Central America, Food, Travel

Isla de Ometepe: Eating in Central America, Part 4

October 21, 2012

Another variation on the typical lunch in Nicaragua: more gallo pinto! More plantains! And of course, queso frito (fried cheese) 🙂

Join me on Ometepe: it’s time for the fourth installment in my Central America retrospective! I hope you enjoyed the last post, where I began to discuss my month-long stay in Nicaragua, in early 2009. This post will cover January 16 to February 4, at which point I crossed the border again to catch my return flight from San José, Costa Rica.

Before I move on to more food photos, I want to share how impactful my time on Ometepe was. There was so much more to this part of the trip than just the food! 🙂

Atop the bell tower of Iglesia de la Merced, my last night in Granada

Me, sunburned and incredibly happy.

I spent about a week in the small city of Granada, and then made my way to Isla de Ometepe, the volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

Ometepe Volcano - Sweet and Savoring

One of two volcanoes on Isla de Ometepe

On Ometepe, I stayed exclusively at a permaculture farm and hostel called El Zopilote, upon the recommendation of a fellow Omega Institute staff member. I had no idea what I was in for when I arrived.

Arriving at el Zopilote: the bus dropped me off here at the sign, and it was 300 meter uphill walk to get to the actual farm.

It turned out to be the most rustic place I’d ever stayed, and simultaneously as blissful a period as I could remember in a long time.  The first time I lived and worked on a farm (Hawaii, 2006), I did not adapt well to life without modern conveniences: the compost toilets grossed me out, the lack of available WiFi made me feel lonely despite having fellow WWOOFers around constantly, I never stopped feeling uncomfortable and too removed from familiar society.

But my time at El Zopilote was the opposite. I was older, for one, and I had four seasons of living in community at Omega as well as several cumulative months of travel under my belt. Also, this was a permaculture farm where everything was done right, rather than others that have labels like organic and sustainable and not actually following through. Compost toilets? Awesome! Handwashing my clothes? An arm workout, sure, but I was glad to do it. Walk four miles for the fastest Internet connection? Sure, the weather’s beautiful!

Ometepe Showers - Sweet and Savoring

Outdoor showers that I grew to love. How cool are the recycled glass bottles? Nothing on the farm ever went to waste.

I slept in the dorm cabin for the first few nights, but decided to switch to a hammock when I heard that they were just $3 a night. And yes, there were people sleeping on either side of me. An islander’s life for me! 🙂

Some words of joy in the communal kitchen, left by a traveler who seemed to feel exactly as I did

I experienced such a wonderful, welcoming energy (after my first night or two, when I’d showered and rested and had time to settle in) at el Zopilote, and on all of Ometepe, really– it truly felt magical.  Some locals said this has to do with the impact of the volcanoes themselves, steeped in folkloric legend. Journalist Rachel Jackson sums it up nicely: My trip to the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua was at once magical and real, and I felt like I was trapped inside a novel by one of the Latin American authors that made the genre of magical realism famous.  The friends I made- from England, Germany, France, and throughout the United States- also contributed to my wonderful memories of Ometepe.

But you came here to see food pictures, didn’t you? Okay, here’s the thing: El Zopilote is owned and run by an Italian family, so three times a week they serve pizza baked right in their wood-fired clay and brick oven. There are several varieties, all thin crust and all delicious:

Each person gets a pizza this size. My mouth is watering remembering this savory goodness (forgive the use of flash!).

 One of the nicest aspects of the farm was all the free fruit: there were all sorts of crops like tobacco, coffee, chilies, and various herbs, but the fruit was free for the taking.

Maracuya, or passion fruit: surprisingly tasty in oatmeal!

Ometepe Tropical Fruit - Sweet and Savoring

Of course, sometimes the fruit wasn’t completely ripe. But the more starchy plantains were good for frying 🙂

Voilà! Salty, perfectly crispy plantain chips

These fried plantains were sweeter

Of course, there were still meals eaten out, when we ventured to the bigger towns of Altagracia and Moyogalpa:

Scrambled eggs, funny looking plantains, gallo pinto, and an odd block of non-fried cheese

Fried plantains, fried cheese cubes, and a cabbage salad: more of an appetizer plate than a lunch

Lunch on Ometepe

My friend’s fried chicken lunch plate. I distinctly remember those plantains being the worst of any restaurant I ate at- I mean, they don’t even look appetizing at all

Throughout my three weeks on the island, I never lacked for something to do. I worked on the farm for four hours a day, hiked to some waterfalls, met tons of travelers and locals, rode on motorcycles, walked a lot, spent time on the beach, enjoyed the sounds of the monkeys and birds, and just enjoyed the magnificent scenery.

Ometepe Beach - Sweet and Savoring

The beach on a particularly clear day. Did I mention that the cows liked to sunbathe, too?

It’s amazing, when I was living so close to the earth and in such close contact with other people, how I realized this state of peaceful bliss, not needing anything else and always looking forward to what awaited me next.  Ever since I left I’ve wanted to return. Apparently there is an airstrip underway, to enable international flights to the island, rather than just the slow ferry ride. I just hope this doesn’t spoil Ometepe and make it too accessible to the “bustling, driving world”, as Mark Twain so eloquently wrote.

That wraps up my Central America series, kids! What destination shall I cover next time? France? Spain? England? You decide!



Out of the midst of the beautiful Lake Nicaragua spring two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds. They look so isolated from the world and its turmoil–so tranquil, so dreamy, so steeped in slumber and eternal repose. What a home one might make among their shady forests, their sunny slopes, their breezy dells, after he had grown weary of the toil, anxiety and unrest of the bustling, driving world.  —Mark Twain

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  • Averie @ Averie Cooks October 21, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    thanks for linking up my cookie and your trip, the pics, are just stunning! I was in Costa Rica for a month about 12 years ago. Life changing trip and yours looks the same!

    • Christy October 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      You’re so welcome, Averie! Thank you for your nice words. I long to travel again!

  • Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today October 22, 2012 at 4:47 am

    What a trip and I love all the pictures of food 🙂

    • Christy October 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Thank you! It was a favorite, for sure.

  • Sydney @ Crepes of Wrath October 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I can’t believe that I have never heard of queso frito before – it looks so unbelievably good! I want to put a fried egg on top of it and call it a day.

    • Christy October 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      I can’t believe it, either! 🙂 Maybe look for it on on the menu next time you go to a tapas restaurant?

  • ana October 22, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    this post makes me miss eating moro- which is what we called the rice with black beans

    • Christy October 24, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      It’s funny, I have rice and beans all the time, but I’ve never actually tried to make them like I had in Central America. Must get on that!

  • Deb R October 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Just got to read this, I learned more about your trip, and truly do love your pictures, Christy! I must admit, it makes me curious about travelling to see a bit of those strikingly beautiful places! How about some fried plaintains?

    • Christy October 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      I’m glad that I’m making people curious about traveling 😉 And I got pretty good at making fried plantains, if I do say so….wonder how much they are at Shop Rite…

  • Craig | ADayTrip October 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Oh man, I’m not sure I can look at your blog anymore lol It makes me incredibly hungry and incredibly jealous of the freshness! My cubicle only allows me the freshness of a super market 🙁

    That volcano is the perfect backdrop!! I’d love to see more pictures of it

  • Christy October 24, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Hi, Craig, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad my photos could convey how delicious this trip was. If you’d like to see more shots from Nicaragua, including the volcanoes, here’s the link for the set on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ohwhatachristy/sets/72157623045135799/

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