It’s taken me a few years to admit it but I will finally state that boats and I just don’t agree. Being of a weak-stomached constitution, I get seasick at the slightest swell and usually feel a desperate urge to jump off and swim for the horizon. That all bodes well for the forthcoming FIVE day sailing trip between Panama and Columbia then…hmmm, let’s see how that pans out.
Nevertheless, I love islands and the boat journey that stood between me and Ometepe, nauseating as it was, didn’t put me off the tranquil wonders of this beautiful island on Lake Nicaragua. Perfect for cycling, being only 31km long and at its maximum only 10km wide, we were tempted by its two majestic volcanoes, and the prospect of some lakeside riding.
Hanging on for dear life, closing my eyes and thinking of England: all ineffective ways to ignore seasickness.
An hour later and the first of the island's two volcanoes came into view and I knew we were in for some picturesque riding.
Shortly after arriving on the island, the seasickness having abated a little, we dipped into the lake and had the cool calm waters pretty much to ourselves.
Over the last year, we've got used to people stopping in their tracks to stare at us and the bikes as we trundle past - perhaps it's the lycra shorts - and these kids on the island were no different, seemingly oblivious to the beautiful backdrop, they stood open mouthed as we passed them by.
The sun starts to go down behind the bigger of the two volcanoes, Concepción, as we ride to our first destination. On the way we see howler monkeys, herons, hundreds of butterflies and hoardes of lush vegetation with stunning tropical flowers sprouting out of soil made fertile from volcanic ash. Apparently, Concepción is considered the "finest volcano cone" in Central America...high praise indeed.
We might be in a Central American paradise, cycling past stunning natural wonders but the practicalities of the trip still have to be attended to. James' shoes suffer the consequences of too much Alaskan rain, a year of riding in all conditions and then the final nail in coffin was the hike up another volcano, Santiaguito in Guatemala, in May. With a new pair on order for collection in Panama City, these will have to make do until then, so out comes the duct tape...
Day two on the island saw us take a southern loop around the second, smaller volcano, Maderas. The road was dirt and pretty rocky at times through tiny villages and right along the lake.
Aside from James taking a dramatic head-first tumble into a rocky ditch like this one, it was the perfect Sunday afternoon ride.
We camped at Finca Magdalena, an organic coffee farm, and finished the day with hot strong Nicaraguan coffee and fried plantains with fresh mild cheese.
A relaxing third day was marred slightly when it began with a frustrating and sweaty hour tring to retrieve a pack of spare spokes that had been stored in James' seat post. With limited places to put things, we smugly thought that storing them here would be smart, until we realised that they'd slipped down further than we could reach and the only way to get them out was a "chopsticks" manoeuvre whilst the bike was hung upside down. And yes, we did receive some very curious looks from the staff and other guests at the finca.
It's not the volcano cordoned off here - although Concepción is remarkably active, the last eruption being in 2010 - the taped area is the building site for an airstrip. If/when this becomes a reality, an influx of tourists by air looks likely to change the laid back unspoilt feel of the island.
A rain shower and a night's camping at Charco Verde rounded off the trip and we headed for an early morning ferry to continue our route south through Nicaragua, hoping that we might catch up with some nesting turtles on the Pacific coast. It was a smoother journey back to the mainland but still, James copes with ferry crossings far more calmly than I do...maybe I'll try his snoozing technique next time we have to get on a boat.