As we travelled round the island yesterday it made me think of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the stories I have read based on those islands in the mid 1900s. The idea of new technology such as running water, electricity and telephones coming gradually to the communities starting with the main centres and spreading to outlying areas and how people integrate it into their traditional ways of life. How some people are the forerunners, the pioneers and others watch either enviously or suspiciously how the technology impacts on lives until it is adopted by all. Ometepe is like that; internet cafes rub shoulders with straw roofs and earth swept floors, mobile phones are ubiquitous but men ride horses and horses and oxen pull carts and cattle are driven down paved roads as motorbikes and buses overtake them. It is shabby and run down but it is real life. I feel that I have to be careful about being a patronising westerner when I reflect that there is a certain charm about that mixture of mid 1900s lifestyle and the 21st century technology. It is easy to look on and think it is charming but would I really want to live in those conditions? The taxi driver who brought us to our hotel in Rivas this evening told me, “Nicaragua is a great country. People are friendly and honest and we feel safe. We are poor but we are free and we are happy.” I can’t think of a better testament to a country than that.
Today was a treat. Packed up and ready to go by 9.00am to go to the beach by public transport. We were clearly on island time because the scheduled 9.00am bus didn’t arrive until 9.45am! It was another of those great experiences; you know the jokes that go “How many people can you fit in a mini?” Well the answer to how many people you can fit in a bus is “As many as need to get in and then more!” Hot and extremely sweaty, we were crammed into our seats and wondered how we were going to work out how to extricate ourselves when we needed to get off. Fortunately, as my taxi driver said, the people are incredibly helpful and friendly. There was no way that we were going to miss our stop as everyone pointed it out to us and we had noted that there was an efficient system in place to help people get out of the bus when they needed to.
Charco Verde is basically a resort at a very pleasant bay. There was also a walk around a lagoon or we could have visited the butterfly haven but we were happy in the heat just to relax in the water. It is difficult to believe that we were at a lake and not a sea as it is so vast. Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca is the largest lake in Central America and legend has it that it was the home of man-eating bull sharks. There is no doubt that there was a sizeable population of bull sharks but who knows if they had developed a taste for human blood! We didn’t venture very deep into the water, just in case!
Coming back proved quite simple although I did have a few moments of unease when I wondered whether the bus I had been told would be at 1.30pm was going the back the way we had come or whether it was an orbital route and we needed to get on in the same direction we had in the morning and ride it right round the island! My moments of panic were just after a bus going in that direction had gone past at the stated time. Fortunately for me, (as I had visions of us all sitting on the side of the road for another hour) 5 minutes later the bus came. It too was full and we stood for the the duration of the journey. Going back seemed much quicker, probably because it was mainly downhill and we hurtled along at great speed, but also because there were fewer people getting ion and off. These buses also seem to be used as a way of delivering goods around the island as packages were dropped off and collected at each settlement.
Just enough time for a coffee at the Corner Cafe before getting the ferry back to San Jorge.
San Jorge at dusk was bustling – we had intended getting the bus to Rivas but it appeared (according to the taxi drivers who were clamouring for our custom!) that they stop running after 5.30pm. It does seem strange given that the ferry comes in at that time and there will always be bus loads of people to transport. Who knows what the truth is, but the taxi drivers offered us rides for $1 per person straight to the hostel which meant that we didn’t have the additional hassle (and probably another taxi ride) to get from the bus station.