Feb 21, 2016

Visiting Ometepe, Nicaragua

John and I arrived in Nicaragua late in the afternoon and so we stayed at the Las Mercedes Best Western Hotel which is across from the airport.  The hotel provides free transportation but it is walkable from the airport.  In the morning we were picked up by a car arranged by our
hotel in Ometepe, The Xalli.  The ride took several hours. We were impressed by the excellent roads and drivers. Seems the country enforces driving regulations.  We arrived in San Jorge and had a short wait for the ferry. The view of Ometepe’s Conception Volcano from the ferry was beautiful. Upon arrival on Ometepe we were met by another car and transported to Xalli for a week’s stay.

Ometepe Island, located in Lake Nicaragua, is one of the world’s
largest freshwater islands.  The island was formed thousands of years ago when sand accumulated creating an isthmus between the two volcanoes. Only the Conception Volcano is active.  Xalli Hotel is located on the isthmus with easy access to a long, sandy beach where there are often more horses than people.

Most people visit Ometepe to hike the volcanoes.  I was more interested in the history and culture so John and I went to the El Ceibo Museum which is a very large private collection turned into a museum. Ometepe has been occupied for at least
5000 years and was home to the Nahauti people who created beautiful pottery and petroglyphs. I found that the petroglyphs we saw in Nicaragua were identical to those we saw in La Mosquitia, Honduras so assume they were made by the same group of people. There were interesting large clay containers that the people were buried in.  It was their version of a casket.

The museum also had a section devoted to money.  The earliest people used cocoa beans for their money. For 100 cocoa beans one could buy a slave. Every new president issues money with their likeness on it. I was interested in the money with the face of William Walker on it.  Walker was an American who, by force, became the president of Nicaragua from 1856 to 1857.  Also, of interest was the money issued during the Arnoldo Aleman presidency (1997 - 2002) . Years ago we met him when we were on the Rio San Juan. Aleman showed up at our eco-lodge while campaigning for the presidency.

I read on the internet there was a place tourists could take a cooking
class and also see traditional dances. I made a reservation for a theatrical show which turned out to be in the home of
Jairo Sandino. When we arrived 83-year-old Fauto Aleman, who has been teaching his family the culture of the island, came out with his guitar and entertained us. For one dance and song he donned a mask which I think was to represent to old man of the

mountain. The English-speaking person I made the reservation with never showed up so we figured there was no show and got ready to leave.  Then one of the ladies of the house indicated that the girls were ready to dance.  And dance they did in the living
room.  Senor Aleman’s granddaughters, Scarleth Aleman Martinez and Alba Ligia Sandino danced for us as did Alba’s father.  One dance was about a bull fight with Alba’s father pretending to be the bull.  It was actually a great experience if a tad bit unique.