When I left Leon my wolf pack had grown by two – each of them also Canadian. We took a cheap shuttle van to the fork in the road for Masaya and Granada. One of the many nice things about Nicaragua is that rules are a little more relaxed. I drank beer in the back seat and I learned that red lights are more like suggestions. The reason we got out shy of any major town is because we were aiming for a famous fresh-water crater called Laguna de Apoyo. From the fork we hitched a chicken bus to Catarina and then hiked down into the crater. This was my first encounter with what may be considered jungle but I still only saw one average looking, yet freakishly mobile, snake. We settled in a hostel called Paradiso, and it certainly lived up to it’s name. The owner’s, a lovely married couple, kept the place clean but otherwise didn’t give a shit about anything. In fact, 3 guys from the night before drank them under the table and out of beer. As a result, my group of 3 and the returning group of 3 had to make a beer run to the small hut that served as a restaurant/convenient store. Some of the guys also bought rum (cheap and smooth in Nicaragua) and shared it generously.
When we got back I threw a couple of beers in a kayak and paddled around the lagoon until sunset. Afterwards, I went for a swim and then joined the festivities. I ventured to the upper deck to chat with 3 German girls (everyone travelling in groups of 3) while the guys below played punk music and snorted lines of coke off the bar. When the guys below finally gave out I went back down for a skinny dip. I was warned that a witch haunted the lagoon but I had a wand of my own to protect me.
In the morning one of the wolves stayed behind and other Andrew and I continued on to Granada and then to San Jorge to hop a ferry to Isla de Ometepe. En route we met a Brit named Paul and he joined us that night in the hostel and in the morning we all made the attempt at La Concepcion, the larger of the two volcanoes on the island.
I don’t know how much horizontal distance we had to cover but the vertical climb was around 1600m. You are supposed to hire a guide to take you up but we figured a few fit guys could manage – though in all honesty I immediately doubted the fitness of the other two. I have a tendency to hammer out a solid hiking pace and in my guidebook it said the climb should take between 10-12 hours. As we got to the trailhead at 7:30am I was quite anxious to get a move on. I kept loosing the other two in the jungle and had to wait for them to catch up. In the morning the mountain was completely engulfed in a thick, wet fog. We broke the tree line but couldn’t see anything. Paul and I made a push towards the top but lost the trail and our confidence and so we decided to turn back. After a small decent we we passed by a guided group heading up. Paul continued down but other Andrew and I both chipped in a few bucks to tag along. After about another 1.5 hours we got to the peak. The top itself was a bit lacklustre due to the lack of view but the cumulative effort and ominous environment made it worth while. On the way down the clouds did clear and we were treated to spectacular views of the island and Lake Nicaragua.
Andrew and I ditched the group on the decent and ran down through the jungle to try and salvage the day. We got back to the trail head at about 2pm. Unfortunately we weren’t able to hitch a ride as we had done on the way out and the 4km walk in the blinding sun resulted in heat exhaustion for me. I spent the rest of the day in a hammock and then went to bed around 8pm. I woke up at 3am and couldn’t sleep so I went back to the semi-covered hammock and listened to Ben Howard until the tree roosters started calling. It is a strange sight to look over a railing and see 10 roosters perched on a different branch in the same tree doing their otherwise usual rooster thing.
I was revived slightly by a gatorade and some “ibuprofeno” in the morning. I felt like enough of a human to get myself to San Juan del Sur, a party town on the Pacific and a hot spot for surfing. It would be my final stop.