Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 14 Climbing the Volcano

The island of Ometepe is formed from two volcanoes rising out of lake Nicaragua the fifth largest lake in the world. The larger, and still active of the two is Consepcion. The hike to the crater of Consepcion is at best a nine hour hike, requiring no less than four liters of water per person, no relaxed weekend stroll. To be frank it sounded terrifying. But how could I come this island and NOT climb it, not pay my respects the that grand lady? So last weekend a group of five of us from the farm and guide climbed it.

We woke in the dark and climbed aboard the five am bus to Altagracia. After an hour bus ride, during which we were blasted by sappy love ballads, we got off at a poorly marked trail head and started the assent. It was then six am. We made it to the top by 11:30 am. Those hours between 6am and 11:30 were very long, very hard hours. By two thirds my shirt was wet through with sweat, I had consumed 2 of my 4 liters of water and wee had climbed, 1,600 meters, taking 10,000 steps to do it. (no there were not stairs I had a pedometer). It was not so much a hike as a climb, much of it was at what felt like a 40% slope.

We started on the valley floor surround by the native forest, broken by fields, from there we passed into the cloud forest. However, that was quickly replaced by a bolder heap covered in chest height brush. This continued for the majority of the assent. Then abruptly the spiky Doctor Seuss plants gave way to rocks and black sand.  Then the rocks began to feel a bit warm, from the sun I wondered? Then hot. Amid a gray white swirl of clouds and steam we came to the edge of the curator. It was almost anticlimactic, one minute we were scrambling up the steep incline almost on all fours, then it just ended. Below there was black sand and rocks, above gray mist. We stayed there at the top for about an hour, eating lunch and huddling on the warm sand to keep out of the shilling winds shipping the volcano. It never cleared while we were at the top.

the climb down was less sweaty but not less grueling. My legs trembled as I stepped from rock to rock. Several times I stumbled and almost fell, my shaking legs threatening insurrection,  declaring they  would go NO further, no really! During the decent the clouds cleared and we were granted an unencumbered view of the west side of the island. Those moments when the island was lade bare below us, made the climb worth it. 

Consepcion the beginning of life, the source of existence  maternal.  Pushed out of the lake Consepcion created Ometepe. Like an all seeing matriarch she watches over all that happens here on the island. Like grate-grandchildren going to visit a honored relative we needed to pay are respects to the volcano. But having done that I feel no need to EVER do it again. 

A view of the volcano from the tree fort on the farm