What I Did On My Summer Vacation

For the first time in several years I took a vacation that lasted more than three days. I renewed my passport and flew to a country I had never been to before, in a part of the world I had never been to either: Leon, Nicaragua. While still technically in the Northern Hemisphere, it sure felt far South to this Minnesota girl. It was hot. Humid and hot. And wonderful. Would I go back again if given a chance? You bet. I missed the entire Atlantic side of the country. And Leon, the city and state where I spent the bulk of my time, is worth a second trip. There are places I want to revisit and explore more of, history to be absorbed (more on that in another post), and more tasty little mamon chinos that need to be eaten.

There is one part of the trip I do not need to repeat. It was great to have done it once, but once was enough: climbing the volcano.

Nicaragua is divided by a mountain range, which includes a string of active volcanoes. One of the volcanoes has its natural steam harnessed for energy. And one you can climb. If you’re foolish enough. And you have a guide. We had a guide. And I didn’t look at how I had to get down once I was up. So up I went.

Did I mention the guide moved like a bi-pedal Nicaraguan mountain goat?

Cerra Negro (“black hill”) erupted last in the 1990s. It spewed ash and pumice for miles – a bit like Mount St. Helens in Washington. Driving through the countryside to get to the park it was easy to think that the farmland was covered in rich, black dirt – until you realized that wasn’t dirt, that was pumice left behind by Cerra Negro. No humans died when it erupted, but plants and farm animals did. Hundreds of people had to evacuate because the surrounding area wasn’t livable. The fauna is coming back, but Cerra Negro itself remains a big black hill with virtually no trees or vegetation of any sort. The locals advise that you start climbing early – that lack of vegetation means you are clambering up a pile of black rocks in full sun. As you get closer to the top you start to get a nice breeze, but that becomes a steady wind that can blow your hat off (and threaten smaller people with toppling over). Did I mention there isn’t a true path? You just have to keep following the route of your native mountain goat guide over the rocks…Good thing he was willing to take breaks on the way up.

As you climb, and once you are at the top, the views are spectacular. It’s lush green in most every direction. The crater of the volcano has its own rust-colored beauty, but it’s not as photogenic as the next hill over. It’s good to stand at the top and recognize you just climbed a volcano. It makes a person feel accomplished. If you are my daughter, this makes you want to do cartwheels and handstands. If you are me, you fret that your child will go tumbling down the steep side of the volcano as she does handstands and cartwheels.

Then you need to go back down. Down is a different route. Down is down through pebble-y pumice that is a bit like deep sand (except it’s far more likely to scrape you). Down is steep, steep like a ski jump that you don’t see part of until you’re on it. Down means leaning back because if you stay upright or lean forward you will fall headfirst down 2400 feet of pumice covered volcano. The guide advised leaning back and going down at a trot. That worked well for Daughter who has no fear of heights (and actually enjoys them). I was less speedy, less graceful, and far more willing after a near panic attack to forgo dignity – scooting and crab-walking down, allowing all fours and my backside to hug the mountainside.

A fair amount of Cerra Negro arrived at the bottom with me in my pockets and shoes (I found yet more in those shoes weeks later back in Minnesota while walking around at the state fair). Up took just over an hour and a half, down took Darling Daughter about 10 minutes and me, um, more than 10 minutes. But I went up, and now I was down, And I can say I climbed a volcano on my summer vacation.

When have you done something even though you were scared?

43 thoughts on “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”

    1. We went as part of a group on a cultural exchange program through an organization called Project MN/Leon. They have been working in Leon – both with the exchange program and with community organizing projects in Leon – since the 1980s. There were 27 in our group – 24 climbed the volcano.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve had one medical procedure (surgery) that turned out far, far worse than I imagined or was told. The dreaded colonoscopy was absolutely horrid to get ready for, but the procedure was easy – at least I presume so, since I was unaware of what was going on. I’m hoping that my next medical procedure will be like yours, Bill – worse to anticipate than it will be in actuality.

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      1. my first one was a kick(colonoscapy). i got their and they told me oi couldnt drive for the rest of the day and i told them i had a full schedule so they said i either had to reschedule or do it awake. it was a breeze with the wise old doctor who talke me through it.
        the second one i told them i didnt do the drugs and they loooked at me in terror. the doctor had never done this before, i had to talk him through it. it was really funny, kind of a weeney doctor who was a baseball coach so his kid could be the star of his team. i hate coaches like that.
        i may do drugs on the next one. a planned day of drugs is not a bad thing its just not part of my instinct anymore.

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      1. If I get some work closer, I would definitely come up to MSP. But as it is the company is working me to exhaustion. There are few qualified union flooring installers in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. I see no respite for the rest of the fall and winter.

