Day 16 - The Volcano and the Farewell

Before I begin, I need to take the time to thank all of my loyal readers who kept reading my blogs even through the vanity-flick guest writes, my stupid jokes, and my overuse of “to be” verbs (Kahn kids know what I’m talking about).  Today was ("to be" number one) our last full today in the land called Nicaragua.  Although we (especially me…) have given Catherine a lot of crap (jokingly of course) for her planning, everyone can agree that today was perfect. (Just to clarify, Catherine did a great job all trip, but it was fun to give her a hard time)

Mike got everyone up at 8 for our normal breakfast of granola, fruit, and eggs.  At 10, we left in a van (with too few seats, of course) to Mambacho Volcano.  It’s the giant volcano you can see everywhere in Granada and is only a 30 minute drive away.  There are 4 or 5 craters in the volcano.

The van driver kept us entertained with a “classic video mix” on the flip down TV.  The mix consisted of Kool and the Gang, Grease, and The Bee Gees music videos.  Punneh knew all the Kool and the Gang lyrics, Hannah led the way with Grease, but no one could match my falsetto on “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.  Needless to say we were all in an up-beat, dancy mood when we arrived at the top of the volcano.  By “top of the volcano” I mean 1100 meters up the volcano, just at the base of where the “cloud forest” started.  This was the highest we went up the volcano.  We took a 45 minute hike around “Crater 1” which was formed by a volcanic eruption five hundred years ago.  Our guide took us to view points at various altitudes to look into the crater, out over Granada and the jungly parts of Nicaragua and out to Lake Nicaragua.  Apparently the crater looked like something out of Avatar (I haven’t seen the movie).  There was argument made that it looked like Fangorn Forest from Lord of the Rings.  Well, I just watched all three of the movies with my brother before I left and I was quick to disagree.  For one, this is a jungle while Fangorn is more of a Northwest type forest.  Secondly, Fangorn is pretty small in area compared to the vast area the jungle of Mambacho takes up (not to mention Fangorn is completely flat and Mambacho is a volcano).  Lastly, and what I consider the most obvious and important difference, the trees at Mambacho didn’t talk!  Honestly, I have never encountered a forest more unlike Fangorn.

During the hike, one of the groups ran into a family/herd/group (much debate occurred over the correct term) of Howler Monkeys.  Madeleine almost cried at how cute one of the babies was.  The tiny monkey gave us a scare when he almost fell off a branch into the abyss of the crater.  Luckily he managed to catch himself with his tail.  The other group only caught the tail end of the monkeys but they saw two three-toed sloths.  I don’t see the appeal of sloths but Hannah quickly announced that it was her new favorite animal.

Now is where the real fun begins.  The hike was fun and beautiful but nothing compared to what Catherine and the chaperones had planned next.  We took the van back down to the “lower forest” where we were completely out of the clouds and were basically in the jungle at the base of the volcano.  Alright, I know the suspense is hard to take so I will just spit it out: we went zip-lining.  This is a slightly confusing thing but basically we strapped into harnesses and put on helmets and walked into the forest.  We ascended a ladder onto a platform mounted in a tree and attached to ropes to a wire.  A man then pushed us and we slid along this wire, fairly quickly, across the jungle to another tree.  It was amazing because you have to conquer any fear you have of heights since you are basically jumping out of a tree and then flying at a high speed across the top of a jungle in between trees.  There were about 10 trees that we went overall and we probably zip-lined about a mile.  Some of the wires were fast and long and others were slow.  On the slow ones they had us do CRAZY things like go upside down.  I got up to attach my harness to the wire when the guy spun me around and flipped me onto my head and pushed.  So here I am flying across a wire 40 feet above the forest floor staring at the ground.  All the blood rushed to my head and it was pretty unpleasant.  But it was still extremely thrilling.  On the last leg of the zip-line, the man who stood at the end of each one to make sure we slowed down enough to not slam into the tree, started bouncing the wire. So now, as we’re going across this zip-line, we get thrown up into the air and go into freefall every second (still attached to the wire of course).  For the guys out there, you may empathize with us about having that harness strapped around your groin crotch area and having to bounce up and down… you get the point.  It was a little painful.

Just as we were thanking the Nicaraguan’s for our fun experience and hanging up our harnesses, the rain came.  And I mean to tell you, within 5 seconds (literally 5 seconds) the weather went from sunny and hot to rain coming down in bucketfuls.  It was almost like a flash flood.  All the water collected from the roads and we could see it flowing at amazing speeds down troughs in the side of the road to drain it.

The road still hasn’t stopped.  We just got back from dinner at the pizza place again.  Last time we experienced a typical pizza-eating outing for me:  no one says they like Hawaiian pizza but I push for it so we order one then everyone decides they love Hawaiian and eat it all.  A few other people noticed the same thing so, this time, Catherine ordered us 3 Hawaiian pizzas and only 2 vegetarian and combos.  The others protested saying “No then we’ll have too many Hawaiian left.”  Again I have to applaud Catherine’s leadership because the Hawaiian pizza was gone within 10 minutes and no one wanted anything else.  I got my filling though and I think everyone else did but I really hope people will finally learn their lesson: Hawaiian pizza is the best.

Tomorrow we have to get up at 3:30 AM… (this is the time where you grown and say “Aw Will I’m so sorry you have to get up so early).  Apparently the Managua airport is a “zoo” (Bob’s word) so hopefully we can get enough sleep so we are alert enough to maneuver our tubs and luggage all around the airport.

Now comes the sad part for me.  This is my last blog of the trip! It has been a ritual for me to come back from dinner, pull out the laptop and write.  I don’t know how I can stop.  I am pretty attached to it at this point.  I guess I have to stop at some point though.  Anyways, I’m sad the trip is over.  We learned so much about other cultures and people, and technology.  I know we all bonded as a group and hopefully we can have many photo parties and reunions in the coming months (Kate and Punneh’s schedules are the only problem).  Not too many though because I might get sick of this group… Just kidding.

I tried to cover as much as I could but realistically I only talked about group activities and things I was involved with.  When we get back make sure you talk to someone about the trip because I know there are so many great stories out there they I didn’t fit into the blog.  Nicaragua is an amazing country and if you ever have the chance to go, don’t pass up the opportunity.  Our TSC Nicaragua crew did a phenomenal job on our project.  A high school on Ometepe Island now has a fully operating computer lab that started with an empty room and some blue tubs that came from Seattle.  For a student to go to college, they have to be somewhat familiar with using a computer.  Our hope is that our computers increase the number of kids from the school and Ometepe in general that attend college and strive for higher education.  All the TSC members should be extremely proud right now.  I know I am.

Una ultima vez, adios y gracias.

-Will and the entire 2010 TSC Nicaragua team