Hiking Telica Volcano

Sitting poolside with a beautiful cup of coffee at our splurge hotel is a nice place to write about how great it was to hike up an active volcano last night.
We started our day pounding the Leon pavement in search of lunch and ended up eating in our favorite of places, the lively market behind the cathedral.
So this is a a little bit like a giant crock pot.  It's a giant metal tub that is layered with meats, yucca, plantain, vegetables, surrounded by banana leaves then slow cooked over a fire for 6 hours.  We had a few other dishes as well, each costing about $1.75 making it a $6 for the entire family.  The portions in Nicaragua are so enormous we usually only need to order 3 plates.  The market is sweltering, loud, crowded, and has no shortage of flies that you need to continually swat away, but I love it and will eat here every day.  Regardless of the discomfort and risk of getting sick street food is, hands down, our favorite way to eat when traveling.

Our hotel booked our tour to hike the Telica Volcano.  We had a knowledgeable and friendly guide who really knew what he was doing.  As a bonus he spoke really good English, which was unusual for us to experience in a tour guide.  We usually have a Spanish speaking guide and get our information and questions answered with my Spanish and a lot of hand gestures.  

Not wanting to pay for a cheesy tour I had been googling how to hike this volcano independently, a search that turned up nothing.  A guide and a major 4wd Land Rover type of rugged vehicle is a 100% absolute necessity as we soon found out.

The road itself is something to write about.  The paved portion is about 30 minutes then you turn off road into seriously rugged terrain, the kind of single track, twisting, steep, giant rock strewn trail that people at home dream about running their ATVs or mountain bikes on.  I used two hands in a death grip on the  hand holds inside the vehicle to withstand the turbulence.  Impossible to take pictures, but I could take just this one of how narrow it was in the beginning when we shared it with some farm animals.
So that's the calm and easy part.  But the guide stopped for a good photo op along the road of the volcano we are about to hike.

The real fun begins at the base of the volcano, where the guide tells you that there are no fences at a the crater and he shows you the safest way to approach the edge of the cauldron of death.  And you get to take a picture of this foreboding sign.
The hike up zigs and zags over loose rocks for 2.5 ankle twisting and cardiac arrest inducing miles.  Really hard ya'll.  For me anyway.  My kids had no problem whatsoever, even in the Crocs (yes, Crocs) worn by the 16 year old who knows everything.  Hiking a volcano in Crocs, really.  

Since I felt like dying nearly the whole 45 minute way up I could only manage this one picture of Luis.  This doesn't look hard but I am telling you that climbing up rocks at 3500 feet is a challenge if you are me.
At the top the edge of this crater is the reward.  You can hear the lava and smell the sulfur and there are no regulations on getting as close as you are crazy to get.  We all crawled on our bellies to look into the eye of the dragon.

The next treat was a walk over to a really cool bat cave in a crevice in the volcano. If you are terrified of bats you will freak out because they are flittering and swarming over your head the entire time.  But they don't bother you and they generally stay above your head.  
You can't tell from this picture, but there are hundreds of bats flying all around our heads. Emerging from the cave we find a nice spot to watch the sunset and eat a little sandwich.  Not just any sunset, but one with the Pacific Ocean on the left, rain falling on the distant right, and a chain of volcanoes straight on.
How lucky am I to experience this with my family! After sunset, we hike back to the rim to try to get a glimpse of lava if it's not clouded by gasses.  We belly crawl to the edge and look down and when the gas clouds part glowing magma shows itself, so incredible!  We hang out in that position for several more lava showings punctuated by gazing up into an amazing night sky.  A surprise came when we heard a loud rumbling, liquid rock moving, death is imminent sound.  We backed away immediately expecting a firework spout of molton lava to attack us, which of course did not happen.  But it sounded like it was going to! Either that or the rim was about to crumble into itself beneath our prone bodies.  Either way, we took the advice of the guide and decided to leave.  Making our way down 2.5 miles of strewn rocks in the pitch dark (with flashlights) was challenging of course, and then there was the motocross track to get through for the next hour.  We arrived safely back at the hotel after 7 hours of crazy fun. 

I leave you with this beautiful shot of Maya who I pray feels as free as she looks.

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