It doesn’t take long on Ometepe to realise how important horses are to life on the island. They draw carts loaded with fruit and plantains through village streets and, ridden by young men, lead early morning cattle drives. In fact ask any islander over 20 years of age and they will remember a time when horses were still the island’s most popular mode of transport; far better suited to the the network of unpaved tracks and trails than any motorized alternative. With such an important role in local community, what better way to experience the countryside around Moyogalpa than from the saddle?
Ometepe is principally an agricultural island, this means that within minutes of saddling up in Moyogalpa, the village quickly dissolves into lush countryside. The road here is uneven and unpaved but very familiar to the horses who plod along steadily and smoothly without requiring any encouragement. This allows you to scan the trees for some of Ometepe’s noisier residents. Urracas, or magpie jays, are common here and an easy spot with their striking white and blue plumage and distinctive call. The branches here are also home to troops of lazy mantled howler monkeys. The animals don’t seem to be particularly bothered by the horses so it’s a great way of catching them at their most candid. It’s peaceful on the muddy track, the only traffic are cows and oxen and the tall border of brush and trees provides enough shade to stave off the heat of the sun.
From the track, a gap in the fence leads to an overgrown paddock sloping up to a low ridge. Although innocuous enough from the base, the crest of the hillock is positioned perfectly between gaps in trees to produce a beautiful, panoramic vista point. From here the spectacular, cloud-capped Concepción volcano is totally unobscured with its brother Maderas clearly visible over its shoulder. To the west the view stretches over the trees to the lake and the distant peaks of the Nicaraguan mainland beyond. From this position, the village of Moyogalpa is completely enshrouded in forest making the island feels totally untouched.
After exploring the countryside above Moyogalpa, it seems fitting to explore the lakeshore below. The guide leads the horses through a maze of the village’s quieter paths and backstreets, before arriving at a gorgeous secluded section of the lake. On a warm day, this is the perfect opportunity for the horses to cool off in the shallow water. From here, a peaceful lakeside stroll to the docks passes half-sunken laundry tables where mothers and children gather to wash bundles of clothes; and old men fish in the shallows, casting nets from tiny wooden canoes.The short walk back up the hill, through the village, offers incredible and continuous views of Concepción.
A steady amble really is the appropriate pace to experience the Moyogalpa area, and sitting up in the saddle shifts the focus upwards, providing a new perspective on the amazing natural beauty on show. After experiencing Ometepe by horseback, it just makes sense how it was the way of travelling for such a long time.