Urgh. I used to think I had reasonable sea-legs. I used to quite enjoy the rocking motion of a boat. But somewhere along the line I think I must have become old, because the journey by boat from Rivas to Ometepe Island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua was pretty unpleasant. And, to be clear, by unpleasant I mean properly nauseating.
I also dodged a bullet a bit, because originally we wanted to travel to Omotepe by boat all the way from Granada, and I have no idea how many hours that would have taken. But it turns out that the boats only do that route on Monday and Thursday, and when we got round to dragging ourselves away from the beautiful Granada it was Tuesday. I was tempted, I’ll admit, to wait it out a couple of days – not exactly a hardship – but I reluctantly agreed to press on, and we decided to get a bus to Rivas, the nearest town to the lake edge closest to Ometepe, and then an hour’s boat journey over the lake.
The bus journey I’ll say little about: it was packed, hot, sticky, slow, late leaving and our bags were put on top of the bus – not an uncommon occurrence, but you have no control over them in that circumstance, and it was only a few hours later when we had reached Ometepe that we realised that Rob’s phone had gone missing (Simon: you were right. Thanks for the spare). Fortunately everything else of value that we had was either locked away or with us, but it’s still depressing.
When we reached the ferry port, we realised that “ferry” was an overstatement. Well, there were ferries, but only three a day – the rest of the time it’s just a small wooden boat every hour, and rather than hang around for another hour or so we decided to just get on it. Even as we left, I thought, “That’s strange. Ometepe isn’t far away. How can this take an hour?” Well, that logic is all very well and good, but of course, it can take an hour by crawling along the water at snail’s pace, laboriously being lurched from port to starboard over the huge swells in this giant lake.
We were in the bottom of the boat, along with most of the population of Ometepe, six giant bags of semi-frozen chicken upon which I rested my legs, ten crates of live chicks which chirruped frantically for the entire journey, numerous sacks of fruit and veg and a handful of other travellers who stood self-consciously next to their oversized backpacks while everyone in the seats fell asleep in impossible positions.
I sat on the floor, trying not to get my legs wet from the melting chicken and the water being shunted over the side and rolling over the deck, too low down to see the lake and only conscious of the boat rocking slowly and unevenly, and my stomach with it. At one point I measured in my mind how quickly I could pick my way over the bodies and produce to get to the side if I needed to throw up.
Fortunately it never came to that, but the shore was agonisingly close for what felt like hours, the little boat inching closer and closer towards it. I felt so very, very sick. I was so glad to get to shore – only to get on another hot, packed bus! But the boat journey back was much better – we bagged some seats on the top deck and had a nice breeze and view of one of Ometepe’s volcanoes. That’s the way to do it.