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Category Archives: Volcano

The Isla Ometepe – A Volcanic Paradise

The Isla Ometepe is a magical place in Lago Nicaragua full of animals, beautiful flowers, friendly local people, and great hiking.  Unfortunately we were only able to spend a couple days on the twin islands, but in that time we were able to see a lot.  Both volcanoes are about the same height, about 1,600 meters and 1,400 meters, and are connected by an isthmus created by previous lava flows.

We started off by taking the boat from San Jorge for 70 Cordoba per person (23 Cordoba = $1).  This we found out later was the fancy, air-conditioned ferry and on the way back we took the 35 Cordoba cheaper ride on the smaller boat.  The boat left us off at Moyogalpa, one of the islands bigger towns on the Volcán Concepcion side.  We wanted to stay on the smaller Volcaán Maderas island so we had some time to kill as the buses are few and infrequent.  We had a nice meal at a restaurant close to the dock.

Eventually we were able to get on a bus after fighting off the taxi drivers for a few hours.  The drive was hot and sticky, but the scenery was amazing.  When we got off at our hostel in Mérida, the bus guy recommended his mothers restaurant in a small unmarked shack right on the beach.  She made the best food we have had in awhile and we ended up eating there almost every meal.  Look for the small fruit stand and ask what she is serving!

That night we swam in the lake and were treated to a fantastic sunset!

On day two, after a good breakfast, we set out to climb up to the Cascada San Ramón.  Have we talked before about how hot it is in Central America?  Well, it’s hot!  We brought four liters of water for the three of us and finished it all.  About three kilometers from our hostel we came to the start of the trail where we paid the $3 each entrance fee and made our way up.

Some great views heading toward the waterfall

We saw some cool blue birds with long tails along with bunches of blue morpho butterflies.  The higher we climbed the more jungle-like the environment became.  The sign said that it was three kilometers from the start of the trail, but we thought it was more like four or five.  Just when we were running out of energy we saw the waterfall with small pool underneath. We were overjoyed.

The water was cold and SOOO refreshing.  It brought us new life for the walk down.

We had a great time chillin’ on the island.  The local people were super friendly and helpful, some of the nicest we have come across.  Too bad we didn’t have more time to stay longer!

 

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Volcano Boarding Nicaragua Style

Cerro Negro, the youngest volcano in Central America and where volcano boarding happens.

Cerro Negro, the youngest volcano in Central America, began forming in 1850 with its first eruption.  Since then there have been 11 more eruptions forming the ever-growing volcano that stands 726 meters tall today.  Eventually some guys from Australia made up this thing called “volcano boarding”  which involves sitting on a wooden board and sliding on top of the small rocks down the side of the hill.  The run takes a couple minutes depending on how fast you go (the record is 89kmh).

You set off from Bigfoot Hostel in León, because they invented volcano boarding and run the best tours in town.  For $23 you get a one-hour ride into the national park, a jump suit and goggles, a snack, one beer, and two tickets for mojitos at the hostel bar.  At the entrance to the park there is a small area packed full of creepy iguanas.

An iguana sanctuary at the park entrance

The truck drives right up onto the lava flow, and then you grab your board and begin the one-hour trek up the black hill.  Once at the top you are treated to a great view and it’s really cool to see how far the lava has flowed from the top crater.  The whole hill is rather warm, and there are smoking geysers which give you that awesome feeling of the power of nature.

Lava flows from the '90s

Steam from the active volcano

As soon as we got to the top the sky opened up and we got SOAKED.  We were worried about the lightning but it didn’t get very close to us.  We threw on our orange jumpsuits that were to save us from the sharp rocks if we crashed.  Carrie ended up with one of the largest of all the jumpsuits which was hilarious.  She could have fit in it three times and could barely walk, it was so baggy.

Getting ready to take the plunge at speeds up to 90kph.

Dorky suits

The wind really picked up and a couple people almost lost their boards over the side.  Our guide gave us a quick rundown on the mechanics of the process and we got started.  It’s too bad that it rained though because it really slowed us down when we sledded down the hill.

Notice how tiny our truck at the bottom is.

