Rangitoto Island

Guys. I have to tell you about how much I love this cafe. It’s my new home. There’s a “take a book, leave a book” shelf, couches, solid wifi, a decent selection of teas, a giant window I can sit in with my laptop, and a random little vintage pac-man arcade game in the corner. I’m obsessed. This is where I spend every morning.

27498125_10151063582039963_1681081001_n27497383_10151063582034963_780049436_n

I’ve been operating without much of a plan each day. The only problem with this is that all the activities around Auckland require a bit of travel time and therefore a bit of planning. I decide it’s a good day for hiking, and look up ferries to Rangitoto; an island visible from the Auckland port, and home to a dormant volcano! It’s not painfully expensive at $33 return, especially when you consider that’s the same price as visiting the Sky Tower (Auckland’s imposter CN Tower – erected 20 years later, I might add).
A volcano hike seems like a pretty good bang for my buck!
The last ferry heading to the island is in an hour, so I rush back to my hostel to change into some more appropriate hiking gear and walk down to the ferry terminal.

Before boarding the boat, we’re asked to clean our shoes off on these little brush things stationed outside the entrance, and to check our bags for rats, mice, and ants. Yeah, alarming. Apparently people find them in their bags “more often than you’d think” and I am horrified to even look. Thankfully, I’m clean.
Rangitoto has a fragile and well-contained ecosystem that New Zealand is working hard to preserve while still allowing for tourism. There are no shops, hotels, cafes, or anything on the island. Not even a place to fill up a water bottle, so they advise you to bring all the water and/or snacks you might need for the day. I didn’t know this in advance, so I’m extra stoked that I thought to bring my reusable water bottle, and filled it before I left!

In half an hour, we’ve arrived on the other side, and I head straight for the trail. It’s 1:45, and the last ferry back to Auckland is at 3:30 so I want to get a move on. It’s possible to leave after the last ferry, but it’s an extra 50 bucks, and that’s a hard no from me.

27707786_10151063594964963_1472093586_o
arriving on the island – I don’t know what’s in the little house!

I follow black trails lined sometimes with unfamiliar trees, and at other times with nothing but stark black volcanic rocks. The higher the trail takes me, the better the view becomes. It’s an easy walk, especially for the first half as it’s pretty flat. I’m a city walker; Toronto has no hills. I’m not used to all this stair and hill climbing, and it’s roasting hot out. If this path weren’t partially shaded, I might have died from heat stroke. I apply my weak 30SPF sun screen twice during the walk, just to be sure I don’t burn.

Once at the top there is a view point that looks out over the old volcano crater, which is now entirely covered in greenery. Without the sign post to tell me what it was, I’d never have known. The real sight though, is the 360 degree view around the island. You can see Auckland off in the distance, and epic teal blue waters all around. Pretty fantastic for a 1 hour hike.

27606180_10151063594994963_1766880300_o
You can see the fake CN tower from here!

I soak up the views, finish the rest of my water, and head back down. I end up chatting with a nice elderly couple from Malaysia on my way down, who start a conversation by calling out “where are you from!?” as I pass them on the trail. We talk about Malaysia, Canada, and they tell me all their opinions about “Mr. Trump”. They’re pretty adorable.

I’m back down to the pier by 3pm and have 30 minutes to spare, so I find a shaded bench where I can lay down and take a little siesta, but set an alarm so I don’t miss the last ferry. Not that spending the night here wouldn’t be rad af.

When the boat arrives they have so much trouble docking due to the high winds, that they have to try 3 times. I’m a little concerned about the choppy waters back to the city, which weren’t this bad on our way over this afternoon.
They make an announcement on the way back that “If anything should happen, life vests can be found in the lockers”…which I notice are secured and tied up with ropes, so if this ship starts goin’ down, I’m pretty sure I’m done for. R.I.P.

