We hadn’t even emptied Cerro Negro out of our shoes before we were off up another volcano; Volcán Telica. It’s a popular sunset spot but there’s also an option for camping and we do love a spot of camping. A couple of agencies run this tour, we went with Volcano Day on account of the fact they provide a backpack so you can carry your camping shit up the hill. We looked into Bigfoot but you have to provide the bag yourself which begs the question, “Well where the fuck do I leave the rest of my crap then?”
We rocked up and were given huge backpacks with a sleeping bag each, a mat each, and a two human tent. We piled our own stuff on top including six whole litres of water per person which is fucking heavy anyway but that’s what they recommend you bring, and the gear is obviously not of the high end, technical gear-snob variety that we favour when we hike back home. You certainly wouldn’t be perusing this shit on ultralight outdoor gear dot com. It was one hike and one night, I’m sure we’d cope. Can’t say the same for our aging knees, mind.
Right then, so there’d be three campers, one day tripper and three guides; Owen, Nercy and Ezequiel. We were bundled into a 4×4 and driven to the trailhead though they did start to turn around when we were halfway there because Ezequiel forgot to bring lunch. We all agreed we’d be fine with vegetables rather than going all the way back to León. Fuck it, it’s a 24 hour period, we could cope without devouring the flesh of something dead.
The car took us as far as it could, we all jumped out and loaded ourselves up and off we fucked. This first section from where we were dropped to the place we’d be having lunch was technically easy, it was only 4 kilometres and there was a bit of uphill but not much. Why, then, did I find it so fucking hard? The heat? The weight? The fact I’ve pretty much been incapable of even small hills since I got ill last year? I mean, I say incapable, clearly I CAN do them but not without puffing like a fucking steam train to the point people comment on it. Well I’ve got to breathe haven’t I, mate? Plus before I got ill I actually enjoyed the hills in some perverse way but now? No. I’d really rather not, thank you. But I wanted to camp on a volcano so here we were.
It was meant to take an hour to get to the lunch stop. It took us two. Pete, a Dutch guy, was also really struggling, I thought he’d give up at one point but fair play to him, he carried on. We’d taken a lot of breaks, the guides we really patient with us all to be fair. Not once did we feel rushed or under pressure to go faster. I mean, not that I could have done. I was fucked. Lunch was actually a lovely wrap with pureed beans, chopped salad, cream cheese and crushed corn chips, because of course Nicaragua has a packaged version of pureed beans. They’re actually a bit of a game changer, we’d probably seek this out in supermarkets for our own packed lunches.
The next section wasn’t something we were looking forward to, this is where shit got steep. Ezequiel told us it was just twenty minutes and we were like, really? Twenty of your young person minutes or twenty actual minutes? Twenty minutes. Ha. It took an hour. I forgot what it felt like to breathe normally. This was not fun but we made it to the end of the steep bit and the guys started collecting firewood so we can’t be too far from the end now, right?
Right. We swung by a lookout with a cracking view of Volcán Telica before heading to the campsite. It’s actually a lovely place to set up camp complete with firepits and a shelter with a long table you can prep food on and eat at. There’s a pit toilet but it looks like a spider will bite your arse if you sat on it so I just wandered off to have a wee with a view of an active volcano belching steam and sulphur. Epic. We pitched our tents, I noticed a few little holes in the floor but they shouldn’t pose too much of a problem should they? Nah, should be fine. We chucked some water in a small bag and headed up the last little bit to the crater.
Guys, this was incredible. This was worth the pain of getting here. You can hear the roar of the lava and when the wind blows the steam away you can see the hole. You can’t see the lava like you can at Masaya but this is still pretty fucking awesome in the genuine sense of the word. The sulphur is strong though, so fucking strong which isn’t ideal when the only way you can get up a hill these days is by gulping massive quantifies of air into your lungs as it tends to result in gagging. I had my Bigfoot bandana from the Volcano Boarding so I wrapped that around my chops and… hang on, how did these other people get here?
Yeah so it turns out there’s a whole other way up that doesn’t involve five hours (okay so it should have been three but shut up) of torture that no fucker told us about when we booked. It’s steeper but it’s a lot shorter and I was pretty pissed off that we weren’t given that option. I voiced my annoyance to their guide, they were also with Volcano Day, and she responded with a nonchalant, “Yeah but you had a good day though?” Tarrant’s Britishness kicked in and she replied that of course we had. I looked at her incredulously. Well I’m fucking glad one of us did, my beloved! So that annoyed me a bit. One of their group was meant to be camping with us but she bottled it at the last minute.
We walked to a bat cave but the way down was pretty scrambly so we didn’t bother. I slipped a few times and I’ve seen loads of bats, I don’t need to risk a broken face just to see more. There wasn’t a fiery skyball show to speak of but the view was still astounding so we enjoyed that before we bid farewell to the other group as they and our daytripper headed back down the short way. I might have glared a little bit.
