If Planet Earth is a face, volcanoes would be acne. Violent spewers of lava from a distractingly high cone, they leave their mark on Earth’s pretty teenage visage for many years after their initial eruption of fiery liquid. Maybe Ol’ Gaia has a hormone problem. Actually, maybe they’re not like acne. Some of the more active ones are more like haemmorhoids: leaking a bit here and there, still a bit sore years after they first bled and causing all sorts of problems when the nearby area needs to be evacuated. Then the dormant ones are more like a hernia – just poking through.
Volcan Maderas was a hernia. At 1394m, it’s a pretty impressive hernia. Since we were staying in its shadow at the Hacienda Merida, it wouldn’t feel right to skip that climb. It beckoned to us. We obliged.
Beginning the day at 6:30, our pack of six went for a spot of yoga to open up the hips, flex out and warm up before the hike. After two hikes in as many days, this was a welcome spot of stretching and warm up. I usually stretch for an hour every morning and evening and, depending on the day, for an hour in the afternoon too. This morning was no different, so though I joined everyone at 6:30, I was out on the dock at 06:00 just over six hours since I last stretched out. With a spine as tall as mine, this is somewhat necessary.
The climb was not too difficult. IN total, it took about four hours to get up and four hours to get down. The advantages of a group are: A) Better conversatonal options makes the time pass quicker, B) More food and special supplies to share around and C) Better support structure for those falling behind. The disadvantages are: A) If one person is slow, everyone must either wait or slow down, B) Potential for frustration if the hike does not go well, C) A leader may be necessary, but the risk of personality clashes then increases. Luckily, the common problems did not arise and the hike was very pleasant, everyone got on well and it was mostly smiles and laughter. There were even no complaints, not one, in the very muddy section.
We were lucky. Very lucky. About three hours in, we started to meet other groups coming down. Several of them were turning back because they couldn’t stand the mud or fog at the top. They had begun their trip about an hour or two before us and were struggling with the elements. We brave six, on the other hand, were wondering where the constant cloud cover was because the sunlight followed us up the whole way. When we finally made it to the top, the crater lake was spread before us at its most majestic, the ring of trees shaded a bright green in the clear sunlight directly above us. Fortune favoured us on that day as we were right in the middle of the crater of Maderas without a single cloud in the sky. Apparently, in the two weeks that one of the group had been there, this was the only day it was like this.
We hiked down at pace, waiting for those with weaker knees and ever concious of the descending sun. If we didn’t get off the mountain by sundown, it could prove troublesome…
Thankfully, we hit the main road just before the sun went down. The bus was about an hour away, so three of us decided to walk the extra 4km in the darkness and three decided to wait. About forty-five minutes later, we heard a loud engine behind us under the clear celestial sky that we had been admiring in the midst of a power cut. Assuming it was the bus, we stopped and stuck our thumbs out. Instead of the bus, it was the others, riding in the back of a flower truck! We jumped aboard, grabbed a hold of the crossbar, stared up at the sky and laughed our way back to the hostel… where we promptly jumped right into the invigorating, cool waters and rested our weary bodies under the stars.