There is nothing like the sweet taste of working on a project, planning, communicating, seeing it through, executing, and feeling a sense of success at the other end.
Back on Ometepe I was introduced to Marco, from Mateare. He works with a fellow Volunteer, Dave. Dave lives in Mateare, which is an hour from León on the road to Managua. Marco is a hammock maker. And he makes nice stuff. He also belongs to a fishing cooperative (Mateare is on the shores of Lake Managua). At the conference on Ometepe Marco got the idea to use the cooperative to offer tours to Momotombito, a volcanic island in Lake Managua. Dave and I hatched a plan to help Marco and his cooperative. Dave would help the cooperative with the business end of things, and I would help the cooperative make connections with tour operators in León (Mateare is not on the tourist radar).
Unfortunately Dave is in the United States at the moment, but the plan coalesced today in a pilot tour for tour operators. I brought five different tour operators from León to go with the cooperative on a boat tour to Momotombito. Momotombito means “Little Momotombito.” It is a small volcanic island near the grand Momotombo Volcano on the mainland. The island is not inhabited, and there are no tour groups that go there. There are also pre-Colombian petroglyphs on the island and on other small islands in its vicinity.
Was the tour perfect? No. Was the boat fast? Definitely not. Did we see any petroglyphs? Nope. Does the cooperative need to invest more in preparing their boats and the island for tourists? Yes. And is Dave up to the job of advising the cooperative as they go through this process? Absolutely. There is a lot of natural beauty on the island and it affords excellent views of Momotombo volcano. The tour guides appreciated the trip and all seem interested in bringing some of their clients there. From the start I always said that I saw myself as a networking agent. Now it is the job of the tour guides to stay in contact with the cooperative and organize tours with their clients. If they have any questions along the way I will of course be there to help them and the cooperative.
Even though it was a tour to Momotombito, in some ways Momotombo still stole the show. It just reigns majestic in the background. It is fitting, since the volcano has been central to many different episodes in Nicaraguan history. The city of León, the oldest European city in our entire hemisphere, was originally at the base of Momotombo. And people with interest in building a canal through Panama circulate a stamp depicting Momotombo exploding, which prompted the US Congress to back the Panama rather than the Nicaragua canal. Also, don’t you think that Momotombo would be a great name for a jazz lounge?
Getting to Mateare is easy from Managua. From Mercado Israel, take any bus headed to Mateare, Nagarote, La Paz Centro, León, or Chinandega. It shouldn’t be more than C$ 20 or C$ 25 and it takes about an hour. And coming from León, take any bus heading to Managua except the Carretera Vieja bus (C$ 35 ish). On a slower ruteado bus it could take an hour and a half or longer. The interlocales mini-vans will also drop you off in Mateare, but they will charge you the full C$ 54 fare to Managua. They only take an hour though.
The cooperative currently only works with groups, but if you are willing to pay for gas I am sure they will take small parties out on the lake. You can call Don Marco at 7736-7087 (Movistar) or 8351-0113 (Claro) or the Cooperative President, José Guido, at 7780-7121.
The five tour agencies on the trip were:
I only invited tour operators who organize group and private tours, are known for quality trips, and could be flexible enough to offer a new tour such as Momotombito.
Last thing – Don Marco is a talented hammock maker and displays his craft on the side of the highway in front of his house in Mateare. You may catch a glimpse from your window on the bus, but I suggest a visit. He makes all sorts of styles, and if you call ahead you can ask him to design something for you, such as a hammock with your name, initials, or the flag of any country in the world.
And the current status of the Occidente Bucket List: