Monday, October 5, 2015

Hiking Maderas: Volcanoes in Nicaragua

How could a volcano hike on which we saw only clouds from the summit rank in my top 5 hikes of all time?  I'll tell you how.   It's all about the journey,  people.

We started our hike from our hotel,  Finca Montaña Sagrada, on the Nicaraguan island of Ometepe,  a little after 8am.  The day was cloudy,  but we left with hopes that the skies would clear.   

Right from the start,  the hike was a whole different world from what Rachel and I have gotten used to in Guatemala.   The heat and humidity had us dripping sweat in short order.   Thankfully,  the route was shaded and we were more or less comfortable,  even sweaty as we were.

Farmland and petroglyphs at the base of the volcano
The air was filled with the sounds of howler monkeys,  and soon enough,  we actually saw a couple.   Our guide also pointed out a mean looking venomous land crab (a different species than the kind that live in Lago Nicaragua).  Right next to the path,  we saw a huge black and yellow spider (the size of my palm) that our guide assured us was harmless.   He also pointed out a giant frog (the size of my foot) and told us bigger ones exist.   Next,  we saw small capuchin monkeys with furry white faces leaping through the trees.

It's hard to get good photos of monkeys.
Through all this,  we were passing through dense rainforest foliage and climbing up and over and under huge tree roots slippery from last night's rain.   

When we reached the summit, just under 4 hours after we had started walking,  the sun was out.   On one side,  we looked down into the volcano's crater,  which is now a lake.   On the other side,  clouds blocked our view of Volcan Concepción and the rest of the Isla de a Ometepe.   We decided to take a break and see if the clouds cleared.   The temperature was comfortable,  the sun shone, and a breeze kept the air moving.  At one point,  a flock of bright green birds took off and circled right over us before winging off into the distance.   It was idyllic,  even without a view.  

Our way back down was slippery,  and I kept falling (sometimes more gracefully than others).  I lost count of how many times I ended up on my backside,  cushioned by the mud of the path.   Sadly,  our guide didn't seem to find my falls entertaining (not that I meant them to be,  but they're easier to deal with when someone is laughing with you).  I tried to keep it under control,  really.

The highlight of our trip down the mountain came when we rounded a corner and stopped in our tracks because a boa constrictor was blocking the path.   A boa!!  I'd never seen one outside of a zoo before. Thankfully,  she slithered off back into the underbrush and didn't cause us any problems.   How cool!

It's a little blurry, but there's the front half of our 5ft boa! 
We saw more monkeys and crabs on our way down.

But the reason this hike will be one of my top 5 is a culmination of everything about it.  The hike itself was fun and interesting, which is not always the case with volcano hikes in Guate.   A lot of them begin to look the same.   And you never see wildlife there.   This hike was clean,  secluded,  and full of new treasures around each corner.

Customary celebratory Snickers
on the summit

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