A Cold Night on the Edge of the Abyss – Telica Volcano

I turned over on the grass to lay on my back.  The moon had disappeared beyond the horizon and the wind had cleared an opening in the cloudy sky revealing a canopy of millions of stars. I could hear the next gust of wind headed toward us from far away like a winged night creature bursting by, then I listened as it moved beyond the cone of lava behind us.

It was cold and windy trying to sleep out in the open without a tent. The grass did nothing to cushion our backs from the solid ground.  But we gazed contentedly at the stars while we lay next to the huge crater of Telica looming over us like a sleeping giant.

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Over twelve hours ago we navigated the bus terminal in Leon, Nicaragua to board a chicken bus headed to San Jacinto.  From there we walked through a small village and out into farmlands, circumnavigating the unimpressive boiling mud pools for which the locals wanted to charge $2 per person.

 

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San Jacinto

 

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The road headed out of town

The road headed out of town was dusty and we passed many horse carts and herds of cattle being moved from field to field.   The cattle much like the dogs here seemed to shy away from us even though one swipe from their long horns would have taken us out.   The farmers we met along the way were friendly and asked if we were headed to Telica.

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The trail was not straightforward but thankfully Trin downloaded the tracks for this trail onto our trusty old Garmin Legend from wikiloc.com.  We would have missed the turn from the road to the trail that crosses the valley taking us to Telica Volcano with her smoking crater rising beyond the hills.

 

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Volcano Telica in the distance smoking beyond the top of the corn stalk

After a few kilometers we began our ascent.  At the tree line we were greeted with a sign warning us that we were entering an active volcano area.   We climbed further and eventually reached another sign that warned us we were in the “hazard zone by impact of volcanic rocks.”  Finally we arrived at a grassy area that was littered with lava rocks like a pool table after a good break.

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We found a nice big rock and laid our backpacks down.  We then climbed the final few meters to the edge of the crater.  Halfway up there were two Nicas that stopped us and asked us to sign the guest book. They also wanted $3 each for entry.  The volcano was not owned by any locals and it is actually illegal for them to stand guard and ask for money.   We said no.  The big guy stood in front of Trin blocking his way, giving me space to walk by.  Trin followed and the Nica did not come after us.

At the top we met one of the guides from QuetzalTrekkers who was there with a small group.  We asked him if he paid on the way up, and he said no.  We’ve heard of locals trying to collect money from tourists at entrances of natural attractions.  Just keep going.

Finally at the edge of the crater with sulfuric smoke choking us we gazed down and saw the glow of lava deep below us.  It is an amazing sight to behold, to stand on the edge of such power from below the earth.

Telica Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua. Just last February Telica Volcano had 12 explosions sending ash columns 1000 meters above the crater, and in May it still showed signs of increased activity.  Tonight the lava is simply glowing deep below the crater.

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The sun would soon be setting so we went to retrieve our backpacks and we headed to the other side of the crater to watch the sun set over the ocean.

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Smoke from Telica in the sunset

As darkness descended we made our way back to the craters edge to see if the lava glow would be even more prominent but it was about the same.  We picked our way back down to the grassy section only by the light of the moon.  We did not want to alert any locals with our flashlights for safety reasons.

We pulled out our fleece jackets and then donned our rain coats on top of them, blew up our travel pillows and then settled down on the grass to sleep under the cloudy sky without a tent.  A few times during the night it threatened to rain, but it was more like a mist wafting by.  Each time we tossed and turned we noted the progress of the little dipper toward the west showing us the passing of the night.  The gusts of wind were chilly and I began to shiver.  A blanket or a tarp would have made this the perfect night.

We were both glad to hear Trin’s phone chime up an alarm at 5AM.  We sat up and put on our packs.  We walked over to the large rock a few meters away to retrieve and pack out an empty can from last night’s dinner.  It was gone.  We looked around and could not find it anywhere.  I’m not sure what animal took it or if the same animal checked us out during the night.

We climbed to the crater once again then made our way to the monitoring station which was positioned high upon an outcrop next to the crater, and ate breakfast while watching the sunrise.

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