The thick, chocolate, brown, mud pools bubbled uncontrollably causing steam to rise from their surface. They were a magnificent phenomenon. So hot that they could be used to cook rice, beans and eggs on. Not only this but the natural energy created from the volcano and these mud pools is used to power 45 percent of the city Leon’s electricity. It was astounding. Feeling the hot pipe line gave me a sense of hope that renewable energy is being implemented and used successfully in Nicaragua.
From here our Telica volcano day hike began. We started following winding dirt roads and came across a termite nest hanging from a gnarled tree. Our guide asked if anyone wanted to eat them. As most of you know, I seem to have a habit of saying ‘yes’ to new food delicacies. So with that in mind I ate a handful of crawling, live termites. I was the only one in the group to do so and I think the others were slightly horrified.
It was not until after I had eaten the tasty treat that I learnt termites eat other termite’s feces. They also eat decomposed bark. After getting my quick protein fix it was time to continue our long hike. We walked through beautiful farmland fields which were used maize, corn and bean cultivation. While fields are clearly an example of man kind manipulating nature, they still have the capacity to be magical. The watered green grass looked so stunning on the valley bottom, surrounded by dramatic palm tree covered, dormant volcanoes. The walk while strenuous provided majestic views.
We walked all morning stopping to admire spectacular tree species, colourful lizards, amazing birds and fascinating trails of ants. Several trees we saw were engulfed by strong lianas – woody vines. Lianas are branches that hang from the forest canaopy. They wrap around trees taking over the tree’s nutrients, slowly killing them and taking their place. Their structures are strangely beautiful, with unique branches making abstract shapes. Scurrying by the base of these gigantic, towering trees, were tiny, little ants. Their trails never fail to astound me. Each creature follows it’s colleague infront, carrying leaves thrice their size. The larger king ant, walks up and down the designated path, clearing any leaves, twigs or obstacles disturbing their all important journey. If the ants desperately need food they will group together, kill the king ant and eat it. The need for transporting the leaves in this carefully calculated manner is to collect the most amount of matter for consumption. The leaves themselves are not eaten but when they decompose the microorganisms produced are what the ants need to survive.
Later on we spied a tree that had half collapsed and an option to climb it was presented. I jumped at this and chambered up the dilapidated tree.
Along the route we got to try all kinds of wild fruits including: papaya, small coconuts, some kind of sweet berry and some other seeds. It was great to eat fresh fruit, picked straight from a tree in the jungle. This has been an incredible thing while traveling that I have been able to do.
The last leg of the journey to the crater was the hardest part. The incline got pretty steep and the path became very dusty. During the struggle we were blessed with butterflies swooping down in front to us. From purple to green all colours were present. The sounds around us were phenomenonal, wild dogs could be heard yelling in the distance, crickets croaked and birds sung.
As we walked nearer to the top of the volcano. Huge holes in the ground were apparent. Here stones from eruptions had shot out from the centre of the earth and left dents in the ground. The boulders were buried deep down and covered with earth. An entire walking stick could be poked into the ground before hitting the culprit boulder.
On reaching the creator I realised the hard hike was completely worth it. As I peered into the bottomless pit, the geologic structure was magical. Detailed crevasses and calcium carbonate formations occurred on the walls. Deeper down steam rose up from mounts of volcanic mud. Chucking stones over the edge a huge thud echoed back many seconds later. The scale was vast I could not comprehend the size of this crater and how many hundreds of kilometres down it went. Suddenly my breath starting getting quicker and I coughed, struggling to breath. I stood back away from the sulphur which had such an effect on all of us. I was in such amazement at the creator peering over the edge was unnerving but at the same time intensely, insanely, incredible.
We had to run to the viewing point to get there for sun set. By the time we mounted the hill I was panting but it did not matter the sky was gorgeous. A bright, illusive, sublime orange streaked across the horizon. The sun slowly appeared from behind the clouds and we saw a perfect, circular, blinding sun sink down beneath the earth’s horizon. Another day had been and gone. How is it already almost the end of January 2016? The scenery was as picturesque as ever.
However, yet again the angelic surroundings were tinged with sadness. Looking in the distance plantation fields could be seen. I came to learn that they were peanut plants. Deforestation in the area was amplified due to the growing demand for peanut butter. Our guide told us we must not buy any in the area. He was so passionate about it and so maddened by the situation. The forest was destroyed to grow these non native, monoculture peanut trees.
We had a nice stop to make a camp fire and roast some marshmallows. It was a great energy boost before walking back in the dark. However, I was still pretty knackered and hiking in the dark while fun is different and requires more energy.
‘Stop, careful, snake,’ our guide yelled. We all froze and saw a baby boa constrictor crawl along the barbed wire. It was harmless, I was half expecting a huge, deathly snake like the one I encountered in the Amazon rainforest. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the tame, safe, small boa which was a bit of fun to watch slither off into the dark night. Apparently, in Nicaragua there is not much wildlife to be afraid off – which is always nice and reassuring.
A while later we reached the road, got in a truck and made it back to the hostel. I jumped in the pool and slept soundly.