Monday, March 30, 2015

Daytrip: Volcan Ipala

It’s the first weekend of our spring break, and Annette dreamed up the idea of a day trip to Volcan Ipala, an extinct volcano with a lake in the crater.  With very little planning, five of us were on our way Sunday morning.  

Internet research told us to expect an easy, well-marked hike from the parking lot to the crater at the top of the volcano.  The hike was predicted to take 1-2 hours, and at the top there were camping areas and green space to relax.  The internet also said the temperature is warm all year round, but the crater and lake stay breezy and cooler.  We still decided to pack bathing suits in the hopes of a swim. 

Annette’s friend who recently went to Ipala told her that it was possible to drive all the way to the top and skip hiking altogether.  We opted for this plan since Carrie is still not really supposed to be walking much or climbing things at the moment per doctor’s orders. 

The drive was easy and straightforward, and we made good time.  No dirt roads or serious potholes on this adventure! 

As we followed all the signs for Ipala, the road eventually dead-ended in a parking lot from which the hiking path began.  So much for being able to drive all the way to the top…

The hike was much different than I had imagined.  For some reason, in my head, it closely resembled the walk into Laguna Lacha: an “easy hike,” to me meant, “pretty flat,” and “warm all year round,” I interpreted to mean, “lush tropical foliage.”  Actually, not the case.  While the hike was relatively short (it took us 45 minutes), and I suppose that could contribute to its “easy” rating, it was definitely a climb up the hill.  The landscape was also much more barren and rocky than I had envisioned.  We had great views of the surrounding fields and mountains, of course, but it was certainly not tree-covered, green, or lush. 

Upon arriving at the top, it was as if we’d stepped into another climate entirely.  Inside the crater, it was chilly and a cool wind blew continuously.  We decided against a swim more or less immediately. 

Instead, we relaxed and enjoyed the view (between patches of gray clouds that threatened rain), watched a “horse gang,” of cowboys who had all decided to ride their horses up the mountain in order to get a picture of all of them together at the lake (good eavesdropping by Joel to figure that out), and purchased fresh and hot pupusas from a woman making them on her grill. 

The horse gang taking their group photo

Once we were feeling relaxed and refreshed, we trotted back down the mountain and on towards home. 

View of Laguna Ipala from the mirador (lookout point)

I think we all would agree that the day could have been improved by warmer weather at the lake and fewer clouds at the top, but even factoring in those details, I would easily consider the day a success.  Our trip was affordable (about US $2 per person to park and enter the reserve), we were able to do it all on our own without hiring a guide, and it’s always good to get out of the city and into the countryside.  It’s even better when you travel with great company, as I was so fortunate to do.  

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