We didn’t break any speed records because of the rain, but it was still really fun.  It’s definitely a must do for anyone traveling through Nicaragua!  And if you break the record you get five free mojitos!  Anyone wanna go try it?

1/3 Highlights

As of January 27, we’ve been in South America for three months!  That’s about 1/3 of the total time we’ll be down here (assuming money lasts) so it’s quite a milestone.  Sometimes I feel like we’ve been on the road forever and other times it feels like it was just yesterday we landed in Medellin.

To celebrate our 1/3-iversary, let’s list some fun stats!

Days in South America:  95

Dollars Spent (not including flight): $3005

Countries Visited: 3

Books Read: 8 (Carrie), 7 (Zach)

Number of Laundromat Visits (not including hand-washing): 3

Bacterial Infections: 1 each

Things We’ve Lost
iPhone (Carrie)…The Infamous Bird Poop Incident
Water bottle (Zach)…just left it at a Couchsurfer’s house
Glasses (Carrie)…stupid lake
Sunglasses (Zach)…stupid ocean
2 rings (Carrie)…two separate places
1 shirt (Carrie)…I think this girl on our first WWOOF farm thought it was hers because she always wore orange!
Dr. Bronners soap (Zach)…”It’ll turn up!” he says
Umbrella…who knows???

And now, since it is Awards Season, we hereby present to you….

The 1/3-iversary Superlatives…a.k.a. the Best Of “So Far”

Favorite Food: ceviche (Zach), llapingachos (Carrie)

Favorite Beverage: Colombian coffee

Most Missed Food: Graeter’s ice cream and peanut butter (Carrie), Mexican food and cheddar cheese (Zach)

Most Missed Event: holidays at home

Most Missed Activities:  watching Oscar films (Carrie), cooking/baking, snowboarding

Most Annoying Phenomenon: loud music and movies on buses

Favorite Activity: The Inca Trail

Nicest People: Colombians

Favorite City: Cuzco

Most Times We Said “What a Crazy Place!”: Huacachina

Best Beach: Canoa

Best Shopping: Otavalo

Best Person We’ve Met: Oso the dog

Scariest/Coolest Experience: the eruption of Tungurahua Volcano

Most Authentic Cultural Experience/Cutest Kids and Puppies: WWOOFing at Finca Campo Bello

Biggest Party/Least Authentic Cultural Experience: Loki Hostel

Biggest Personal Changes: dreadlocks and eating meat (Carrie), actually speaking a second language (Zach)

Favorite Country Overall: Ecuador

Goals for the Next 2/3rds of the Journey

1. Save money and get ahead on our budget in Bolivia!

2. Find a WWOOF experience where we actually get to farm!

3. Do more filming!

4. Improve our Spanish!

I know, I know, we really need to stop losing things and wash our clothes more!  Do you like this silly little superlative round-up?  Should we do one again after 2/3rds?

Tungurahua Tea Room

After leaving Baños, I think that now is a good time to write about the second WWOOFing experience of our journey, which occurred there… 

Carol's house with the volcano in the background

We arrived in the afternoon on a bus and took a quick taxi ride to the edge of town.  The farm is really only a 10-15min walk from central Baños, but with all our stuff it would have been a long hike.  The owner of the farm, Carol, a talkative Canadian ex-pat, warmly greeted us and gave us a quick tour.  The property is a skinny pieces of land located on a hill with a front wall of sugarcane and Carol’s house resting on the top. The Volcán Tungurahua looks down upon it and is usually snow-covered in the mornings.  Near the front there is a citrus garden with several very nice lemon trees and about a dozen others that grow small tangerines of sorts.  As you walk further in you will find a small volunteers’ room with a bed, a tool shed, and a locked storage room.   Following these are an open air kitchen with sink, stove, and table, then a bathroom with toilet, sink and shower.  Near the kitchen is a very nice spice and tea garden containing basil, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, lemongrass, and other lemony things used to make delicious teas.  Past the herbs there is a “spiritual circle” surrounded by flowers and such with a fire pit in the center.  If you walk even further there are two shade structures with hammocks and between them a garden of large cactus.  Under one of these we placed our tent, with another tent already under the other.  Between our tents and Carol’s house we could also find anise, lettuce, green peas, spinach, and some red potatoes once we knew what the plants looked like.  Other than that there were a few plantain trees and several avocado trees (only available if you could beat the dogs to them).

