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My Mountain Climbing Theory

NICARAGUA | Tuesday, 14 September 2010 | Views [1096] | Comments [2]

We ventured up to Tacuba, El Salvador to stay in Hostal de Mama y Papa and go for a hike in Parque Imposible. This hostal is known for its wild hikes through the surrounding national park. The Lonely Planet guide book made it sound like crazy son of Mama y Papa, Manolo, was the one who takes people out on hikes. Not the case on our tour. Manolo’s father drove us to the start of the trail and dropped us off with our Spanish speaking guide with a 2 foot machete. Originally, we were planning on hiking up to waterfalls with a swimming hole at the bottom that you could jump into, but since there had been a recent landslide we had to resort to a different, more difficult hike.

So there we were. Me, Brett, Robin and our Spanish speaking guide. Robin was another guy staying in our hostal that we’d met and hung out with the night before. As soon as we started walking I realized that our guide was really, really fast and nobody seemed to be having any trouble keeping up with him except me. Brett decided to walk behind me so I could set the pace and not worry about being left behind. So the order went like this, up front was the guide followed by Robin and then Brett and I a distance behind them. Brett told me that the mountains in the States have switchback style trails that decrease the uphill angle by zigzagging up the mountain. These trails were nothing of this sort; they took the fastest route, at the greatest angle, straight up the mountain. I have to say that I was a bit surprised at how difficult it was to climb a mountain.

As we went along, things got easier as my body adjusted to walking up the steep mountain. I found out that Robin and I had a similar background in biology so I was enjoying talking to him and hearing stories about organisms with cool symbiotic relationships. We found an orange tree along the way that our guide climbed and gave us fresh oranges from. We found a spot on the top of the mountain that was like an open air peninsula where we had a view of all the surrounding mountains. It was here where we stopped for a picnic lunch and indulged in our sandwiches of bean and ham.

As time went on, Brett and I discovered that Robin’s biology talk was out of control. He knew far too much about mushrooms and after 4 hours of hiking a mountain, the last thing I wanted to do was stop every 5 minutes to taste the latest mushroom Robin had dug up. By this time, Brett and I were out of water and dripping sweat. My right knee was in pain every time we made a downhill step and the trail was getting more difficult, making it necessary to use tree branches the scale down the side of a boulder. I was having a hard time imagining who in their right mind hikes mountains for fun.

By the end of the hike, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t hike again. A couple weeks later, I was convinced that it was the lack of water, the tight skinny jeans I was wearing and knee pain that interfered with my appreciation for hiking. Those things possibly made it worse than usual, but by this time I had come up with a theory about hiking. You don’t hike mountains for pleasure; you hike for the pure sense of accomplishment and to take on a challenge, because most parts are hard and uncomfortable.

With my newfound theory, I was ready to accept hiking for what it was and take on another mountain. We were staying on Isla de Ometepe; an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua that is made of two volcanoes that you can hike. You can hike either volcano. Conception is a 10-12 hour hike, so we went with Maderas for a measly 9 hour duration. Just as we came to the island and set down for dinner, we had a boy approach us at our table and offer to be our guide for Maderas. The price was good and the time was right, so we went for it.

The whole day before we left for the hike, I’d been mentally preparing myself. I wanted to make it through the hike without letting it get to me. I want to be able to enjoy climbing mountains, because I know how much Brett likes to do it. So after all the “preparation”, we were out at 5:30am waiting for Wili, our guide, to show up in the school bus and take us hiking. 45 minutes later, Wili and the bus showed up. On our way to the volcano it started raining and didn’t let up until we’d walked about a kilometer up the hill to Finca Magdalena to get sandwiches and coffee for the hike.

We could tell right away that Wili was an odd character, but he seemed like a decent enough guy to have as a guide. I think next time it might be wise to spring for a more expensive, professional guide. Or at least a guide who can’t speak English, I think that would have prevented a lot of our problems. Brett suggested that we not take breaks every 15 minutes and apparently this was upsetting to Wili because next thing we knew he was basically running up the mountain, leaving us in the rock filled stream that was our path. Eventually Wili found it in him to forgive us and walk with us again.

This was the story of the entire hike. Wili was very temperamental; he would get mad and walk really fast and next thing we knew he was happy again. When he was happy and talking to us, he would tell us about all his girlfriends and how his baby mama’s dad used to be the President of the United States. I asked which President he was referring to and he couldn’t remember the name. I think he was trying to make me his next girlfriend, because every time Brett was turned around, he would pucker his lips at me. He even offered me a massage during one of our breaks. At one point, he took interest in Brett’s hiking shoes and offered to pay $165 to buy them off him. There is no way I have enough time to write all the ridiculous things he said but they were definitely amusing!

Aside from Wili, our hike went really well. On the way up we were hiking through thick forest surrounded by clouds at the top. The trail was muddy and rocky with water running down the center of the path. It took us 4 hours to get up to the volcano’s crater lake. We hiked for 5 hours on the way back down and took an alternate path that took us through open fields on the side of the mountain. The views were breathtaking. We walked by large plantain and corn farms. It felt really good to be out of the mud and dark of the forest and out into the open. It was a great way to finish a very successful hike. All and all, I enjoyed this hike as a challenge and for the amazing views. I have a lot more appreciation for hiking now, but I told Brett only one long mountain hike a month. I think that’s about as much appreciation as I have for now!


Tags: challenges, mountains, trekking



Hey Guys!!! I was just catching up on your blog and am getting soooooo jealous as I sit here on my couch and read. It sounds like you are having an amazing time and having some great experiences. I was cracking up on the story where the monkeys jumped in your boat and the guy threw his dogs overboard. So crazy and so funny!

You actually picked a great time to travel, the Summer weather just didn't come to Hermosa / Manhattan this year. It's been mostly overcast and foggy, all Summer. Now the cold fall weather is settling in... Even more reason why I'm jealous of your equator weather. Keep on truckin and stay safe!

Do you know when you're going to Peru? I've always wanted to go :)



  Justin K Sep 18, 2010 12:08 PM


Hi Sophia, as always I love your stories, you write so well!
I, like you, have had to adjust to the desire or energy or whatever it is that embodies Phil! I think Brett has that same energy field! I remember when Brett was about 12 Phil took him hiking up Long's Peak, if I had known how dangerous it was I probably wouldn't have been so accommodating, and their bicyle trip to Casper WY (up and back in 5 days!) when he was 14. Todd also has the same energy only in different endeavors, like snowboarding and jumping cliffs into water! I have adjusted, I know my limitations but one thing that I love is the spontaneity and pushing my limits and experiencing instead of observing life!
Enjoy, be safe, love, blessings and positive energy to your journey!
Love, Gay

  mama Isis Sep 18, 2010 12:53 PM

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