Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tyler's Visit to the Land of Volcanos!

Some of our very favorite memories of living in Nicaragua will always be when our family and friends came to visit!! We are having wonderful and memorable experiences here and sharing those experiences with people we love just makes it so much better!! At the end of May Mitchell's twin brother came for a week to experience the land of volcanoes. We packed the week full of adventures and it flew by way too fast!

On the first full day Mitchell and Tyler headed down to San Juan del Sur for some beach time. They also enjoyed the long car ride each way to catch up. First stop was our favorite zip line spot. Check out that amazing view!!

After the zipline they headed for one of the beautiful white sand pacific beaches we enjoy and took a surfing lesson! It's harder than it looks but by the end they were able to stand up and surf a bit!

Last year Mitchell and Tyler finally got DNA testing done to definitively find out if they are fraternal or identical. I've always thought identical but we never knew for sure....until now! Ancestry DNA says they are either the same person or they are identical twins! Super fun! 

The next day we took the kids out of school and drove up to Leon. The line of active and inactive volcanoes runs right through Leon Department. Since we decided to make Tyler's trip kind of a volcano theme we stayed in Leon for a few days. First up: volcano boarding! One of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua is Cerro Negro. Translated that means black hill. It's the perfect name because nothing grows on Cerro Negro and it is completely black with volcanic soot. Cerro Negro is kind of unique in the way it erupts. Rather than the powerful and explosive volcanoes that blow the top of the mountain off and spew out lava and rocks, Cerro Negro sprays out lava under high pressure straight up into the sky. The particles cool as they fall and end up looking like tiny ash gravel once it's cooled again. Cerro Negro is the newest volcano in Central America and appeared in 1850. Since then it has pretty consistently produced a series of eruptions about every 20 years. In the 167 years of its existence it has erupted at least 23 times!! The last one being in 1999. Yeah, we're due!

Tyler, Audrey and I hiked up to the top of Cerro Negro and checked out a couple of the craters up there. There are 2 large craters plus a bunch of fumarolas, fissures in the ground that allow hot sulfur gasses to escape.

It was a cloudy day and the crater was totally foggy and creepy! After we climbed back out of the crater to the ridge of the volcano the wind picked up and the clouds all blew away and we could see everything crystal clear again.

As we hiked up Audrey did what comes completely natural for her and made friends with everyone. We caught up with a group of hikers from Australia and without missing a beat Audrey struck up a cute little conversation as if they had always been friends. She then confidently led the entire group up the mountain setting the pace for us all.

The larger crater on Cerro Negro

Meanwhile as Tyler, Audrey and I were hiking up and exploring the craters, Mitchell and the boys stayed below to drive and run around on the "ash dunes."

Here's what we came to do! Volcano Boarding! Tyler and I rented boards (kind of like snow boards/sleds) and carried them up the hill. We then slid all the way down! Mitchell and I did this several months ago and it was really fun but not at all fast or out of control. So this time I told Tyler that it feels scarier than it really is from the top and not to brake or you'll just end up sinking in the ash and have to scoot down the rest of the way. Apparently the conditions were a lot different this time because we absolutely FLEW down!! I went with Audrey on my lap and we got going so fast that I ended up digging in my heels (and kicking up a cloud of ash into her face!) and stopping us just to make sure she wasn't scared and so that we didn't go out of control! Of course, she was having a blast and we got going to full speed again before we came to a stop at the base of the volcano. SO. MUCH. FUN!!

Since the mountain is a giant pile of soot we rented these thick denim jumpsuits complete with goggles and gloves to protect us from the ash. It still gets everywhere though!




Audrey and Melanie at the end of our run

Tyler at the end of his crazy run

At the end of our ride down the volcano Audrey ran over to talk to "her friends" and see how their runs went. I love this confident, outgoing girl! 

Redick and I climbed a way up the face of the slope so he could have a turn

After volcano boarding we headed into the city of Leon and stayed in a hostel for the night. It was a pretty nice place and we all appreciated a shower after sliding through a mountain of ash! Of course, for $20/night you can't expect every amenity and we found out that they didn't have any towels they could offer us. Mitchell ran to the little corner store and bought a bar of soap and a roll of paper towels. We made it work and have a funny memory of it now.