Segundo, the gardener, and Zach, cooking lunch

The Work:

Usually we would wake up around 7am and make breakfast.  There are two other yard workers that Carol employs whom would show up around 7:30.  Carol also has two large dogs who need walking so one of the workers takes them on a hike up the volcano every morning.  The hike is very nice and terminates at a natural spring with amazing carbonated mineral water produced by volcanic pressure.  Probably the best hike you will find in Baños.  After 2 hours of dog walking we had tea from the garden and sometimes a snack then after tea we went to work on Carol’s projects around the yard.  This work almost always involved randoms projects such as assisting in building walls, or sweeping dirt sidewalks, or weeding around the pathways.  Sometimes we felt like we were fighting the jungle for superficial reasons and I’m sad to report that at no time during our stay did we actually do any farming.  The work was really easy though, and no one was ever looking over your shoulder telling you to try harder.  It just wasn’t farming, and we weren’t really there to push rocks around.

Our "home"...we put our tent on top of that platform.

Overall:

We loved the location, and the work was generally easy and laid back.  However, food was not included.  Yes, whatever you could find on the farm was yours (unlimited tea, herbs, and lemonade) but most our food came from money from our pocket.  This probably contributed to our underachievement, and eventual departure when our housesitting opportunity arose.  But the property is extremely beautiful and we had a whole lot of fun there.   Just know before you go that it’s not your “normal” WWOOF experience.  After working on only two farms, we will continue searching for exactly what that “normal” experience is!

Tungurahua Eruption Video

So, the eruption of Tungurahua is pretty much calmed down by now (knock on wood).  We haven’t had any ash or loud booming for several days, although the volcano is still technically in “active” mode.  I think, though, that it’s time to put the Volcano Tracker to rest.  It can stay here so it will still be on the website until the end of time, but hopefully we won’t need to update it again!

This page is dedicated to updating the world on the situation with Volcán Tungurahua in Baños, Ecuador. ____________________________________________________________

The volcano hasn’t made it’s presence felt all day, and we are hoping that it is over!

Friday, December 9, 2011

8pm:  No sounds but it did clear up, showing the volcano to still be smoking.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

5:15pm:  BOOM!!!!!!

2pm: Some rumbling can be heard from the side of town close to the volcano.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2:30 pm.  Some small rumbles but only for a few minutes.  Very dusty in town.

11am: Still no activity, some ash blowing in town.

9am: Woke to some mild rumbling sometime in the night, but as of now all is quiet and the ash has settled.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

7pm: Volcano has been calm all day, and hopefully will continue in this fashion!

12 NOON: Baños ash making it feel like the Burning Man festival.

11am: the mayor made everyone sweep this morning which made all the dust go down the street and into the air for the next person to sweep and breathe.

10am: volcano almost quiet, Baños still in a thick fog, moderate winds not helping.  dust starts to enter our house.

9am: walk to town and find everyone there sweeping off their houses and shops. piles of ash lining the streets and most people wearing surgical masks.

8am: loud rumbles, town is in a haze

7am: wake up, volcano quiet

Monday, December 5, 2011

Here’s a quick video with some of our volcano footage.  Sorry the shot of the lava is so hard to see.  Shooting in pitch black+youtube video quality=pretty hard to see it!  But if you look closely you can see some red flashes!  Also, turn your volume up because the sound is one of the best parts!

