The island of Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua is home to two of them – Conception and Maderas – which burst through the surface of the lake millions of years ago, connected by a thin saddle of land.
Perched on the lower slopes of Maderas Volcano, our hostel looked back across the isthmus to the towering cone of Conception – a majestic chimney that filled the foreground. We arrived just in time for a swim in the lake, while wild pigs roamed on the beach, before watching the sunset from a hammock.
The pre-dawn hike up Maderas was a gruelling slog through farmland dotted with ancient pre-Colombian petroglyphs and dense cloud forest filled with monkeys, birds and snakes. A grass-fringed lake filled the crater, and tropical birds swooped through the treetops – an oasis after an arduous climb.
The following morning I gave in to the protestations of my aching limbs and hired a motorcycle, concluding that driving around the other volcano would be just as good as climbing it. Lucy sensibly elected to spend the day at the beach with the pigs, which was wise because I soon got lost down a rocky track, stalled the bike and couldn’t get it started again for 30 infuriating minutes. I arrived back at the hotel just before sunset, exhausted.
Spending time apart means you’re only responsible for yourself (or, you only have yourself to blame), and while that means more opportunity to take risks, it also means there’s no one there to watch your back.
While I recovered from my ordeal in a hammock at the hostel, covered in mud and dust from the road, I looked forward to the next leg of the journey. In the Corn Islands there would be no volcanoes or roads, just tropical beaches and plenty of time to explore the underwater world of coral reef and tropical fish. Scuba, like travel in general, means that for best results, you need a buddy with you at all times.