I have a confession. I’m kind of boring on the road.
Sure, I visit lots of cool places. On occasion, I do cool things. But at the end of the day, I’m a creature of habit, and I often up doing the same old stuff, just with a much cooler backdrop.
The same old stuff generally revolves around imbibing things, wandering around and writing. So the sum total of a trip for me is often less likely to be a list of interesting things I’ve done and more a map of routes around a city with stars at the best coffee shops.
This is perhaps one of the reasons Tony and I travel well together. We share a deep love of flying far, far away, journeying to distant lands … and parking ourselves in coffee shops. We really like coffee.
Last week, however, I managed to pull myself away from Pan y Paz (a lovely French bakery in Leon, Nicaragua) to hike a volcano.
It went down like this:
My friend Luca and I booked a 2-day trek up Volcan Telica with Quetzal Trekkers, a really sweet nonprofit that uses tourism to support work with street kids. They also do volcano boarding, which all the cool kids do. I’m not cool. I hiked.
First, we stocked up with breakfast and all the hiking gear at Quetzal in Leon. Huge-ass backpacks locked and loaded with tents and water and such, we caught a bus to the foot of the volcano, which included a soundtrack of American 90s hits sung in Spanish over what sounded like karaoke tracks (“Total Eclipse of the Heart” as “Eclipse Total de Amor.”
So we arrive, and take a look at some hot springs with boiling mud.
Then we hiked up about 4.5 hours worth of volcano. The path was very ashy, though thankfully with a fair amount of shade. Ghostly-white people like me who are accustomed to cold in wintertime don’t do so well in 90-degree (32 celsius) heat with no shade. Hell, I wasn’t really doing too well with the shade.
Sidenote: despite my successful ass-kicking of 550 miles in Spain in September, my in-shape-ness has fallen somewhat by the wayside. I’m no longer used to mountains. Or backpacks. Especially a backpack that was easily 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) heavier than my Camino sack. I survived, but I’m still hobbling around with sore hips 3 days later.
So anyway, we walk up a bunch with stops for some snacks and the first Tang I’ve had since about age 8. We stopped about 15 minutes from the top to set up camp in a magical grassy area …
…where an amazingly brilliant business man waited with a cooler full of overpriced beer.
And by “overpriced,” I mean, “one beer for $1.50.” They’re normally $1.
Then we scarfed down some veggie burritos for lunch like teenage boys in a growth spurt. The guide chose the food, and as a 19-year-old Brit, he brought mashed up imitation Doritos to put on the burritos. Surprisingly satisfying.
Then up to almost the top of the volcano, where we perched on rocks to watch the sunset.
Then we hiked to the rim of the crater to peak in and ogle some lava. I don’t have pictures of that, though I did see it.
Back to camp, where we ate pasta cooked over a campfire and roasted marshmallows, then curled up in our tents to pass out, enrobed in a comfortable layer of ash. Not my cleanest moment.
In the morning, we hiked up again to see the sunrise.
Then headed down the mountain to feast like kings at a local comedor (Nica restaurant) on grilled chicken in jalepeno sauce, beans, rice and plantains.
All this in a lovely day-and-a-half trek – 5 meals, camping, 2 guides, good conversation, sunrise and set, lots of water, Tang – for $55.
The hike was brutal, but as always, very rewarding and well worth the $55, the sweat, the blisters and the 3 days of hobbling around afterwards. I highly recommend Quetzal Trekkers (they’ve got Guatemala hikes as well) if you’re not a person who expects to be babied. Bonus that the money’s going to a great cause.
I’m back in Masaya, Nicaragua now, hanging out with the folks at Casa-Nica … and writing, reading and drinking coffee. I can’t be exciting all the time, people! And besides, this book isn’t going to write itself.
Any recommendations for other wonderful hikes in Nica or elsewhere in Central America? This has only reminded me that I need to keep moving. I see another trek in my near future.