Friday, January 29, 2016

Telica At Sunset

"Don't worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try."  
-- Jack Canfield

Telica. I have heard so much about you and your gorgeous sulfur smoke spewing, huge rock tossing, grumbling and shaking, lava flowing ways. Finally we meet.

The most difficult part of our tour to Telica is the ride there. There were 8 hikers and two guides, myself and Keiran Cassillo (whose name I always spell wrong because it really pisses him off).
This was an odd group of wants and needs. They included 4 Canadians, a German, a Dutchman, a Kiwi, and an Aussie. Before each hike we prepare filtered water, a snack of cookies and a banana and a veggie sandwich that consists of spicy cheese spread, onion, cucumbers and tomatoes. It's freaking delicious. Before each hike we have our hikers sign a waiver that includes any medical issues, prescriptions, allergies and dietary requirements. What I am discovering is the world is full of vegetarians which is no problem, all our meals are vegetarian. This trip however was special. We had 3 vegetarians, 1 Vegan (militant vegetarian), one gluten free (Celiac) and one person with motion sickness. 
Well the vegetarians were no problem, the vegan could not have the cheese spread so we replaced it with bean spread, gluten free required corn tortillas so we made hamburg type veggie sandwiches and the motion sickness girl we put in the front seat. Some could not / would not eat the cookies for fear of whatever was inside them and some brought their own snacks because they were just use to it because of their needs. It was never an issue and once we got going we started talking and joking about it and all was well. It's not just take them on the hike, we really do need to prep anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.

Well we pile into our transport to the volcano. The sweet ride of Jose Luis. The first 30 minutes is great as we cruise down a paved highway. The turnoff to the park is a rutted road so we bounce around for the next 30. The final leg is what can only be described as an Indian Jones moment with all of us flying around with the road dust hanging on for dear life. Joe Luis does not know slow.

Jose Luis and his Land Cruiser

Arriving no worse for wear we gear up for what is an easy 45 - 60 minute hike. This is no El Hoyo but its a trek all the same and its nice not to have to carry a 20 kilo pack for 4 hours. Kieran has hiked Telica many times so he was the lead guide and I was training. ( I never heard the end of it the little ba**ard.). Although in the picture below Telica looks daunting it really is only a moderate hike. There are clear trails and unlike Cerro Negro and El Hoyo there was no gale force wind.

Telica last had a full kick ass eruption in October of 2015, closing down any hikes for 3 months. Now it erupts regularly but with what is referred to as "Degassing". Basically Telica is farting. Day hikes started again about a month ago but we are not doing any camping for the next little while. If you could see the size of the boulders that have been spewed out you would understand. Other companies are taking the chance but QT is standing firm. Good plan.

10 hikers and 1 off balanced photographer
The only "issue" today is the skies are filled with smoke, dust and low level clouds restricting what is a riveting view down the fault line. Nobody is deterred and that is the reason this is such a great time. Most if not all people are here for the experience or the moment, not the expectation for perfection. I love travelers and trekkers. (note, Travelers and Trekkers is a great name for a website).

The day was a perfect climbing day with the exception of the cloudy / smokey sky. It was clear (I know that contradicts what I just said about cloudy and smokey), cool for Nicaragua and no wind. I was only carrying a day pack that contained 2L of water, a sandwich, a sweater, my camera and the first aid kit. All those rocks in the picture below are reminders of what can come flying out of the crater red hot. They were not put there by glaciers 200 million years ago.
Climbing the trail and stepping over boulders where we had to

The Telica Crater in all her enormity.  When you look down into the vastness and power of it you know who really is in charge of this hike.. Hot smelly sulfur gases coming from fissures and cracks throughout the crater gave it an very eerie feel. The Smoke blocking out the sun as it tried to shine over the crater added to the mystery of it all.

The viewing area was safe as there was lots of room but humans being what they are some felt the need to creep as close to the edge as possible. Well shit, they signed the waver/disclaimer they could do what they wanted. If it was to be the headline in their local newspaper the next day then so be it.

Nicaraguans like so many in the world do not look past an opportunity. From the small village near the volcano came a guy hauling up a cooler with Tona and Coca Cola. Everyone was on him and he did a good business. Good for him really. Maybe he made C500 or $20. A good days work in a country where the average wage is $100 a month.

The smoldering Telica crater
As I mentioned the views were a bit skewed and you could not see the volcanic fault line on this day but the haze did give us an interesting sunset. People love sunsets, myself included. Here is a great observation about the spirit of the hiker/trekker.

Kieran was giving information to the group about the volcano and surrounding area. "In the distance behind me is the Pacific Ocean" he said. "oh man it's beautiful, its so blue", "that is amazing", "great view" came the sarcastic but funny replies from our group. Nobody cared you could not see it. Sitting on large jagged rocks beside an active smoking volcano and drinking a cold Tona while watching a pretty nice sunset held their attention. As the Aussie girl said, "Moments, We all need more moments like this in our lives"

Sunset on Telica with no view of the Pacific Ocean
With the sun down we peered into the crater to see fissures of hot lava. Not bubbling and enormous like you would view in National Geographic but hot red small pools 100 feet down. Again, another reminder of our place in the universe.

Headlamps on and the night hike down was calm. Every one took turns stopping and looking at the stars. "Hey, its Orion" is always a common exclamation. I now know where it is so I will yell it out first with knowing confidence one night. The hike down was easy and the ride home uneventful. Clean up was a breeze and we were at the local Comedore having dinner by 7:30. Chicken, gallo pinto, salad and tortilla for C60, about $2.75 Canadian.

Telica was great and I am climbing her again on Sunday and Tuesday. Hopefully one of those days the skies will be clear and I can take in the fault line views that she has to offer. Learning new routes is exciting because it also forces you to get online and learn whatever you can because there will be questions from the excited masses when they climb.

I am not a Volcanologist but I have to pretend to be one on the trail
Even Mother Nature has a sense of humor. Maybe Telica is a guy
Sulfur gasses blocking out the mid afternoon sun

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