It was me, Marie, and Julia. I was at the back again, because for all intents and purposes it was my first time on Telica. The hike felt new with clients, and the heavy packs made a huge difference; when we arrived at camp I couldn’t imagine continuing on the rest of the way down. We took longer breaks, and collected firewood, which made the steep ascent to the crater much more difficult. I already have a lot of pictures of the crater, so I got bored this time and switched my camera to “dramatic setting”, which made for some crazy shots.
Unfortunately there were no wild horses in camp that day. It’s possible that the first couple hikers scared them off and by the time I got there they had all scrammed (I had to hang around with the lagging crater enthusiasts who couldn’t get enough of staring down into the pit… every time a client posed for a picture next to the crater all I saw was a stupid tourist with a goofy, clueless smile across his face standing in a precarious position seconds away from falling to their death and me being fired for negligence. All I could really do though was say “you guys ready to head down yet? No jumping pictures!”)
As we were setting up tents, I realized that for the THIRD time in a row, I had carried, or someone had carried an extra tent, I was pretty pissed off because I had originally intended to sleep out just in my sleeping bag since I have such a warm bag, so an extra tent was just way too excessive. At first I refused to even set it up, but then Marie and Julia convinced me when they said there were snakes at the campsite. So I got a tent all to myself.
We chilled out at the campsite for a bit and tossed around a Frisbee while a dramatic, deep gray cumulous cloud descended over Telica’s crater. It looked like a slow motion eruption and everyone was momentarily concerned but then lapsed back into their camp leisure activities. Dinner was put on and it started to get pretty cold. This was the first trip that I hadn’t brought my leggings, and it was the first trip that I needed them. So I just sat really, really close to the fire.
The clients were pretty cool, and good to talk to. We were 12 people from 9 different countries. I spent a lot of the walk just discussing and debating differences in culture, educational systems, government, food, lifestyles, immigrant communities, etc. among our wide array of homelands.
Once it got dark, we made our second climb up the crater, to see the lava glow. You can’t see the red color in he daylight, so this was my first real lava experience It really is bright bright red! A mound of bubbling scarlet popping and searing in the very deepest point of the pit, as bright as a car’s taillights.
The lava- not easy to get a great shot of this.
I didn’t stay at the edge long. The crater is one hundred times scarier at night, not because of the visibly tangible heat the volcanic activity, but because you can’t see the edge in the dark. We all had headlamps, but it’s very easy to trudge up the hill staring only at your feet, unable to benefit from long range vision, and therefore it’s very hard to tell how close to the edge you are until you suddenly see it only a couple of feet away. I couldn’t help thinking how incredible easy it would be to just not notice you had gotten to the edge and topple right over.
Instead of lying at the edge and gazing at the bright glow below like every single client (stress!), I lied on my back 10 feet away from the edge and gazed at the bright glow of the grand display for stars. The sky was saturated with them- it was possibly the starriest sky I’ve ever seen. Towards the horizon, the heavens faded into a pollutions smeared haze and then the lights of Managua twinkled as a second bed of stars.
Back at the campsite, we made s’mores for desert and like ussula I surprised myself by gobbling down about 5 and then finishing off another packet of chocolate cookies (they’re graham cracker and chocolate, the perfect quick s’more cookie). The wind had been picking up all evening, and by the time we went to bed the tents were flapping hard. At this point I was tired and relieved that I had set up my tent and had the whole thing to myself. Despite the obnoxious clamor of the wind, I fell deeply asleep in an instant and slept like a baby until- “Emma! Emma!” I blinked blearily out of a luscious dream, wrapped deliciously in my too warm sleeping bag for once because of the cooler than average temperatures.
A tremendous splitting crack startled me completely awake and I realized that the wind had intensified throughout the night and was now practically ripping my tent apart with poles thwacking and fabric slapping fiercely in all directions. Aware now that the person calling my name was real and not a part of my dream, I sluggishly unzipped the tent door to see two of our clients looking wildly desperate and wind bashed.
“Our tent was destroyed! Can we sleep with you?!” “Uh, ok, yeah!” I mumbled and in a daze moved all the crap I had spread out over the spacious interior. Their tent was destroyed? I was too sleepy to be very curious and just a little pissed off by the disturbance. I spent the rest of the night squeezed up against the flapping and bashing side of the tent, two bodies tossing and turning next to me… thank god I brought the extra tent. For much of the rest of the night sweet slumber eluded me.
The next morning I saw the remains of our nice Marmot tent: a pole had somehow pierced through the roof of the tent and the rain fly, another pole had snapped in half, and the entire structure was a sad deformed tipi like clump. While Julia started the fire for breakfast, Marie and I took the clients up the ridge for sunrise. It was a bit cloudy and nowhere near as spectacular as the sun coming up behind Momotombo on El Hoyo, but it was made dramatically artistic by plumes of rolling smoky clouds which seemed to float along the ground.
The way back down the mountain was more or less a long day of slogging through dust, with a few exciting moments: First a cow decided to join us on the trail for a bit, and then a horse decided to join us for the last half hour of the hike, breaking through multiple barbwire fences in order to stick with the group.