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Up in the Air & In the Clouds

Hiking and Zip-Lining a Nicaraguan Volcano

all seasons in one day 86 °F

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Volcan Mombacho, home to a cloud forest, monkeys, and more!

I'm not sure which were more numerous on the pedestrian street in Granada tonight: stray dogs, roaming souvenir sellers, or mariachi bands. We were unwinding after dinner at one of the streetside cafés, and it was amusing to watch each ply their trade with varying degrees of success. I'm not sure what it says about me as a person that I had the most sympathy for the dogs, but that's the way I am. It was our last night in Granada. Tomorrow, we head off to Nicaragua's other second city, Leon.

Our last day began with yet another tasty breakfast from Las Isletas Boutique Hotel. A driver then picked us up and dropped us off at the Mombacho Volcano National Park. We planned to hike the cloud forest that drapes the still-active volcano. Having been to a cloud forest in Costa Rica, I knew to pack my rain jacket. Though we saw no rain, the mountaintop alternated between sunshine and clouds, which swooped in with high winds and chill breezes. It was very pleasantly cool atop Mombacho -- especially after the 90+ degree temperatures we'd experienced since arriving in Nicaragua.

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One of the dormant craters of Mombacho, covered in the greenery if the cloud forest

After a short wait, about a dozen plus tourists piled aboard an old open air army truck for the ride to the Visitors Center. The cobblestone road is one lane, and twists and winds its way up past coffee plantations until reaching the national park. Then it is all woods and jungle pressing in on both sides of the impressively powerful truck. There were about 20 guides aboard (we were the first bus load up), but the truck never faltered or seemed to struggle. You could feel the temperature grow steadily cooler as we ascended. Jackets were pulled from backpacks as we adjusted to the new climate zone.

The pathway, Jose explained, is constantly being repaired and replaced. It consists of sawn log rings as steps through most of its steps. He said much of the wood comes from recycled telephone and electrical poles. Once we left the overlook, the wind died off and the damp stillness of the cloud forest closed in. Jose pointed out the plants and explained their uses by the indigenous people. He asked us a lot of questions about Ohio, and was diligent about augmenting his English by asking what equivalent words were. He was a pleasant and low key guide, who genuinely seemed interested in us. Jose pointed out the fumaroles, or steam vents from the volcano's interior. We could feel their damp, hot air and smell their sulfur easier than spot the whisps of steam.

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A fumarole belches barely-visible sulfurous steam on Volcan Mombacho

Unfortunately, we spotted no monkeys or other exotic wildlife on our hike. The climb was strenuous at times, but the footing was always easy with the well-maintained wooden steps. We ascended to the second highest peak of Mombacho, and were rewarded with a number of blustery scenic overlooks. After nearly losing my hat on the first one, I was careful to take it off and clip it to my camera bag at each mirador. Before long, and way earlier than I'd wished our hike was over. we waited about 20 minutes before our redoubtable army truck returned to ferry us down. Our driver was waiting for us, and he whisked us off to the next stop for the day.

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One of the majestic views from Mombacho's miradors

I had never done zip lining before, and Mombacho had two choices. The one our hotel had picked out had about a dozen segments. It is built over one of the volcano's coffee plantations. The one not chosen was actually in the jungle canopy, which I would have preferred. I should have spoken up when arranging the excursion, though, instead of expecting them to pick out the best one. The bonus was that when we arrived, Jenny and I were the only customers. That meant our three guides took their time with us and encouraged us to do tricks, like the "superman" glide, and the upside down "monkey" glide. It was a blast, and I felt comfortable after about the third segment. The guides took our cameras to film us, so I will have video of me zip lining uploaded before too long.

Once back in Granada, we made arrangements for Wednesday's travel to Leon. We also walked around the town some more, and of course -- hung out on the pedestrian street where we watch the antics of the stray dogs, souvenir sellers, and mariachi bands. It was a low key end to a high energy start to our last day in Granada. Tomorrow, we are off to a new (and even hotter) city. So, we will see what it brings!

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The well-maintained trails on Volcan Mombacho

Posted by world_wide_mike 21:54 Archived in Nicaragua

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