I would like to introduce my special guest Travel Blogger, Marie from Silver Sparkling Stories. Marie is from Austria, and her blog is unique in that it’s written in German and English! She has spent the past three months in Costa Rica, and is currently volunteering at a residential home with children of all ages.
The toughest hike of my life: Hiking the Concepción Volcano (Nicaragua)
Elevation: 1,610 m (5,280 ft)
Prominence: 1,579 m (5,180 ft)
Mountain type: Stratovolcano
The Concepción Volcano has a conical shape which is the most symmetrical in Latin America. Stratovolcano means there are many strata (meaning layers) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and volcano ashes.
Last eruption: May- June 2015
I came to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and volunteer in three different projects; teaching English in a local primary school, helping the community, saving the sea turtles in Camaronal, and volunteering at an orphanage.
To take a break from my volunteer work, I decided to travel with some friends to Rivas, Nicaragua. We left the hostel at 5:00 a.m. and took a bus, and then a ferry to the Island of Ometepe.
Concepción Volcano is one of two volcanoes (the second one is Maderas, which is a lot smaller) which form the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. I have been to the volcano Poas in Costa Rica, but there we didn’t have to hike to go up. This was my first volcano hike, although I have previously hiked mountains in Austria!
Around 6:00 a.m. we started hiking on a trail through the jungle which soon became a steep climb through mud, over roots and tree lines. In the morning it was better to walk as the weather was still cooler. The hike was really exhausting and we had to climb quite often too. The way up was super steep and there was a lot of hard terrain all the way to the top. It was especially difficult because of the loose gravel and pebbles. One time I slipped and nearly fell, but luckily our guide caught me. That was a scary moment! I really could have hurt myself badly.
The steps were really huge so we had to pull ourselves up. The trails were often confusing. Luckily we had a guide, as we had heard some people had died on the volcano when they became lost. It took me five hours to get up to the top of the volcano. Our group split on the way and the others were in the faster group and only took four hours. So it really depends on your condition how fast you can get up. Don’t go too fast as the hike is long and you still need the energy to go down. I trip quite easily, so I had to concentrate hard on where to step, so it took me longer. I think it is always important to go your own speed! The last hour getting up was the hardest as I just wanted to arrive finally.
Our guide told us that 50% of the people give up at halfway up and don’t go to the top of the volcano. Interestingly, most people who give up are from Nicaragua, as they don’t hike very often. Giving up was no option for us! The last 30 m were especially difficult due to the loose rocks. We arrived quite exhausted, but super happy at the top of the volcano. There you could smell the sulphur and feel the heat. We saw the active crater which was really cool. The sulphur was green. Our guide told us not to lean in, just in case the volcano becomes active. The view from the top was so rewarding. We could see the lake, the second volcano on the left side and the clouds just beneath us. Our guide gave us a sip of rum as it’s a tradition. Unfortunately, we only had a 20 minute break as we had to go down. So we quickly ate our sandwiches, drank water and rested a bit while enjoying the view. Our guide said that it can get quite dangerous if you go too late down.
The way back was a challenge, as the trails were very rocky, steep and slippery. We had to be careful not to fall. The only advantage on the way back was that we didn’t need so many breaks. As it was midday the sun was super strong. The weather was burning hot! At some parts there were no trees so the sun was extremely hot and even with sun cream we all got burned. I got a pretty bad burn on my neck and shoulders. My skin was peeling and it took weeks until my skin looked normal again. At one part, we had to run down the sand-dunes, which was really fun. I was so happy when I saw a monkey in the wildness. It was jumping from tree to tree. I stopped and took a photo. I only brought my phone and really regretted that I didn’t bring my camera. For close shots my phone is really good, but the zoom function is horrible and the pictures are then very blurry and unclear. I think it is something different to see animals in their natural habitat. This was the first time I have seen a monkey in the great outdoors and it was pretty exciting. The way down was really exhausting. My friend had some problems with her circular flow, so we had to take extra breaks for her. At 3:40 pm we came down the volcano super sweaty and took a bus back to the hostel. There we arrived at 5pm so that our whole hike took 12 hours.
I would recommend this hike even if you are not super sporty like me. In case you are easily cold, bring a small jumper at the top, for it’s quite windy and therefore a bit chilly. Bring food! You will need it and most importantly bring enough water. It’s recommended to bring three litres of water! I have the bad habit of not drinking enough, but on this hike even I managed to drink the three litres. Bring good shoes, a rain jacket just in case and don’t forget to put your sun cream on more than once! Expect sore leg muscles for the next day and a great memory. I feel so proud that I managed this hike, now all other hikes seem easy!