AdventureCentral AmericaNicaragua

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 – Isla de Ometepe

Volcan Concepción
One of the main reasons we wanted to come to Isla de Ometpe was to climb one of its two volcanos: Volcan Concepción is 1610 meters tall, and lush green with a cloud-topped peak. I have a friend who was here a few years ago, though he was on a “Search and Recovery” mission to find and return the bodies of two missing American hikers. Chris made me promise that if we did the volcano we would (1) get a guide, and (2) leave really early.

He wasn’t kidding. The hotel’s tour dictated a 6AM departure, which is exactly when our guide Douglas – a very stoic-looking young man – met us to leave. We stopped at a little coffee shop along the way for caffeine (sort of a roadside Starbucks, except in someone’s front yard and without the couches and the wi-fi) and then continued up the bumpy road to the main road and then to the volcano.

The problem is that when we got to the turn-off to the volcano road, the truck stopped before the turnoff and our driver had a brief conversation with Douglas. Douglas looked back at us and said, “Truck can’t make it. We’ll walk from here.”

Um. Okay.

We were originally game for a nice stroll up the road. But this wasn’t a stroll. This was a long, long walk. Douglas estimated a 2KM road, but Mindy noted that it took us almost an hour to walk it. We swore we’d Google Map it and measure the distance, though I doubt we’ll ever be able to locate this non-descript dirt road at the base of the volcano.

*** NOTE: Something weird has happened to my camera, and auto-focus only works on occasion. Apologies for the blurry photos! ***

Oxen cart on the local dirt road

Walking uphill

After a seemingly endless hike we finally reached the base of the mountain and began the steep walk up. It was not going to be an easy day – the “trail” was hardly a “trail”, and the way would only get steeper as the hours went on. But it was interesting. Howler monkeys barked in the distance and the rain forest had some lovely flora and fauna. Of course we were breathing too hard to actually pay any attention to it, but I’m sure it would have been lovely if we had actually cared.

Mindy, climbing



We passed from rain forest, to grasslands, to a steep, rocky waterbed. And after about 700 meters I decided this was hardly a “hike” and much more like a “climb”. Much of the time we used hands, arms, and legs to get from one rocky area to another, and we lost the need to talk hours before when the climb got really steep. We were sweating, breathing hard, and the phrase “blood pounding through the ears” became much more meaningful.

Blurry Mindy, climbing up the riverbed

Volcan Maderas

(blurry) Mindy and Shannon on a scenic break

Happy Shannon, taking time for a photo break

Douglas, though not so great as a guide (no first aid kit, not so much with the before-hike briefing that should have included something like “Oh, here’s what the poison ivy looks like. Try not to touch it.”) at least kept us informed on our progress. He let us know when we reached 700 meters, 800 meters (the halfway point), and then 1000 meters. The volcano was 1600m, but we knew we wouldn’t make it all the way to the top – especially not when we wasted an hour walking up the darn dirt road. We set the cloud line as a goal and agreed to go 200 more meters.

At 1200 Meters

(pic on Shannon’s camera)

That was it, though. We finished our lunches of a really heinous ham and cheese sandwich, delicious watermelon, and a passable cookie. And then we began the long climb down. This part, though faster than the uphill, was just as difficult because of the steep, slippery stepping down the mountain. Lots of quads and core. And balance. And the sun was high up and very, very hot. We were feeling every step.

Climb down through the grasslands
But at least we at least got to enjoy some of the mountain a bit more. After we reached the grasslands I rounded a rock and stopped to take in the gorgeous view, and just a few feet away was a huge black-headed vulture sunning itself on the rock. We quietly stopped to watch it for a while and Shannon got some great pictures. Then it flew away and we continued our trek.

(pic by Shannon)
We finally reached the bottom of the volcano and the long dirt road back to civilization. On the way we saw spiders, poison ivy (again, it would have been nice to know what this looked like so I could have avoided getting it on my wrists), howler monkeys, and then the cows, horses, and roosters of the local villages.

Howler Monkey


Mindy was funny, “I feel like I’ve lost all control of my legs.” Our muscles were so fatigued that the walk on the flat(ter) dirt road made our legs jello-y and loose, so all three of us were walking funny.

At the hotel we showered, read, and bided our time until we could eat again.
Me: “I have an idea. Let’s go for an early dinner and then come back here to read and relax.”
Mindy: “That’s a great idea. But we should probably wait until it’s closer to 5:00.”
Me: “What? It’s not 5:00? What time is it?”
Mindy: “4:20.”

LOL – 4:20?! It felt like 6:00. What a long, long, day. And I was starving.

Mindy, peeking over the hammock
But we waited until 5:00 and then went to the hostel next door for dinner and beers, and then we trudged back to the hotel. We were in bed by 7:30 and asleep with lights out at 8:30. Totally exhausted.

View from the hostel

Exhausted hikers