Baños Rumbles More: Tungurahua, Part II

After spending one sleepless night with the volcán erupting we ran away to the jungle for two nights and anticipated returning to a more peaceful Baños.  Once back and talking to more people we realized this thing could erupt for weeks or months, probably without hurting anyone.  We had the opportunity to housesit on the other side of town, in an area “protected” (supposedly) from the volcano.  Since we weren’t ready to give up on Baños just yet, we took the offer to stay for 12 more days.  Eruption or no eruption, we committed to staying until the 13th.  All the work entails is taking care of the crazy German Shepherd and turning the lights on and off.  However, we weren’t needed immediately after our return, so that meant two more awful nights in a tent on the slopes of The BEAST.  Every night right around dusk, Tungurahua works itself into a frenzy and by the time the sky is dark you can witness the power of nature.   BOOM with the bass as the ground shakes and the windows rattle and shake, then seconds or minutes before the next BOOM and the ground shakes again.  The sky begins to clear and you see flaming balls of molten rocks as big as your house thrown over 1000 feet in the air.  Then you feel the thump as the lava lands on the side of the mountain. Repeat over and over: BOOM rumble BOOM rumble thump thump BOOM thump thump thump rumble rumble.  This continues until after midnight when it stays quieter until you are finally asleep, then wakes you before dawn with a CRACK rumble BOOM thump thump and you scream “Why are we here and when can we leave?!?”

Once the sun came up on Friday (5 days into the eruption) I picked some tea and noticed the leaves were covered in ash. Later when we walked to town we noticed that our eyes felt dry and irritated and a general haziness had crept up in the night.  Still all the locals went about their day as normal and laughed to hear us talk about how scared we were.  That night was more of the same, relentless and stressful.  We had to get off the side of the hill!

So we survived our last two nights sleeping out and made our way to our new temporary home.  We settled in and it was, as we had hoped, much quieter.  The very top of the peak is still visible but the floor hardly ever even shakes here.  With the rumbles minimized and the added safety of being out of the lava flow zone (so they say), we began to relax for the first time since returning to Baños.  The glow is still there at night, ash still falls from the sky sometimes, and occasionally we are woken by explosions in the night, but we are so much calmer.  We were even eventually able to get some sleep!

As of 17:30 Sunday, December 4th, 2011, the Volcán Tungurahua is still erupting as strong as ever with a continuous rumble and several larger reports throughout the day.  Recently there has been a small amount of ash rain and the sun has been hidden behind the volcanic cloud.  We continue trying to stay calm in our new, safer, house, although we are still vigilantly listening for the evacuation siren and at times wondering why we agreed to stay.

Do you think we’re crazy for staying?  Should we abandon the dog and book it out of town?

Baños Rumbles: Tungurahua, Part I

“Tungurahua” means “Throat of Fire” in Quichua.

On Sunday, November 27, 2011 around 5pm, Zach and I heard a distant rumbling that somehow, didn’t sound like thunder.  We immediately looked up at the peak of Tungurahua, but it was shrouded in clouds.  There was no doubt about it, though, the beast was awake.

We were living in our tent on a WWOOFing property on the edge of Baños closest to the volcano.  The several miles that separated us somehow meaningless due to our direct line of sight with the 16,479 foot-high top and our location exactly on the line of any predicted lava flows.  The remainder of the night was spent in a nervous frenzy, listening to continuous rumbling, watching streams of lava spew from the crater once the clouds cleared, pacing around the yard taking pictures, and venturing down the street to observe whether any of the locals were freaking out like we were.  We did NOT get much sleep.

A few notes from my journal that night:
“We are standing in the garden watching lava flow from Mama Tungurahua’s merciless-looking mouth.  It is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“Why do these things always happen at night?  If it was daytime, I’d be on a bus out of here by now!”
“What is God trying to say to me?”  (I’d be surprised if I was the only one philosophizing on higher power while watching this.)
“Taking the coolest pictures of my life is no fun when I’m scared my life is in DANGER.”

The next morning we found the townspeople totally unfazed, everyone assuring us that this happens quite frequently, and is nothing to worry about.  We, nevertheless, were worried, at least about our inability to sleep during the ever-present rumbling.  We headed to the bus station midday Monday and spent a couple days in the jungle sweating and hoping that Tungurahua would cool it (haha).  Wednesday we faced the reality that we were just being wimps and couldn’t shirk our WWOOFing duties forever.  Also, most of our stuff was still in Baños, and we wanted to have it in the event we really had to leave.  As we walked back up the hill toward the volcano, the speeds of our heartbeats increased exponentially with the sounds of the volcano…