Isla de Ometepe is a must if you’re in Nicaragua. It’s an island in Lake Nicaragua made up of two volcanos forming a sort of infinity symbol. Ometepe is covered in lush tropical plants and things move at a not surprising slow place in this paradise within a paradise.
What is InanItah?
Rather than try to come up with the words to properly and efficiently describe InanItah in it’s entirety, here’s a brief excerpt from the InanItah website that I feel to be accurate.
“InanItah is a consciously created, earth-based spiritual community and transformational living and learning center inspired by the path of freedom and aliveness. Our vision is to raise spiritual and environmental consciousness and create space for individual and collective transformation.”
This intentional living center sits on Volcano Maderas, and is home to a constantly changing community of travelers from all over. When I arrived, I met people who had been there for months, some who had been coming for years, and some who were discovering it for the first time just like us.
Anne, a girl from the UK, greeted us cheerily and gave us a tour of the property upon our arrival. As we wandered up through the campsite to our space we realized how many people were actually staying here. We were aware of the workshop going on at InanItah, but still only imagined there to be 20 or so people, in actuality though, there were 40!
Anne showed us the main four structures that we’d be frequenting—the kitchen, the temple, the urraca, and the shack—all made using natural building techniques. At InanItah, they use straw, timber, clay soil, grasses, and some stone that is sourced locally. Each structure is unique and rather cozy.
When we ventured up to the shack, we met Jeff (a fellow flow artist whom I had the fortune to spin fire with a few times at InanItah) practicing on the slackline with the most beautiful view of Volcano Concepción behind him. We happened to be arriving at around sunset and it couldn’t have been a better welcome to our new home in the jungle.
The sunsets that I watched here—whether alone in silence or with a group and accompanied by a ukulele—were definitely some of the most beautiful sunsets of my life.
Simplicity and Sustainability: The Details
Inanitah ran off solar power when possible and had a single generator to keep us going when we had too many consecutive cloudy days. Everything we ate came from the island, a good majority coming from the farm itself. Because of this, there was an incredibly small amount of waste produced even during our time there when 40 people were calling InanItah home.
The options for housing were tents, dorms, or simple bungalows with prices varying accordingly. We chose to rent a tent and mat from InanItah during our stay for $1 per day. However, we probably would have splurged for the dorms had we known how often it was going to rain on us, even though it was ‘dry’ season. However, the tent was big and of good quality, so we were at least kept dry while we slept.
No matter what time of the year, when going to InanItah, you have the option to volunteer or come as a visitor. The minimum requirement to come as a volunteer was a month. We chose to volunteer bringing our cost to $450 per month each (not including our tent rental which was an extra $30 per
month for both of us together). To come as a visitor cost $24 per day (not including your housing choice) with a minimum weeklong stay. If you really want to come see the place for a day though, I believe day passes can be discussed as well.
Whether a visitor or volunteer, everyone still contributed to the everyday life of the community. As a volunteer though, our required work time occurred from around 9am to lunchtime from Monday through Friday.
Offered each day was group meditation usually led by Gaia. During my time at InanItah, there was a workshop going on called The Tantric Way, and so the meditations usually fit into the theme or focus that week for the workshop. Honestly, the meditations happening while I was there were a little intense for me so I usually had my own morning quiet time and then went to yoga before work.
There was daily yoga in the mornings and sometimes in the afternoon if someone felt like offering a class. Throughout the day though, you’d find people practicing individually throughout the property, as there was plenty of space to do so.
During a meeting every Monday, we passed around two weekly calendars. One consisted of the jobs that needed done every week, which we would sign up for and be responsible for. The other was the events calendar, which was available for anyone to share anything they wanted to share. Sometimes specific yoga classes, healing sessions, heart opening group games, additional meditations; there weren’t really any restrictions. Just the space and time to share.
Gaia: Our Fiery Founder
There was also one simple house on the property (also constructed using natural building techniques), which was occupied by one of the two founders, Gaia. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting this fine lady, be
prepared to feel possibly a bit intimidated when in the company of her very fiery presence for the first time and then almost instantly feel right at home with the softness and understanding in her eyes.