It started to rain a bit but nothing ridiculous, enough so it was a ballache for Ezequiel to light the fire but he got it done. We just hung out by the fire, drying off some wood by the flame for later, as Ezequiel and Nercy (Owen had gone back down with our daytripper) sorted out our dinner which was basically a repeat of lunch but this time with a baquette instead of a wrap. It was lovely, I’m not going to lie, I don’t like tomatoes and Tarrant doesn’t like onions but somehow, when they’re finely chopped and chucked in with some tinned sweetcorn it just works. After dinner we toasted marshmallows, a first for Pete, and chatted until the rain started up again. It was heavy enough this time to send us fleeing to the dining hut where we were joined by another group who’d pitched up in another part of the site.
The poor fire took a battering but we were all dry enough under the shelter and we just carried on chatting. The other group were really lovely too and when the rain stopped and Pete managed to revive the fire we all gathered around it. Buuuut Nicaragua decided now was the time to activate Rainy Season. We’d barely seen any wet shit falling from the sky since we got here though May is supposed to be when it starts. Of course it’d kick in when we were up a fucking hill staying in a tent for the night. Tarrant headed to bed at the start of the downpour but I stuck it out until it got heavier. It was a bit too much so I bid the others goodnight and headed off.
I ducked into the tent and Tarrant greeted me with those words every girl wants to hear when you’re up a volcano in the Tropical rain: “The tent isn’t waterproof”. She pointed out the water streaming, not dripping, actually streaming in through the seams. Oh good. We double dry-bagged anything we didn’t want to get wet and pretty much assumed we wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight. The rain just got heavier, the ground was hydrophobic after being dry for so long so nothing was draining, water was just pooling under and around the tent until the point the groundsheet was basically a fucking waterbed. Remember those? Or, more relevantly, remember the holes in the floor I’d noticed earlier?
It wasn’t long before we were lying in about a centimetre of water. We were wet. Our sleeping bags were wet. Everything was fucking wet and the rain wasn’t showing any signs of easing so Tarrant made the executive decision to abandon the tent and retreat to the dining hut which involved splashing through ankle deep water, upsetting the frogs as we went. There were shit loads of frogs, the sound of their croaking almost drowned out the rain. I said almost. The dining hut had a tin roof which actually looked relatively new so you can imagine the racket but it didn’t leak so we’ll take it. The floor was flooded but that was fine, we’d be on the table. Tarrant went back to retrieve our mats and we set up camp as a frog swam underneath us.
It wasn’t actually entirely unpleasant to be fair. We got to watch the sheet lighting light up the whole place for fractions of seconds and fireflies darted around the campsite. We even got some sleep when the rain finally stopped after two hours though the table was very narrow so we had to hope our unconsciousness selves didn’t try to turn over. I usually thrash around in my sleep like I’m fighting off dragons so it was a bit bum-clenchy but my brain saw fit to wake me up every time I wanted to move so that kind of worked. I mean, I was fucking shattered but at least I didn’t fall off the table.
In the morning when I told Ezequiel the tent wasn’t waterproof he insisted it was because he checked it so I ended up insisting he have a fucking look at how wet everything was inside. The flooding around the site had drained so there was only our word for how bad it was but the inside of the tent was still soaked. I think what pissed me off the most about this was the complete lack of fucks given by the guides and, later, the staff back at Volcano Day. There was no apology and when we handed the tent back and told them it wasn’t waterproof they just sort of shrugged. They didn’t even bother asking where it was letting water in so they could fix it so I’m going to assume they’ll just give it to some other hapless tourist to haul up a volcano which is fine if you can guarantee it won’t rain but at this time of year that’s not a promise you can make.
Anyway. ANYWAY! Just breathe, no one died and soon we’d be back in León which is hotter than dragon breath so everything would dry. After breakfast with another stunner of a view we headed back down, thankfully via the short path. Even Nercy said if she was told we’d be going back the way we came she was going to stay there. It was steep but it’s only 1.3 kilometres from the crater view so we were down in no time and were bundled into a 4×4 which bounced us back to town.
Was it worth it? I mean, yes, it was. Obviously several things fucked me right off but I’ve since found out that the guides Volcano Day use are often unpaid volunteers. Tarrant did ask if they were good to work for and the guides just completely avoided eye contact, looked at the floor and changed the subject which I think speaks volumes. I don’t know what the other outfits are like but hey, you’re going on a tour in a developing nation in the rainy season. It’s not going to go swimmingly unless your a literal frog.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Volcán Telica, León Department, Nicaragua
Stayed at: Campsite on Volcán Telica
Useful shit to know…
- We used Volcano Day as they were US$5 cheaper than Bigfoot and they provided the backpack whereas Bigfoot didn’t. That was the clincher.
- It cost US$60 each which included lunch, dinner, breakfast, the guides, the camping equipment, photos and videos, and a free drink and t-shirt when we got back.
- All we had to supply was six litres of water, sunscreen, personal items such as sleepwear and toiletries, and whatever we wanted to drink at the top.
- The equipment is not in good nick. The first bag they gave Tarrant was broken. The zip on my sleeping bag was totally fucked so it was actually a quilt and not a sleeping bag. The sleeping mats were very thin albeit fine for one night. Obviously our tent fucking leaked but Pete’s tent and the guides’ tent were fine.
- Rather than paying for a room we weren’t going to use we locked our stuff up at Volcano Day’s office in Via Via.
- It’s worth noting that Volcano Day will bribe you with a free t-shirt in exchange for a favourable review so the reviews you see may not be entirely accurate.