Of course the first hike I lead was filmed for a promotional video. I wasn’t exactly supposed to lead it; Janet was technically the lead guide, but it was my fourth time on El Hoyo, so she gave me a chance to try to find my way up front. It was empowering to take on the role of lead guide, even though I knew that Janet was right behind me just in case. It was up to me to decide the right pace, where, when and how long we took breaks, and explain every stop and sight.
I took the wrong path twice. Both times I only took about 2 steps in the wrong direction before Janet stopped me and turned me around. At the campsite, Janet kindly took the task of making dinner while Raf and I lead the clients up to see the sinkhole, the fumerol, the crater, and the sunset ridge. I had only been to the fumerol and the crater once, but I managed to find them, thank god. More importantly, I kept everyone moving quickly enough to catch the sunset on time (widely noted as the best part of El Hoyo trips, for good reason). It’s a bit tricky to time- especially if you don’t have a watch- but we managed to arrive just in time for a particularly spectacular sunset; more importantly, the videographer arrived in time to film it. It make me so happy to share the beauty of El Hoyo! I think the clients had a great time. Each time I go on El Hoyo I fall more in love with it.
At the lunch spot in El Hoyo- I'm up top.
This panorama isn't exactly straight, but it's not exactly easy to hold the camera steady when the wind is blowing you to the ground.
In our tent.
blue blue blue blue blue
The smoke of Momotombo mingles with a cloud.
Nicaragua is such a creatively inspiring and stimulating country. Everywhere I turn I see something I want to paint. I went through a phase in Madison where I wasn’t feeling artistically inspired- there was nothing I felt compelled to express, to put on paper. Here it is entirely different. One of my favorite quotes from into the wild is “The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.” I believe that artistic inspiration is spurred by new experiences as well. Environments that we’re used to fade into the background- we don’t notice them anymore. If you’re sitting around at home staring at a blank sheet of paper, waiting for inspiration to come, it probably won’t.
There is a reason I liken so many things here to fairytales Everything I see is so different it feels unreal. Whether it’s a sweeping vista, a sun saturated cloud, potent colors of a Porro Porro tree against the cerulean sky... A homeless and crippled woman lying helpless on the street, a deformed street kid begging for money through the bars of a closed restaurant gate as you sit sipping wine with your European friends... The lilting smile of a young girl on a bus as she tilts her lit up face towards the open bus window, sunlight traced on her cheeks and black curls spinning wildly... the warmth of a Nica woman in a comedor, plump, genuine, and hardworking... A mangy street dog curled and whimpering in a drainage pit, an old, grand, twisting tree winding into the heavens with wide branches caressing the clouds.... Nicaragua pulls at your heartstrings every day, every moment. Your heart is saturated with emotion; it fills your body. It can be overwhelming, but it can be released through art.
On El Hoyo, I practically ran up the first hill. It’s clear that I’m getting in better shape; I weighed my pack for the first time on a trek and it was 22 kilos: about 50 pounds. During the first climb, the videographer (Aaron) didn’t do much filming; I think it required more concentration than he expected just to put one foot in front of the other. Instead, we chatted about Ortega between labored breaths. Aaron isn’t a huge fan- he thinks Ortega is much more of a dictator than he lets on and that he’s making a lot of underhanded deals with the U.S. No foreign investments or anything that would benefit the Nicaraguan people, but personal deals. He routinely gives out money and material things to citizens of Nicaragua (apparently a disproportionate amount of motorcycles), but those are short term handouts. What Nicaraguans need is work. On our drive to the Las Pilas-El Hoyo reserve, we are always passed by campesinos lugging huge loads of firewood, on their way back to Leon to sell it for the day. They head out at 3 or 4 in the morning and travel the entire way from Leon to forested areas, which are slowly dwindling due to the lack of regulation I mentioned in my Cosiguina entry. Jobs need to be made.
Another interesting fact I picked up from Aaron is that the bright pink billboard seen all over Nicaragua are actually sort of advertisements for Orega- his brother is in charge of putting them up, and they each display a picture of Ortega and a Sandinista slogan. In every public school, the children are required to say not only the pledge of allegiance to Nicaragua, but also the FSLN pledge of allegiance. That’s why you see so many youth at FSLN rallies.
At Lago de Asososca, I almost made Aaron lose his waterproof Go Pro camera, the kind you strap to your head so it takes a video as you “go.” I told him I had seen Nicas jumping off tree branches somewhere along the shore, and he seemed interested in getting a shot of that for the video. So, I scouted out where the spot was and he got some shots of me leaping off the tiny branch over the leaves and into the lake. It was so much fun that I wanted him to try it out. He was hesitant and concerned about breaking the branch, but eventually gave it a go, with the Go Pro strapped to his head. The instant the camera made contact with the water it slipped off, sunk, and was gone.
We dove and searched for what seemed like hours. The water was about 10 feet deep, so the pressure hurt my ears, and our lungs were getting tired. Finally Janet ran back to the beach to summon some fresh blood and returned with Jeff, a client who she proclaimed to be “Crocodile Dundee” and would surely find the camera. Janet guessed right. After two dives, his fist broke the surface of the water. He emerged, cool and collected with the camera clenched between his fingers. “You looking for this?”
It had been recording the whole time! I’m excited to see the footage of the lake floor, hands thrashing about inches from the screen, grasping at sticks, leaves and trash but missing the camera by inches. The film rolled on as we celebrated and congratulated Jeff. In all, the video will include clips from volcano boarding, hiking, sunrise and sunset at El Hoyo, and the lake. I think this is going to be a pretty cool video. I’ll post it when it comes out.
This is the tree we jumped from.