The time we wanted to die rather than climb down a volcano
And now a word from Ryan about time time we hiked Volcan Maderes on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, with our friend Stephanie from back home.
This doesn’t nearly show the amount of mud we collected
The lagoon and the bad a guides – with rainboots
My awesome hairdo. This blog isn’t doing my short hair any justice. Oh and Stephanie 🙂
The Chuck Taylors
We were fired up to go hike a volcano, and one night at dinner we ran into 5 other travelers who were also game for a hike and a cheap guide. Our guide, a middle-aged, nails-tough campensino, agreed to take our group of 8 to the top for $6 each. Our guide wanted an early start, leaving at 7 a.m, so Paige, Stephanie and I had eaten breakfast and packed some lunch sandwiches by that time. The others in the group, a young Swiss couple, a Danish girl, an English girl, and a California guy, had just ordered their breakfasts a little after 7, in addition to ordering sandwiches to be packed for lunch. It should be no surprise that cooks on small Nicaraguan islands have no inclination to rush around cooking your meal. When everybody else was ready to hit the trail, a little before 8, the guide was looking pretty annoyed, and would make us pay.
Our guide was telling us that it could take 7 to 9 hours to get all the way to the top and back, and since he had no interest in dealing with whiny hikers after dark, he set us on a punishing pace to make up for the late start. Glancing around at footwear in our group, I saw plenty of hiking boots, the three of us in tennis shoes, and then was shocked to see that the California guy was wearing low top Converse Chuck Taylors with no socks! He said he brought only sandals and had borrowed from one of the cooks at our place. I was feeling sorry for him and his future blisters, but my empathy wore off after he sang about 4 Neil Young songs in a row “to raise our spirits.” Neil Young makes me want to jump off a volcano, not climb further up.
The climb got difficult about a quarter of the way up, where the trail got very steep and had little to no switchbacks. The guide had told us about how it wasn’t supposed to rain and it was a good day for a hike, but he was wearing rubber boots. It started to rain about 3/4 of the way up, and the trail turned pretty sloppy. Every step forward was a potential slip and wipe out. Everybody had already gone through their different spells of bad attitude and “screw this’s”, and back to positive, at different times earlier in the hike, but everybody felt that way for the last 2 grueling hours up to the top.
The summit was easy to miss, just a small, flat spot covered in trees and clouds. However, after another slippery, steep 30 minute climb further down, we reached the small lagoon in the center of the volcano. We were all determined to swim at the lagoon throughout the way up, when we were drenched in sweat. When we finally reached the lake a little after noon, lunch and rest were first on our minds. It was probably only 70 degrees at the top, so we all got too cold to swim while we were busy eating. Plus, it started to rain even harder, and we were more than ready to get back down, and more than concerned about the way down being covered in slick mud. Everybody fell and slid their fair share, but spirits were better the closer we got to the bottom. After it was all said and done, it took about 8 and a half hours to get to the top, eat and get back to sea level. At that point, our joints and muscles were about shot, and the cold beer tasted most excellent. It was a tough hike, but had some rewarding views. The California guy learned a hard lesson, with mud-caked, deep, bloody blisters on the tops of several of his toes and his heels, and couldn’t walk around for another two days. At least we didn’t come out as bad as him.
Paige’s views on hiking the volcano:
I was pretty pumped in the beginning about hiking up this volcano – I’m sure it was on some bucket list I had made at sometime or another and I’m all about crossing off lists. First of all, I’m not a morning person and sometime in the night, I learned my mosquito net did not guard against centipedes – I learned this the hard way when I was awoken with one on my face – not a good start. My mood may not have been the perkiest in the beginning of the hike and our lighting speed pace wasn’t helping at all – or my marriage 15lbs. I whined quietly, sometimes not so quietly, for he first part of the hike and was getting really annoyed by some Danish girl with the perkiest ‘we can do it’ attitude right in front of me. Luckily for me, the tides turned as we got closer to the top and into the more rainforest sections of the volcano. The pace slowed down as the rocks became slick, the dirt turned to slippery mud and the ascent turned into rock climbing. That is when I thought the hike was great but everyone else started their moaning and groaning – I especially loved hearing the previously perky Danish girl with her curses and whines. Muahaha. The top section reminded me of one of my greatest childhood memories of building a terrarium with my dad for a science fair project. I loved the green smell, the humidity, the fog, and the mud that was caked on my body from waist down. Maybe I just loved that we weren’t sprinting up hill anymore, or maybe I just love mud. Either way, I was a happy camper while everyone else was miserable. Finally, hours in, we made it to the top which was as unspectacular as Ryan described. We hiked on for 15 more minutes to reach the lagoon. Incredible. I loved seeing and wrapping my mind around the fact that this used to be where all the excitement happened when the volcano was active. Then came the worst decision I made on this hike – I sat down to eat my lunch. Oh how I didn’t want to get up, but staying overnight wasn’t an option. How did I get so out of shape? When did my body turn on me? Is this proof that I’m getting old? Rawr. I finally made myself get up and begin the hike down thinking it surely couldn’t be that bad, at least we wouldn’t be heading up anymore. Wrong. The hike down was the most miserable 3 hours I can remember in a long time. Oh my knees! My desire to get to the bottom and be done with this volcano was so strong that I jogged a good part of the way down when with my body protesting loudly. I also slipped and fell a good part of the way down and three weeks later my tailbone is still reminding me of that. Anyways, we made it to the bottom – I hitched a ride in the back of a truck and tried to leave Ryan and Stephanie, probably for being smart asses, but my conscience kicked in and we stopped to pick them up too. I really don’t know if I could have made it that finally quarter-mile to the cabana without that truck. All in all, I think I would have to be crazy – or in shape – to hike that volcano again.