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        1. did you ever think about setting up a deal where you are the trainer
          what the hell was the union term for it?
          today you’d set up a school and charge 20 k to make them qualified by wessew

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    1. That sounds cool, Wes. It’s something that I would never do in a hundred years (or a thousand), but I think it’s cool that you do it. Good luck with overcoming the fear.

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    2. michael johnson who died recently gave me a fgift at the master class i took with him. instead of thinking about how you are performing for the audience realize that you are there to give them a gift. it amkes all the difference

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  1. I have a few of these actually. One of them, the zip lining, was actually just as scary as I was thinking so that doesn’t count. So maybe I’ll go with the open air biplane in Africa. I never would have thought I could do anything like that because I am afraid of heights. But it was wonderful!

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    1. i love zip lining. i love my motorcycle with no helmet so much better than with it. if feels good. on the motorcycle it can be justified that a helmet could save you (my lkids do voice opposition) but a little airplane… if its going down a roof on the cockpit isnt gonna help much. odds are with you right?

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      1. Depends on how you go down I guess. There’s a video on the news the last couple of days in which a little plane is heading down, clips a tree, kind a flips over and lands on its belly. Pilot walked away with some bruises.

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    1. Up until the volcano my answer might have been “go in for surgery” or “ride a ferris wheel.” Please note that even after conquering the volcano I still chose not to ride the new giant ferris wheel at the state fair.

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        1. My son was just sued for millions because a 5-year old’s nanny brought him over to my son’s while he was at work, put the kid on the 200′ zip line he put up for his little boy, and let her go. Without instruction, without a helmet – she let go and crashed into a tree. Her injury required brain surgery. It’s called an “attractive nuisance”, but to me, the fact that an adult put the kid on it mitigates responsibility.

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  2. I would say giving birth. You hope that the pain will be tolerable, that there will be no complications, and that you end up with a healthy baby at the end, but you don’t know ahead of time and just because it was okay once doesn’t mean it will be okay the next time. And you can’t avoid it – you must go through it.

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    1. During my first childbirth, I begged and begged the doctor to do a C section. It took 36 hours. When they rolled me out after giving birth, I told my then husband, “I will NEVER to this again!!” Just one year later, I did.

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  3. I was afraid to sell my pink bungalow and move to Oregon. Three years later I was afraid to leave that new home and move to Michigan. As I’ve mentioned, that move was motivated by my son-in-law getting a job here in Port Huron. That is no longer true. The future for our family is spooky but reasonably simple, for it has two paths.

    One would have us moving again. Having just done this, nobody is eager to pack up and do another move, even if the next move would presumably be better than what we just went through. My daughter and I love Saint Paul, so if we move again it will almost surely be there.

    Or my daughter and sil can find jobs in the wobbly economy of modern Michigan. We have until Christmas to make this work. Because my sil was still employed until days ago, we are at the very start of this process, and I can’t guess what our chances are. We will cope.

    Wherever you go, there you are.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Well, fear depends on the day. Sometimes it is all so daunting the merely getting out of bed is a success.

    I was afraid of moving to the Cities as a Single Mom years ago. I did it anyway. There was no good reason at all to stay where I was (small town in S. Minn.). I look back on that fear 31 years later, and I am sure it was a great decision.

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  5. Like Bill, I find that the anticipation of the feared is worse than the actual doing of the feared. I was afraid of driving over the mountains when we moved Daughter to Tacoma. It was easier than I anticipated, but I still didn’t like it.

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    1. i have some mountain roads that come to mind that make me tick like an epileptic today. they were straight down and the decision was difficult if you wanted to look down from the drivers side straight down or across the dashboard and the passenger was freaking out. i have walked over some stuff that makes the tingle in my legs go so hard i start laughing.

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  6. if you can find snappy comebacks in video form to save you fingers form having to type we may all be thankful for your carpel tunnel syndrome.

    holly was at rock bend, krista saw her and went over to talk to her. she did it with songs back in the day. a snipit of the blog topic could be the newest thing ben. go for it

    Liked by 2 people

  7. i heard martin luther king had the insides of a 70 year old even though he was much younger when he was shot. he was aged so severely by stress he lived with it took its toll. i feel like the damn stress i talk myself into taking a deep breath to get past is taking the fun out of it sometimes. living with the other shoe about ready to drop over an extended period is not fun for my kids to live through so i try to do it without a lot of external acknowledgement but i think they have learned how not to do it from the lessons learned. fear of failure is a good motivator.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I think it’s pretty unusual, but facing a 9-hour surgery that I might not survive and if so would permanently alter my life, I wasn’t scared at all. I could never explain this except to say that the entire experience was surreal from start to finish.

    Liked by 1 person

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