Nicaragua Day 10: Volcano Concepcion

Climbed Volcano Concepcion on Monday. Had a very greasy breakfast of an omelet which cost C$50 (US$2.30 or so). It was more like an extremely deep-fried and salty egg with toppings, dripping in oil.

Concepcion was a good experience. I gave the guide, Carlos, C$500 for about 5 hours, a pretty reasonable sum I'd say. He first drove me on a motorcycle to the trailhead. Then we walked along a relatively flat, tree-shaded path lined with farms and ranches on both sides. Occasionally a cowboy (dressed the part too) with a few heads of cattle would pass us by. This was an extremely shady and picturesque trail, and I enjoyed it. We stopped at an extremely gigantic and old tree that was buried half-deep by the lava flow in what was apparently 1946 if my Spanish was correct.

Then we started ascending through great, pristine, untouched forest with no rubbish in sight. Make no mistake, this doesn't look like a primary rainforest though. There is evidence of some human activity, just that it's very clean and free of unsightly plastic bags and the like. Saw wild banana trees and lots of tangly vines and roots which we used as useful supports for going up. It was tough, I wouldn't lie. Took several breaks and wondered where the climb would end. My thighs were sore and I still felt a bit weak after that bout of dengue fever a couple of days ago.

Tree cover became sparser and sparser as we went up. Tree height decreased and the layers of vegetation thinned too. Finally, we emerged out of the tree line into a very windy slope sparsely covered in grass.

This was it. We had reached the end-point. 1300m out of about 1600m, the height of the volcano. We weren't allowed to go any further because of toxic gases and the fact that the last part involves dangerous scrambling up loose volcanic rock against what seemed to be gale-force winds. I'm glad we stopped there though. You see, I was tired and the sight of the peak, looming high above, was pretty discouraging.

Took the public bus back to Moyogalpa. And like all public bus trips, this one was crowded and full of colorful local characters. Had a great, clean shower and then took the bus again, a crowded experience, to Charco Verde.

Accomodation was pretty fully-occupied there because it was peak season, so I had no choice but to cough up the US$15 Hostal Chico Largo was asking for a dorm bed in a terrible room, including dinner and breakfast. I was angry that they blatantly charged so much more than the going rate (which was about US$4, without any food, and food doesn't cost that much here anyway). The shower did not even have a strong enough water flow for any substantial washing of one's body. Thankfully I had already showered. Had already made up my mind to be a mindful consumer and write something about this on TripAdvisor when I saw the sunset.

My worries and frustration melted away as I stared at the amazing orange hue of the evening sky and its reflection on the calm waters of the lake. Coupled with the frequent strong breezes and an almost ethereal light, I was starting to see why this is called a 'magical island'.

Dinner was pretty good too. It was substantial and definitely worth at least US$5. Really fresh fish and other tasty morsels. And it appeared that I was going to have the entire dorm to myself, so really, I got a private room with the price I paid.

Morning. Wow. Strong breezes and magical light moments again. Volcan Concepcion, just seemingly behind the hostel, never looked so incredible. And I saw lots of birdlife, in assorted colors (blue birds, yellow birds, and white big ones - ok, I need to brush up on my knowledge of bird species), flying from tree to tree, darting along the waterfront mangroves. Beautiful. It was another one of those 'million dollar view for a couple of US dollars' moment in Nicaragua that seem to happen so often along this trip.