Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Mombacho ~ "our volcano"

On the drive from the airport to our house on the very first day in Nicaragua, our driver made a point to pull over as soon as we caught sight off Mombacho.

"That's OUR volcano," he beamed. "That's Mombacho, our volcano here in Granada."

Naia's eyes widened as she gazed at the golden late day sun kissing the slopes of Mombacho in the distance. She stood up in the back seat (our first experience in our month of no seat belts) and craned her neck to look. From then on throughout the trip, she called it "our volcano".

We read many different things about visiting Mombacho and we really weren't sure what to expect. How steep was the climb? Was it slippery? How far exactly? Was it little kid friendly? How were the winds up top? Amanda and Marc and Marc's mom wanted to climb the whole way (because little Gabrielle is still tiny enough to go in the carrier) whereas I knew there was no chance of me herding my 4 year old and 10 year old up on my own. We hatched a plan. We would go check out the base of the volcano at the entrance to the park where there was supposed to be a butterfly reserve, then we could suss out the situation for getting to the top of the volcano and decide whether to give it a go, or whether Marc and Amanda would return without kid (they had a grandma to babysit, lucky ducks!)

We jumped the chicken bus to the bottom of the volcano. There we hopped on some tuktuks that brought us up the hill to the entrance of the park. Plan A fell apart immediately. We were told the butterfly reserve was closed for two weeks. Or forever. Or until Saturday. Nobody was quite sure. But it was closed.

Some fast decisions were made and within a few minutes we found ourselves boarding a monster truck.

Up and up and up the steep volcano we went. At each sharp turn I was grateful not to be coaxing my 4 year old up the steep incline. As our elevation increased, the temperature dropped, the winds picked up, and the clouds started closing in. It is a cloud forest after all. I was happy that I actually thought ahead and packed an extra layer of clothes for Naia or she would have actually been cold. By the time we reached the top we were in pea soup fog, unable to see but a few feet in front of us. We felt our way to the ranger station to get our bearings and decide where to hike.

It was an easy choice, traveling with kids we picked the shortest trail. I may have pushed for it more because I had two kids walking that I was alone responsible for versus one little girl being carried and cared for by three adults. Yes, please, let's take the easiest trail.

Easy was relative. For wee little legs, it was very challenging. Hiking through a cloud forest, the trails are wet, foggy, slippery, and full of ups and downs that were a challenge for a 4 year old. And the pace set by the longest legged members of our party was quicker than she was used to. But you know what? She did it. She rocked it. It took a good two hours or more, slowly but surely she circled the crater of "our volcano".

We got back on the monster truck for the ride down which was even more hair raising than the steep climb up. Bumping and sliding in the very back, little miss was all smiles.

There is an incongruous pit stop half way down the volcano. It's a spot set up for tourists doing the zip lines strung up in the lower forest canopy, so it's pretty yuppie compared to the rustic ranger lodge at the top of the mountain. There's a clean bathroom (score!) and a little cafe.

After hot cocoa and coffee, we were told the monster truck was busy, or broken, or going the wrong way or something. So instead a man told us to jump in the back of his pick up truck. And we did.

It was a fast and wild ride down. The kids were all cracking up while the adults held tight to their little gravity defying bodies.  It was a long and wonderful day journeying by chicken bus, tuktuk, monster truck, our own feet, and pick up truck. All of this to get to the top of our volcano.

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