of us eating and drinking, as the sun slowly sank into the horizon out beyond the lake’s placid waters. It was funny to see a small crowd out in the lake brandishing a selfie stick and bottles of beer. What an incredibly relaxing, tranquil and perfect ending to such an unforgettable and epic day!

    A perfect sunset at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.
    A perfect sunset at Punta Jesus Maria on the west side of Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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