Oh, man. I thought I was going to be such a cool dude climbing this stupid volcano. I’d get to tell all you guys about how great it was to climb and how beautiful everything was and how everybody needs to climb a volcano at least once in their lives because I just did it and guys, for real, you really haven’t lived until you’ve done it.
I’m an idiot. It was awful. We met at 6:45am, took a bus to a trail, walked a couple miles through fields then started going straight uphill through the jungle on a steep, slippery path. I was the slowest. I’m in shape (so I thought) but I couldn’t keep up with the skinny little Chilean runners who made up the rest of my group. By the time we were about a quarter of the way up, I was wringing the sweat out of my shirt and I finished half of my water – about half a gallon. My legs started cramping up – I stopped having fun. The jungle stopped and turned into steep gravel. I haven’t been this miserable in a long time. For every three steps I took, I’d slide down two steps. At one point, I was sliding downhill – completely out of control – and realized I was about ten feet to the left of a very steep cliff. I was the second to the top – the first was Eduardo, the second slowest – and the only reason we beat the rest of the crew was because we were so far behind, the guide waited for us and the lead group went the wrong way. The top was a pyramid of gravel. We were in a cloud so we couldn’t see anything but the sense of accomplishment momentarily calmed my pain and rage. This all came flooding back tenfold when I realized we had to go back down the same way we came up. I don’t know why I thought we’d be going down some secret sloping moss covered path. I seriously had that fantasy. My heart sunk. The Chilean mountain goats were even faster going down than coming up. I ran out of water by the time we got to the jungle. My thoughts switched from pain to death. I started asking a lot of uncomfortable deep questions about myself. I think this hike broke me. I survived somehow. I have yet to feel any sense of accomplishment though. I think it might have just been an awful experience. I am a broken man. Conclusion? Volcanoes suck. Save yourself the pain – fill an industrial size dryer with sharp rocks, set it to high and jump in for 8 hours.
SO – I survived the volcano. Took the bus back, took a shower and caught the last chicken bus from Moyogalpa to Altagracia on the other side of the island in order to catch the 12:30 ferry to Granada. With four hours to kill, I set up at a sketchy dirt floor restaurant/bar in town. The owner told me that the port is outside of town and I need to catch a taxi there but I’m in luck because this old fellow at the bar is a taxi driver and he’ll take me. Around 10, the old guy got up and motioned for me to hop in the back of his beat up old truck. I’ve seen people riding in these before – they weld a sort of rollbar cage in the back for people to hang onto. This one had a hammock strung across the back with a couple legs hanging out of it. I stood in the back – proud of myself for traveling like the locals do. We made our way through town and then veered off down a dirt road. The jungle got thicker and all signs of life disappeared. As the road got worse and worse, my paranoia grew. I convinced myself that these guys were taking me into the jungle to rob me. Why not – it’s a perfect racket… I started planning what I would do or say when they pulled shotguns on me. I woke the kid in the hammock and asked if we were going to the port – he laughed and said “sure, sure…” That’s when I realized they had to kill me. It makes sense – they couldn’t let me live, this is a small island – I’d just report them and ruin all their fun. I’ve been in a lot of ACTUAL close calls all over the world but I’ve never been so convinced that something awful was going to happen. I realized I was being paranoid and none of this made sense but then I started thinking about what it would feel like to get shot with a shotgun and breathe my last breaths as that kid laughed and the old guy rummaged through my bags. We finally pulled up to the port. I survived an imaginary Nicaraguan Deliverance.