After more trouble docking back in Auckland, we make it safely off the boat and I head back to the hostel. I have to double take when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I look like a god damn tomato. Noooooooooooo! I applied my sunscreen! I tried to be responsible! I am heavily regretting leaving the 100SPF in my drawer back in Canada. I brought that Nicaragua a couple years ago, and came back just as pasty white as when I left, so I didn’t wanna go totally tan-less again. Huge mistake. I knew about the absence of ozone layer down here but… I thought double sunscreen would do it. Nope. How embarrassing. Now I gotta walk around like this for the next few days. So much regret.

Aside from the burn – solid day.

I go out at night and try to get a look at this blue moon/super moon/eclipse thing, but it’s too cloudy, which is tragic.

Costs for the Day

$16 breakfast at Remedy Coffee

$33 return trip to Rangitoto

$16 for 2 pints at a pub in the viaduct area

$8 fast food wrap for dinner

$20 hostel

Take me there!

Ometepe

BYEEEE SAN JUAN DEL SUR. Adios. It’s been fun, but I need to get outta here. A girl can only drink so many glasses of moose juice, and I have reached my limit. On to Ometepe, an island made up of two volcanoes that sit within the largest lake in Nicaragua.
We hop on a chicken bus from San Juan and ride back to Rivas. From there we get a taxi to the port from which the ferry leaves. It only leaves 3 times a day, and we’ve got an hour to kill so we sit down for some lunch. The dock area is pretty horrible. The water looks muddy and brown, and the wind is blowing so hard I get sand in my eyes more than once, so for lunch we sit indoors. We arrange a shuttle bus to pick us up when we arrive on Ometepe for $7. Even though the chicken busses are cheaper, we’d have to switch 3 times and it would take much much longer so we splurge for the shuttle.

Obviously, we meet two other Canadians on the boat ride over, because everyone here is Canadian. They’re from Banff, and have just arrived in Nicaragua to elope. They were married three days ago. I love it.

Our shuttle driver doesn’t speak English, but we communicate that we’d like a cheap accommodation; none of the 6 people in our shuttle have booked anything in advance. He suggests we stay in Santa Cruz, and drives us to a place where dorms are $8, but they only have 5 beds left. The other 4 people in the car are couples and seem to be traveling on a higher budget than us, they don’t stay. Meanwhile, we happily accept the dorms, which have an incredible view of the volcano Conception. Best $8 I ever spent.


I go to shower and when I return the two couples are back. Apparently the only two other hotels they could find were charging $70 a night for a private room. So the poor newly married couple have to share a tiny bed in a room with one fan, four strangers, and some ants on the wall. Primeeee honey moon.

At dinner, we run into some other girls who invite us to go have a couple drinks at the only bar that’s open late in this part of Ometepe, called Little Morgan’s.

Four of us start the walk down to the bar, and to our unpleasant surprise the road is entirely unlit. Ilona and I are sketched out but the other two girls seem fine with it. We seriously consider turning back. Randomly, we pass what looks like someone’s house, where an older couple are sitting on their front step in rocking chairs. The girl from Belgium in our group is pretty fluent in Spanish and I ask her to ask them if it’s safe for us to be out. They say yes, but go fetch a male backpacker staying in their home stay. They ask him to walk us down to the bar. Sorry we just ruined your chill night, man. He’s super nice and happy to do it, but says he’s been in Ometepe for a few days and believes it’s one of the safest places in Nicaragua. We end up getting kind of lost because the road splits off and we go the wrong way, but eventually make it to the hostel bar unharmed.

When we finally arrive, I confirm with the bartender who assures me it’s safe to walk around at night, but obviously doesn’t suggest I do it alone. The other girls and I make a promise to all leave together.

We meet MORE Canadians. Some Québécois, Manitoban, or from Calgary. I will admit there are some Aussies and Brits at the bar too, but the majority of us are Canadian. Such is life in Nicaragua.
On our way home we stop to look at the stars which are absolutely beautiful, because as I mentioned before, there is a significant lack of lighting on the roads.