Kendra's Chronicles - A Meaford teacher shares her travel stories
“Ah, I forgot the flashlights! I’m just going to run back to the truck and get them. I’ll be right back!” our hiking guide, Miguel, said, before he disappeared down the mountain and back into the jungle.
My hiking group and I looked at each other nervously. We had just spent the last hour extreme off-roading in the back of a truck, twisting and turning down a single lane dirt road, barely avoiding livestock, children, dogs, cats, and people on horseback to get us to the base of Nicaragua’s most active volcano (its last eruption was in 2011.) My best friend Corey and I were part of a hiking group with three other people and although we had bonded quickly, we weren’t quite sure what to make of our new situation.
“And this is how every horror movie begins…” I said half jokingly, yet half seriously. “We’re in the middle of nowhere, at least an hour’s drive from a town, we’re at the base of an active volcano, in a foreign country while the sun’s setting, and our tour guide has ‘forgotten’ the flashlights and left us.”
After ten minutes of us conjuring up alternate scripts depicting our impending horror movie… Miguel returned with the flashlights and everyone was still alive.
The hike up Telica was absolutely breathtaking. It had been a clear day so we had spectacular panoramic views of Leon, Nicaragua. The hike itself wasn’t strenuous, but you had to watch where you were stepping because there were lots of loose rocks along the path. I had been anticipating the smell of sulphur to be overwhelming the closer we got to the top (as it had been when I climbed an active volcano in Japan), but because it hadn’t been a windy day and the gases were staying inside the crater, the smell wasn’t overpowering. Unless you laid down on the crater’s edge and stuck your head inside; which I did, obviously. One of the many reasons Corey and I chose to do the Telica Volcano Night Hike was because it offered the chance to see lava inside its crater, and although we were able to we didn’t get to see as much as we had hoped because of the gases staying inside and blocking our view. Once the sun had gone down, we all stood in the darkness in awe on top of Telica. To the south of us we could see the unbelievable stars above us, and to the north of us we could see a storm brewing and sheet lightning starting to flash across the sky. It was a very surreal moment to be looking at the stars with absolutely no light pollution around us for miles; the only form of light illuminating the sky was the sheet lightning.
“So, who has their cell phones with them?” Miguel asked. Corey and Richard raised their hands. “Good, because we only had two flashlights in the truck, so you’ll need to use the flashlights on your cell phones!”
This meant that for six people we had two flashlights, two iPhone flashlights and sheet lightning to guide us back down Telica. Amazing! It took us a little longer to get down to the road where the jeep had dropped us off, but once there we then followed the road for ten minutes to a local farmer’s house. In addition to the night volcano hike, a traditional Nicaraguan dinner was part of the excursion. We were greeted with warm smiles from the family and offered to sit at their table outside of their house where a lone light bulb (the only form of light and electricity in their home) shone above it. They cooked us an incredible dinner of a traditional Nicaraguan dish called Gallo Pinto (beans and rice), while their children stared shyly at us and their dogs and cats sat at our feet hoping for scraps. Miguel and our driver were our translators and told us that not only did the father farm but he also was responsible for taking the temperature inside Telica’s crater every day to see if there was any activity happening inside.
As we sat at the family’s table in the middle of nowhere, at the base of an active volcano, with one light bulb above our heads, while people from four different countries ate Gallo Pinto, I truly began to feel as if I was as far away from my everyday life as I could be. That was until Miguel broke the silence and asked, “Have any of you seen that YouTube video where the cat saves the child from being attacked by a dog?”
What an unforgettable experience.