Conquering Conception Volcano
Ryan Priest, September 2, 2012
Beep, Beep. Beep, Beep. Beep, Beep. I role over in my hammock, take out my watch, and read the glowing 4:15am digits. Ughh… I think. It’s drizzling out and all I can think of is wishing that Sean has overslept in his tent so I can get a few more hours of shut-eye. Thirty seconds pass and my snoring synchronizes with nature’s symphony of howler monkeys, frogs, geckos, and thousands of other sounds circulating throughout the jungle. Instantly, I’m woken by the kitchen light and the clanking of pots and pans as Sean begins cooking up the morning’s breakky. I hop out of my hammock and scarf down eggs, beans, and toast while making my way to the street to catch the early bus.
While sitting on my usual street-side stone and watching the night sky dissipate away, I absorb the energy of the village as locals begin their morning routines. Woman are already scrubbing clothes, men with machetes at the hip are galloping on horses, and children are slowly cycling passed at search for neighbor playmates. Honkkk Honkkk Honkkk! I can already hear the magic school bus in the distance. As the blue, green, yellow, purple colored bus comes to a halt at my feet, other villagers scurry up behind me and hop on.
Nicaraguan jams are blasting throughout the busted speakers as the driver weaves in and out of cows, chickens, and dogs gathering along the roads. The amber sun is just peaking over the lake and electrifying the waves crashing on the shore. Sean and I jump off the bus in a tiny town at search for the volcano’s entrance. 99% of tourists choose to take a guide up the rumbling volcano, since it’s supposedly the most dangerous activity on the island, but yesterday we had decided to make it our own daring adventure.
After thirty minutes through the village, we greet an elderly man standing beside a carved wooden sign, stating that it’s the volcano’s entrance. While chatting to him through his foggy, broken glasses, I begin to explain my rehearsed speech about managing a hotel on the island and knowing the volcano’s path very well. With a sincere smile, he allows us to pass without a guide and we begin our journey up the 5,200FT roaring mountain. ‘That was easy’, I thought.
The trail begins within the forest weaving throughout monkeys howling in the trees, skittish little lizards prancing over rocks, and birds soaring overhead. As we reach a clearing above the treetops, a beautiful view of the island unfolds and Maderas Volcano stands clear in the distance. With clouds hovering just above, we can make out the jagged curves of the crater holding a mystic lagoon. While staring off into the distance in complete silence, an indescribable zen-like energy resonates throughout my body. ‘There’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be,’ I think to myself. We begin again, leap by leap, climbing higher and higher up the steep path through the sea of infinite alien looking plants.
The moment is approaching as green has faded away, and 50 meters of sharp volcanic rocks lay before us as we scurry up the steep slope like hyenas closing in on its prey. A feeling unlike anything I have ever experienced takes over my body as I race to the crater’s edge and peer into the pummeling sulphuric smoke rising to the infinite atmosphere above. Sean and I sit on the lip of the crater, stunned and in awe of the island below. An oasis of peace in the shape of a perfect hourglass. As a cloud to the left clears before our eyes, a stunning volcano appears across the lake and beams golden-orange in the morning sunlight. Mumbacho Volcano, towering at the lake’s edge, seems like a kingdom in the heavens. Nearly two hours have passed, and thick clouds begin to blanket around, giving us motivation to begin the steep climb down the mountain. Our day ends with a swim in the refreshing lake, gazing up at Conception Volcano, and reflecting on one of the most amazing adventures of our lives.
Are you ready for this Adventure?!
If you think that you are ready, a local guide is highly recommended. Otherwise, experienced hikers can take the bus to La Sabana, which is a small town near the popular city, Altagracia. From the bus stop, follow the wide dirt road all the way to a fork in the road, and take the path right. Continue on and you will come to a wooden sign that states that it’s Conception Volcano’s Entrance and a $2 fee is required. This should be about a 45 minute walk from the street. From there, the only way is up! This path is extremely steep, slippery, and dangerous. Most likely, there will be high winds at the top and you must be very cautious when viewing the crater. It should take you around three hours to reach the top at a fast pace and nearly three hours down at a slow pace. This will be an experience of a lifetime!