Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
What adventure to choose next?
The longer you travel, the more you’ll figure out the things you enjoy and the things that are a bit boring and uninteresting for your personal taste. Toby in particular is training his eyes for adventure, challenge, danger and uniqueness. On our first morning in Leon, we had visited several of the main companies who offered a variety of local tours. Volcano boarding was the top of the list, see our previous blog on this, but we were soon hearing names such as Telica, El Hoyo, San Cristobal (the highest peak of Nicaragua) and Momotombo. We were trying to figure out our future timetable, knowing our bank cards needed to arrive and we wanted to get some time on the Corn Islands. Our best use of time mixed with relaxation was to do a 2 day / 1 night hike to Volcan Telica. The walk up and down was meant to be challenging but not too hard with the bonus of getting a sunset and a sunrise at an active volcano. The highlight would be a hike in the dark to look into the crater and see the glowing red lava.
Who do we go with?
We did visit and speak to several other companies, but they didn’t seem to have anybody signing up for their overnight hikes which meant the individual cost could be quite high. The most popular appeared to be a twilight hike where you go up in the evening, get your photos but come back later in the night to your comfortable bed in your hotel. We wanted the full 2 day with overnight experience because the price difference was negligible (less than $10) and we expected the experience to be more fulfilling.
Once again, Quetzal Trekkers would get our money since they had others signed up (it needs a minimum of 4 people to run) and we would get a $10 discount per person for doing the volcano boarding with them.
The morning of the hike
We met at the Quetzal Trekkers office at 6am where we would first meet our fellow travellers and guides. These hikes have 2 guides and our group would have a total of 9 including us and the guides hiking the volcano. We were firstly allocated an individual pile of gear to put in our pack. These were generally either a tent or food along with 8 litres of water per person. They had camping gear for us to use such as sleeping mats and sleeping bags. They also gave us each a spoon, bowl and cup for use at meal times. When the packing of gear was done, we sat around the dining table to chat to our group and enjoy a tasty breakfast of French Toast, fruit and coffee.
Time for a chicken bus and getting on the road
It was a 15 minute walk to the Chicken Bus station. We climbed on board, grabbed a seat and set out on what now seems like typical transport for us. It was maybe 30-45 minutes until we got dropped at our deserted cross roads and what would be the start of our hike.
We were given a safety briefing and were soon on our way. It was a hot and dry day on the 18th of January, 2014 when we did this hike. It’s around the middle of dry season and it was soon clear why we had brought this much water. The early part of the trail we were regularly bumping into local farmers using the same access road as us.
We would take a rest and drink stop around every 45 minutes as well as a lunch stop around the middle of the day. The total hike would be almost 4 hours of walking time and 15km of distance. The first three quarters was really quite flat and easy hiking with nothing special about the scenery. At times we were walking through a semi narrow canyon with walls maybe up to 4 metres high. The hardest part was the last hour or so where the incline was at its steepest and with it being the side of the volcano, no vegetation to provide natural shade. We climbed around 200m of elevation in around 600-750m of horizontal distance going by my Run Keeper statistics.
Reaching the summit
We reached the summit just after 2pm and were treated to a smoke show. As soon as you walk up to the rim of the crater, you feel like you’re standing right next to a jet about to take off. The smell of sulphur was quite overpowering and made it difficult to breathe. It was a good thing there was a strong breeze to push the smell and smoke into one direction. You could also faintly see the small hole and red glow of lava at the base. The smoke was clouding it though and made it impossible for a photo.
Setting up Camp
After about 30 minutes up on top, we all headed down to the campground to setup camp. During wet season there is an area that floods and creates a small pond. This is apparently used by some of the cows and other animals that appear out of nowhere. The cows also have a taste for backpacks, so we were told to not just leave them in the open. As you can see from the photo below, there’s still a strong green glow and some shady trees to camp under. We were extra lucky that there was also someone up there to sell some cold drinks. Apparently this is a new thing since New Year’s Eve and they were trying to sell what they had left. At the bargain price of 40 cords ($1.60) for a cold can of beer, who could say no?
It was soon time to see the sunset over the valley, Leon and the Pacific Ocean. We were given directions and found another large group of camper’s setup in a spot ready and waiting for the sun to set. It was one of the best sunsets we’d seen in a while especially since you could see the whole sun dip below the ocean from such a long distance away and so much land between us.
While we’d been away, dinner was being setup for us and was ready as soon as we got back. The campfire was glowing and everyone was quite hungry as there was silence as soon as they all had food.
With the sunset finished and the moon not yet up, we all hiked the 10 minutes to the crater rim to see the glowing lava. This was set to be the highlight of the trip and it didn’t disappoint. I don’t know if the photos truly bring out the beauty and power of what we saw. I took a couple of short videos to try and capture the sound and light, but even they don’t do it justice. This is definitely one that needs to be seen in person and up close.
After about 30 or so minutes on top, we returned to camp for a Nicaraguan version of smores over the campfire. It’s not an exact recreation due to the gram crackers no existing in Nicaragua, but it sure does come close and is mighty tasty for a sweet tooth. It wasn’t long after this that people were heading to bed due to the long day we’d had.
The next morning we would be up at 5.20am to hike a short distance to the top of a nearby ridge for sunrise. We hadn’t really seen a lot of sunrises on our trip; I think we’d mainly focussed on sunset time. This was a sunrise worth remembering. The red of the volcano was really brought out.
We returned briefly to camp for breakfast and to pack everything up and head for home. We paused for a brief group photo.
The hike back was in a different direction but was still much quicker as it was downhill. Total distance of around 9.5km covered in just less than 2.5 hours. We made a couple of drink and rest stops and also a brief stop at some super-heated mud pools. I guess they count as a tourist attraction, but I wouldn’t be making a special trip to come and see them.
Our final reward at the end of this was lunch at a local comedor. I ordered up another serving of fried chicken and it sure felt good after those 2 days of hiking. We waited for our return chicken bus and that was the end of our active volcano experience. We loved this hike and would recommend it to everyone.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/