It stormed and poured rain all night long! It was an impressive thunder storm and really there was so much rain I was sure the rest of our plans were going to be ruined. Our main event for Tyler's stay was an overnight backpacking trip up Volcan Telica. Mitchell and I were worried that it would be too muddy and that it would rain on us in our tents up there. We worried that the kids wouldn't be able to handle it and that it would be a disaster. We even briefly discussed canceling but decided to go for it and just see how it turned out. So glad we decided to go! It was absolutely perfect!!

We met our 2 guides for the trip at 6:00am to pack our backpacks, load the car and eat breakfast before driving to the trailhead. The guides had all of our gear ready including tents, sleeping bags, food and water. One of our guides, Marden, cooked us a great hearty breakfast of eggs, toast and pineapple before we left. 

It was overcast and looked like it was going to rain more but the weather held all day and it was perfect. The thick clouds protected us from the intense heat of the sun and it was quite pleasant.

Telica is an active volcano that is technically erupting now. The crater at the top is open to an exposed lava pool. Any time you can actually see lava it's considered an 'eruption.' At the base of the volcano there are boiling sulfur hot pots. We briefly walked around the hot pots before starting up the trail.

You can see the boiling and steaming hot pots in the background

The kids wanted to try a jumping picture. Nice air Redick!

Layne got the most height this time!

Our group with one of our guides, Max, near the sulfur pools

We hired a couple of horses in the local village to carry our gear up to where we would camp for the night. With the little kids and all of the gear, including 5L of water per person, it was just way to much to carry on our backs. The horses made the trip doable and so enjoyable! While we waited for the horses to be ready we played frisbee with some of the local kids. I didn't get any pictures of all of the kids but there were easily 8 kids loving playing frisbee with us.

Family huddles are something we do often to explain to the kids plans and expectations and get them pumped up for some fun!

Taking a snack break

It was a long and tough hike up the mountain. Of course since we were going up the first day was pretty hard. It was 7.5 miles total!! I am amazed at the kids! They were absolutely great! The last 45 minute push up to camp was the steepest climb and it was legitimately hard! They pushed through and I was so proud of them for making it. When we got to the area where we were going to camp one of our guides took the horses to our camp site to get them settled and to drop our gear. The rest of us continued on to a small community (only several families) that lives up there. One of the women had contracted with the guides to cook us lunch so when we got there she had a delicious feast prepared for us. Brilliant! Best rice and beans ever! 

My kids made fast friends with the cook's kids and took off exploring and to see the baby chickens they had. This is Redick in front of her home.

Banana plants in the background

After lunch we went up to our campsite and checked things out. It was breathtakingly beautiful! We camped right at the base of the crater! After setting up our tents and resting a bit we hiked up to the rim of the crater to see the lava and watch the sunset. It was magical.

Those billowing clouds in the sky are actually smoke rising from the crater!

It this picturesque or what?!!?

That bare hill behind us is the crater

Off we go!

What a view!

We made sure to stay far from the rim!

Audrey communed with nature as she watched the sun set atop the active volcano

The next morning we got up, packed and got on the trail as soon as we could to beat the heat.

Did I mention how awesome the kids were?!?! In the morning after we had hiked 7.5 miles up a mountain the day before and slept on the ground in at tent Reid woke up and looked around. Then he sat up straight in his sleeping bag and said "We've got to do this more often!!" Even Layne did amazing. He walked a lot of the way and was a trooper! He didn't walk the whole way and I captured some of the many ways he was hauled up and down that volcano.

Handsome hiker!

He got a couple of short rides on the horses

Daddy's shoulders

Uncle Tyler's shoulders

I figured out how to rig up a makeshift baby carrier with an upside-down backpack supporting his legs and back. He even fell asleep in it! It totally saved my arm strength too.

We threaded his legs through the padded shoulder straps and then tied the straps behind my back with a bandana.

For a while Layne got stuffed inside Uncle Tyler's backpack too. 

Another nap time ride

It was an amazing trip and we were all wiped out at the end!

On Tyler's last day we went to Masaya. We hadn't planned on going to see Volcan Masaya since we saw lava at Telica but at the last minute Mitchell decided it was worth going because it's pretty quick. So glad we did because it may have been our best lava sighting yet!

Thank you Tyler for coming!! These are great memories not soon forgotten.

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