Getting to Mordor: Part III of the Nicaragua volcano saga

Click here to read Part 1, and Part 2


March, 2018. Ometepe, Nicaragua.

Shit hit the fan real quick when Diego and I showed up to hike Concepción, the behemoth, the impossibly symmetrical cone rising above the island of Ometepe.

We hiked to the park entrance, and shit hit the fan. They wanted $2 entrance fee, plus a guide for 30. Cordobas? We asked. No, dolares. So, $34 to go on this hike. We did not have it. We at first tried to charm them, then negotiate, but Pablo is Argentinian and so not only speaks perfect Spanish but doesn’t take any shit.

Before I knew it, they were threatening to call the police and have us arrested “for 2 hours” after we descended. Then the guide was threatening to beat Pablo up. “Romperé todo!” I heard that one in Panama City once, and a fight did ensue. But not this time. We backed down. We turned around and went back down the volcano. The trail crossed their private property, and so it seemed they had the right to block us.

But we went down about 300 meters, and we found a nice spot, smoked a joint, and began bushwhacking north along the hillside. After 50 meters or so, we turned left and continued up the volcano side. After 15 minutes of hiking we literally ended up in the exact same spot. This was partly due to our inebriation, no doubt, but also… next time you go bushwhacking, try going straight. Just try it.

So, having returned to our same spot, we talked and decided to take a chance walking up the dry river. There are several of these running all the way up to the top of the volcano. In the wet season, their 2-meter walls brim with water flowing down from the volcano. But now, in the dry season, they’re essentially just massive rock slides. Vertical snaking fields of scree. 

So we hopped along rocks, staring at the ground for a while, and then I remember looking up and seeing a giant wall before us, and Pablo was about to walk into it. I stopped, a little dumbfounded. Pablo was only a few meters from the wall, and he suddenly noticed it and kind of spazzed out, looking up, then back at me, stopped, then back around at the dry waterfall, then back at me laughing at the whole thing.

So we had walked into an obstacle: a dry waterfall. A completely vertical rock/mud wall rising 3-4 meters at its peak. It was not climbable. We couldn’t even climb around the side of the waterfall. Every time we created a rock slide and slid back down the dirt / rock precipice.

So we walked back down river until we could turn left and continue up the hillside, bushwhacking.

And that’s what we did for the next 3-4 hours. Howler monkeys followed for a few minutes, swinging through the trees to the right. Curiosity. It was now  now 3pm, and as we climbed (struggled) up the increasingly steep volcano side, the sun showed up alongside us, sliding into the volcano to our left, and tick tock trickled into our thoughts.

We bushwhacked some crazy terrain over those 3-4 hours. Giant scree fields. Martianesque giant flower bushes, the giant prehistoric cousins of today’s vicious Venus Flytrap? We ducked under vines and over vines, we zigged and we zagged. We stopped to gaze up the volcano, searching for an easier route up, or, of course, the trail which we had refused to pay for, which as rising somewhere to our left, but likely 1-2 kilometers away.

And so, just as we reached the cloud zone sitting kingly atop Volcan Concepción, Pablo turned to look at me, and we said it, “Bajamos.” Let’s go down.

Know your limits motherfuckers. 

And be prepared to pay the troll toll if you hike Concepción from the Los Ramos trail.

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