17.08.2011 - 19.08.2011
The night before before picking up my passport, me, a few Americans from the hostel and a couple of local girls prematurely celebrated by drinking plenty of Toñas (the national beer) and hitting up a karaoke bar. All the locals took it very seriously and were really quite good, I asked them to whack on a bit of The Beatles and murdered A Hard Day's Night. Disappointingly no-one seemed to pay any attention.
I collected my passport the next morning (paying a further $7 for the pleasure) and got the ninety minute bus north-west to the old colonial city of León. I checked into Bigfoot Hostel, a typical gringo hangout and set about to explore the city while waiting for the other lads to arrive. I got about fifty metres down the road before Chris ran into me, telling me that the others were in the process of organising a two-day hike up a volcano. I fancied some of that action so signed up as well.
At six the next morning we headed over to the Quetzal Trekkers (the tour agency we were hiking with) office where we ate loads of eggs and loaded our rucksacks up with eight litres of water, as we were informed that there would be nowhere to get any more from for the next thirty six hours. It turns out that eight litres of water weighs a fair amount. After rousing the ire of locals as we were forced to shove our rucksacks in their faces in order to board a bus, we headed to the base of Volcano Telica. Telica is one in a string of volcanoes near León, and one of the most active. The first four hours of the hike were mercifully under shade and on the flat. But once we left the cover of trees and began the ascent things got pretty sweaty, like dripping sweaty. The final forty five minutes was a brutal scramble up the side of the volcano to a plateau where we would make our camp. But before doing so we dropped out gear and headed up to the crater, feeling like we were almost flying without all the weight. At the crater there was a shear drop of about a hundred and fifty metres from the precarious overhang on which we knelt. The roar of escaping sulphuric gasses was like that of a jet engine and the glow of the lava in the base of the crater gave the impression you were looking into the centre of the Earth. The crater itself was, apparently, seven hundred metres in diameter and despite our best efforts, no-one was able to land a rock in the pool of lava below. After gazing at this for about half an hour, we headed down to make camp.
After a spot of dinner, cooked over a fire for which we had earlier collected wood (and carted up the volcano) we set about to climb the crater again in the dark. Seeing the lava for a second time, in the dark, was even more incredible. The roar again was constant but the glow was much more intenense, and we were now able to see little balls of lava being fired out from the centre. Back at camp, and sat around the campfire, we began to hear a slow, loose chomping. When someone shone a torch in the direction of the sound, the sight was that of a young cow chewing on the top of one of the girls in our group, and staring straight at us. Ten minutes of Benny Hill-style chasing followed until the shirt, complete with a fat wad of cud, was pulled from the cow's mouth. We thought that to be the end of it, but repeatedly through the night cows invaded the camp trying to steal anything they could get their mouths on.
This photo of the lava is courtesy of Chris.
The next morning we made our way down the volcano through uncontrolled forest, making for uncomfortable going. Soon everyone was just wishing to be down at the bottom and removing our rucksacks and boots. Just after midday we made it to a restaurant where we ate and waited for the bus back to town. Somehow, despite being exhausted we managed to muster the strength to knock back a bottle of 7 year Flor de Caña (some say the best rum in the world, me being one of them) and get well pissed.