If my memory serves me right, the very first night that we arrived to InanItah, Gaia demonstrated her rather impressive skills on the pole that had been temporarily installed in the temple after our weekly transparency
circle. Best first impression ever. Don’t even try to be less then your truest self around her either. She’ll challenge you but you can tell by the sincerity in her laughter that she’s also just as playful as she is steady, if not more so.
She was definitely one of the highlights of InanItah for me. One of those humans that you know is going to be real with you. To spend time around someone that is so comfortable in his or her own skin, even if only in small doses, influences you in the same direction.
Gaia also guides workshops and training courses outside of InanItah. Check out her 3-week tantric workshop in Guatemala. The Tantric Way Series at Mahadevi Ashram.
As I mentioned earlier though, InanItah has two founders and is run by one or the other for half the year. This year, Gaia’s time ended December 31st, 2016 and the other co-founder, Paul took over until August 15th, 2017. I did actually have the fortune to meet Paul briefly while visiting El Zopilote, (a permaculture farm/hostel nearby) and he was a very warm, mellow individual on first encounter.
“Hay no princesas en la cocina!”
Our daily work varied but I made my way into the kitchen as much as possible. (Bryce spent a lot of time with a machete.) During the day and for lunch, the kitchen was run by Mayela, a local woman who just made my heart sing. She was such a fun spirit always full of giggles while still running the kitchen with the assertiveness that is necessary to feed 40 people on time every day.
We would often joke though that she could feed us all much easier without our help because she is essentially a ninja. I loved learning something new and then watching her do the same thing beside me about 20x faster.
Mayela also makes cheese and does laundry, which is of course available to those staying at InanItah for a reasonable price. I don’t have a clue how this woman managed to do my laundry and get it back to me within a couple days even though it rained pretty consistently the whole time. She might be a witch, but like, the good kind, I promise.
In the evenings, one of the volunteers who’d been around for a while led the dinners with a few helpers. The main three were a young German girl who basically ran things once Mayela left, a Finnish girl who I had the
great fortune to hang out with again in Gigante, and a rad Israeli woman who
among many other things taught me how to open a coconut.
We ate mostly vegan meals with the exception of occasional eggs as an option. There was always plenty to go around and dining altogether felt very much like a celebration of each day.
When called for dinner, we would gather in a circle, hand in hand, and voice the things that we were grateful for that day. No pressure to speak but the space to do so if you felt so inclined. It was a helpful reminder to slow down and to appreciate the day even if it the sun hadn’t peeked out from behind the clouds once.
My time in the kitchen was probably my favorite at InanItah. It was great for my Spanish first of all. More importantly though, time spent in the kitchen with others is special to me.
Ups and Downs of Jungle Life—Forever Damp
Although I loved the community and what was going on there, I realized that jungle life isn’t quite for me. Well, actually, my body let me know. After a couple weeks of thinking I was just getting eaten alive by mosquitos and sand flies, with the help of another lady who’d gone through the same thing, I realized that I had developed a fungus on my ankles and the lower parts of my legs. Yup, that’s right, I got a jungle fungus. Weren’t expecting that one, were you?
Think poison ivy x10 and more disgusting looking. Still think my life is glamorous and made of nothing but butterflies and time spent at the beach or lying naked by the pool? I’m not going to dip into this too much on this post, but I will be posting about this experience specifically later on and how I ‘treated’ it. For now though, it’s just a little food for thought for when you’re preparing what to take with you to the jungle.
The main cause of this unique experience was the rain we were getting. Like I mentioned, it rained almost every day and because it was ‘dry’ season, neither Bryce nor I was prepared at all. It was almost funny watching Bryce feel so tortured at the thought of all his hardcore raingear from commercial fishing in Alaska, while trenching through mud in slippers. Almost but not quite.
I don’t know that I was fully dry once in those few weeks. My sneakers were wrecked within the first 3 days and all I was left with was my Chacos. I don’t know exactly what happened to my poor legs. Some sort of combination of never being fully dry, constantly being covered in mud, and maybe stepping in a specific mud puddle that contained something that my skin didn’t like. I don’t know. But holy shit do I wish I had had rain boots.
This weather was incredibly abnormal compared to past years. It was affecting crops and therefore will still be felt later on for local people who rely on the island being able to produce sufficient amounts of food. Which is definitely way more serious than a temporary skin issue.
