Climbing a Volcano. A hike of your life.
Half way through, we could only see the headlights of those above you, the lights of those below, hear and feel the rush of wet air, and a constant “ROCK!! BE CAREFUL!”. I felt like I was inside a NatGeo Documentary…
The adventure starts with a car full of strangers heading to the same direction: the Arenal Volcano. We were all set to do one amazing hike which none of us had ever done yet only seen a video and photos of. We were not expecting much but knew that it was not going to be easy. A group of 12 and the guide which they said was actually coming to meet us at 12 mid night and was coming from another volcano (had finished another hike; the guy is for real.)
On the ride to La Fortuna we got to meet each other and connected amazingly; good vibes is all we need! Making a stop here and there to ponder upon the beautiful natural scenery of our Costa Rica, we got to chat with each other and even realized some were relatives! (This happens constantly in this country)
Finally arrived to La Fortuna and met more of the group, ate an AMAZING “casado” and headed to the spot where we were to sleep before the midnight hike. So many smiles, so many good vibes, a great group.
Slept for a couple of hours in my hammock and before I knew: Show time.
Everyone got up, packed each of our bags and in less than 10 minutes we were ready. The rain made some of us unsure and a little skeptic, yet we had to do it, there is no other way around. A crater was on everyone’s horizon.
The only thing I remember as we gathered and heard our guide talk about the hike is: “So, does everyone get it? This is ilegal and very dangerous, is everyone all right with it?”. Echo: “Yes”.
“Ok, let’s go.”
That stayed with me for at least the first hour.
About 25lbs was what I had on my back, including gear, food, a jacket, a walking pole, and the country’s flag. I thought I was totally NOT gonna make it with that.
The hike was divided into this: Intense forest, intense rocks, intense sand, intense loose rocks and sand, AND intense climbing big rocks. Yup. Intense.
So, first 100m, guess what we found? Viper Snake. Ooooh, yeah. Carefully walked beside it. DON’T MESS WITH IT.
As we finished the forest and started walking up the rocks, the rain got worse. Just imagine this scenery: you’re surrounded by fog, can’t see 20m in front of you. You know you’re out in the open, only hear the people around you yet it’s dark and only the flash lights illuminate the next rock you have to move through. Above that, RAIN starts pouring harder and you have to put your jacket on. Oh, and this is the super-easy part. Would those “illegal and dangerous” words keep tricking your mind to go back? My mind didn’t stop.
Passed the small rocks, now a lot of sand. Black sand. You have no idea how hard it is to hike an inclined plane on sand. With rain. This is when we started hearing that we had to be careful not to loosen any rocks, they might roll down and hit someone.
The slope got more and more inclined, the backpack heavier, the muscles tenser, the night darker. Everyone was silent except for the “CAREFUL! ROCKS COMING DOWN!”. The night was creeping up on us and before we knew we were with our hands on the floor climbing up the mountain and not letting the wind throw you off balance and fall almost straight down! It just kept getting harder. We felt as if we were in a Nag Geo Documentary; you could only see flashlights above and below and the ambiance was SO TENSE. Nobody wanted to fall, nobody wanted to die, we only had one way up and no turning back!
“ROOOOOCK!! CAREFUL!!!!” You could hear it at a distance being repeated on the way down, and just hoped the rock didn’t hit you because most likely you couldn’t see it coming down, just listen to it bouncing down until it rushed right beside you.
Finally the sun seamed to come up and the fog started glowing slowly a shade of orange and then blue. The top was near and we were going to get there by dawn, yet it didn’t seem like it was going to clear up. The last part was very mental; we were almost there, but the rocks got steeper and had to literally climb them!
Finally, the scene felt more comfortable, yet very rocky. There was heat coming up of nearby rocks. We know we were on the top. All of our stress rolled off and we couldn’t do more than celebrate!
WE WERE ON THE TOP OF A VOLCANO!!!
You wouldn’t believe the scenery even if I showed you images of it (that I will). The wind was very cold so we had to stay near the rocks with hot vapor to keep body temperature normal. We roamed the nearby rocks for a place to have breakfast, recover and stayed there with smiles on our faces enjoying this moment, waiting for it to clear up. It was 5:40 am and we had hiked 3km (straight line), and 5,479 ft high (1600m), you might imagine the slope.
We rested a lot. It almost looked like a war zone. The faces of everyone were so different than the ones I saw at the start, but all of them had the joy of doing what we had done.
It was finally time to go down, rested, with a full belly and energy. It didn’t clear up much, but we were happy. Happy to know that this is a place not many come to and will probably won’t enjoy firsthand, yet we were there. Conquering.
As we went down, it felt easier to walk, although we had to be careful still. And all of a sudden, the unexpected happened: the fog rolled out! I felt tears in my eyes from looking at the AMAZING view. I couldn’t, and still can’t, believe it. We had the whole country in front of our eyes. This moment was perfect. We had totally conquered that mountain.
We were there knowing that everything was beautiful and that our country has so many places to get to know. How could´t we be happy?
Even the slope was not even dangerous anymore for us, we only wanted to enjoy the view and run down! So we did and slid through the sand!
3 hours was what it took to go back down again to the hut. It was amazing and we were all totaled. Luckily nobody got hurt, except our faces that couldn’t hold our smiles and it just stayed there.
The day ended with hot springs in La Fortuna at a place called “El Chollin”, a public hot spring where we let all the tense muscles relax.
Best. Day. Ever.
Be sure to do whatever it is that your heart desires. You are here for a limited but juicy time. Conquer your fears, conquer your mind, conquer volcanoes.