I turned over on the grass to lay on my back. The moon had disappeared beyond the horizon. The winds cleared an opening in the clouds above us revealing a canopy of millions of stars. I could hear the next gust of wind headed toward us from far away like a winged night creature. I shivered and listened as the wind like a deamon of ice breathed on us and then thundered to the cone of lava behind us.
We had no idea it would be this cold sleeping on the edge of active volcano. Exposed to the wind, laying in the open we huddled between two lava boulders that time had cooled. The grass did nothing to cushion our backs from the stony ground. But we gazed contentedly at the stars while we lay next to the huge crater of Telica. She loomed over us like a sleeping giant, her hot breath a constant cloud.
Navigating to Telica
Over twelve hours ago we navigated the bus terminal in Leon, Nicaragua to board a chicken bus headed to San Jacinto. From there we walked through a small village and out into farmlands. We circumnaviged the unimpressive boiling mud pools for which the locals wanted to charge an entrance fee – even though they aren’t the ones who own the pools.
The road leading us out of town was dusty from horse carts and herds of cattle being moving from field to field. The cattle, much like the dogs here, seemed to shy away from us even though one swipe from their long horns would have taken us out. The farmers we met along the way were friendly and asked us if we were headed to Telica.
The trail was not straightforward. Thankfully Trin downloaded the tracks for this trail onto our trusty old Garmin Legend from wikiloc.com. We would have missed a few turns without it. The trail that cuts across the valley to Telica Volcano is completely hidden from the road.
After a few kilometers, we began our ascent. A warning sign greeted us at the treeline telling us that we were entering an active volcano area. Still, we climbed further eventually reaching another sign that warned us we were now in the “hazard zone” where volcanic rocks could fly out and hit us. We could see evidence of this all around us. Obsidian rocks lay strews across the grassy slope like a pool table after a good break.
We hid our backpacks between two large rocks where we planned to spend the night. Then we climbed the final few meters up to the edge of the crater. Halfway up, there were two Nicas that stopped us and asked us to sign the guestbook. They also wanted $3 each for entry. The volcano was not owned by any locals and it is illegal for them to stand guard asking for money. We said no. The big guy stood in front of Trin blocking his way. I took the opportunity to slip by on the side and Trin followed. The Nicas did not give chace.
At the top, we met one of the guides from QuetzalTrekkers who was there with a small group. We asked him about the guards and he told us that he did not pay either. We’ve heard of locals trying to collect money from tourists at entrances of natural attractions owned by the state. I’ll give to someone in need, but I dislike them lying about it. We just keep walking.
The Edge Of the Crater
Finally, at the edge of the crater choking on sulfuric smoke, we gazed down into the throat of the rumbling monster. The glow of lava appeared deep below us. It is an amazing sight to behold and stand on the edge of such power from below the crust of the earth.
Telica Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua. Last February Telica Volcano had 12 explosions sending ash columns 1,000 meters above the crater. In May, it still showed signs of increased activity. Tonight the lava is simply glowing deep below the crater.
The sun would soon be setting so headed to the other side of the crater to watch it sun over the ocean.
As darkness descended we walked back to the crater’s edge to see if the lava glow would be even more prominent. It was about the same. We picked our way back down to the grassy section by the light of the moon. Our flashlights were off so that we did not alert any of the locals of our presence for safety reasons.
Sleeping under the stars
We pulled out our fleece jackets and donned our raincoats on top of them. Blowing up our travel pillows, we settled down on the grass to sleep. There we lay under the cloudy sky on the edge of the crater. A few times during the night rain threatened to descend, but it came only in waves of mist wafting by. Each time we tossed and turned we noted the progress of the little dipper toward the west showing us the passing of time. The gusts of wind were chilly and I began to shiver. A blanket or a tarp would have made this the perfect night.
We were both glad to hear Trin’s phone chime up an alarm at 5 AM. As soon as it chimed we were both up putting on our packs excited to get moving and warm up. We walked over to the large rock a few meters away to retrieve our bag of empty cans from the previous nights dinner. We had placed it under a rock away from our campsite. It was gone. We looked around but could not find it anywhere. I’m not sure what animal took it or if the same animal that came checking on us during the night.
We climbed to the crater once again for one last look into the mouth of Telica. Then we made our way to the monitoring station which was positioned high up on an outcrop near the crater. We ate breakfast while watching the sunrise.