The nearly constant rain did make the sunshine and even just pockets of cloudy weather with no rainfall something to be truly appreciated though. Everyone in the community was all in it together. We all were aware and constantly joking about the shit weather and the couple days of real sunshine we had, you could find just about everyone lying naked by the pool or at the least standing out from under any shelter to feel the warmth.
Either that or racing to lie out wet clothes that had been washed days ago and just hadn’t had the time to dry yet. Sometimes it really did feel like a game. Other times it felt like a real test of our sanity.
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
― W. Somerset Maugham
Maybe I wouldn’t have minded as much if I hadn’t just left the rainiest place in the United States, aka Ketchikan, Alaska. Still though, the constant rainy weather did make for a lot of cozy tea or coffee sessions with my journal or a good book.
Even though I feel like I would have preferred some more sunshine, it was still a wonderful way to experience community living. And the lushness of the jungle all around us was definitely nothing to complain about. Next time I’ll come armed with xtratuffs and a dozen pair of long socks and I think I’ll be set.
How to get there?
The process to getting to InanItah really wasn’t all that difficult. Starting from Rivas, you can catch a taxi to San Jorge where the port is to grab the ferry. That 6 minute taxi ride shouldn’t cost more than a couple dollars, the alternative is a chicken bus, but from what I’ve heard, it’s infinitely more worth it to take the taxi.
From here you’ll purchase a ticket at the box office (our taxi driver dropped us off right across the street from it) and you can grab a bite at the little restaurant or head past the gate to wait on your ferry. The ferry goes to either Moyogalpa or San Jose on Ometepe. We went to Moyogalpa and so did everyone else; so, I suggest going that route. It was easy and Moyogalpa is a cute place to spend a couple days.
The ferry cost us $1 each and was comfortable enough. The ferry is definitely Nica style but it was much better than taking a lancha. The way back our ferry (Ferry Che Guavera) was downright pleasant. There was even space to sit down on the floor outside of the main cabin to catch the breeze and watch the volcano shrink in the distance.
Once you get to Moyogalpa, you’ll be pleased to find out that the place that you’ll catch a bus from is conveniently located right by the port. We had a hard time getting exact times but the bus came and we didn’t have to stand up so who am I to complain.
The whole trip could definitely be done in a day, but we chose to stay in Moyogalpa for a night before heading to InanItah. On the way there we stayed at Hostel Life is Good just a bit outside of town (but still walkable) and on the way back we stayed at Yogi Hostel which was much closer to the port.
The bus took us at 11am to Altagracia where we had to get off and wait for a couple hours until our next bus. It was lunch time, so we went for leisurely lunch and came back to board at about the time we thought it was supposed to go, around 2:30.
From Altagracia, we told the bus driver that we were going to InanItah, when he didn’t know InanItah, we said ‘Entrada de Valencia’ and ‘la piedra blanca’ as recommended by the InanItah website to describe the entrance to the unpaved road that leads to InanItah. He recognized one or the other of the two and nodded us to take our seats.
The road to InanItah is just past Santa Cruz and is a little cumbersome if your backpack is really heavy or if it’s a really hot day. It’s about a 20-minute walk with the final 50 meters or so being up a semi steep hill. Nothing crazy but I was glad that my backpack wasn’t any heavier than it was.
But once you’re there, you hopefully have everything you need and can comfortably unpack your bags to settle in to your new home and meet the people making up your jungle community.
Will I be returning to the jungle?
I most definitely want to go back to InanItah. The vibe I got from the people there, even with nerves slightly on edge sometimes because of the rain, was fantastic and beautifully supportive. I’ve even been blessed to reencounter a handful of these lovely humans on the sunny beaches of Nicaragua during the past month.
There’s no better way to really experience the beauty of that island, in all its forms, than on a quiet property, where so many loving individuals have lived, on one volcano overlooking the other. Promise, you won’t regret it.
If you’re thinking about going to InanItah, then go. Try it out for a week if nothing else. Wade in the waters or jump right in, either way is fine.
Every experience is going to be different, there is no guarantee delivered to you on a silver platter and that’s why you should go. It’s authentic living with beautiful intentions.
Even if it’s supposed to be dry season, bring some rain gear and a couple pair of knee high socks. Bring a couple other creature comforts you might want to help you adjust, maybe something sweet to treat yourself with. Expect an extensive list of advice and what to bring for InanItah and jungle living in general very soon.