Christmas 2012 on El Hoyo

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Kristi and I originally had an office shift for the 24th and were not going to be able to go up El Hoyo with the group.  Fortunately for us, one of the guys not going up offered to cover us.  We helped prep the night before for a large group of 17.

We went to bed early… or at least tried.  There was a huge party across the street from us with music blasting until 2am… we were up at 5:30am the next morning.  So fresh off my 2 hours of sleep, we walked to QT for breakfast.  At 8am we were in the truck and off to El Hoyo.

So for El Hoyo, the group goes volcano boarding first on Cerro Negro before heading up El Hoyo.  Myself, Kristi and 3 other guides headed up early to get everything set up.  El Hoyo was the first hike I did 3 weeks ago and I hated it. I actually thought I might die.  This time I was carrying a fully loaded backpack with dinner and wine in it.  Before we left I had weighed my pack… 55lbs.

The initial climb on El Hoyo is terrible but at least I knew what I was in for this time.  That didn’t really matter though.  55lb pack and my calves were killing all the way up.  Kristi and I let the others go ahead since we knew the way up and took our time.  I have come to realise that being conditioned to play hockey and lacrosse is completely different conditioning from hiking.  In lacrosse and hockey, I go hard for 30-60 seconds and rest for 90 seconds… Hiking you just keep going and going, it never seems to stop.

Luckily for me, Kristi is patient and we just float up at a slow pace.  We get to the campsite around 30 minutes after the other three guides.  We start helping set up while 2 of the girls ran off to get firewood. Kristi and I set up our tent and it is hot out now.  I lay down for about 20 minutes before going back out.  The campsite is awesome, you look up at a big random hole at the top of the volcano hence the name “El Hoyo”.

Kristi and I walked up to it to look in.  It’s a much longer hike up than it looks like it would be.  Then we walked around to look into the fumerole which is really cool and looks like a dragons lair.

When we got back to the campsite and one girl had a fire going and was starting to prepare our dinner.  He all hung out in the sun waiting for the group to show up.  The only unfortunate part of the campsite is that it doesn’t offer any shade and when you spend 5 hours on top of a volcano with no shade, the amount of sunscreen you apply doesn’t really matter.  We’re all burnt.

The group showed up around 3:30pm and we welcomed them with shots of aguardiente and tang. Yes it did taste as bad as it sounds.

The group went for the hike up to the hole while we stayed back and relaxed.  As it started to get dark, the wind picked up and it started to get pretty chilly.  Of course earlier that morning I asked Kristi if she would pack my long sleeve shirt.  She told me I wouldn’t need it so I said okay.  I’m not sure how much I trust her judgement anymore.  I still love her though.  Luckily one of the clients offered me his rain jacket so I took that and was good for the night.

Dinner was ready to be served and our Slovenian guide made us an amazing spread including curried chicken, fire roasted potatoes, veggies and a salad.  Probably the best dinner I’ve ever eaten around a campfire.  Then as if that wasn’t enough, they fire up a pot with cloves in it, added cinnamon and some cheap wine.  Then to go with our hot wine, we have cake with grilled pineapple.  I felt like a million bucks.

At one point of the night, one of the guides dumped something from the pot onto the fire, a scorpion had climbed into it.  She warned everyone that if we see a scorpion to kill it because if you move it, it will go back to the same place.  The scorpions on El Hoyo aren’t deadly but if you get stung it will be very painful.

We sat up until 8:30-9pm chatting with the group before going to bed. I have another awful sleep before one of the girls is yelling for everyone to wake up.  I string together some profanity and get the response “Merry Christmas to you too Miles!”

We get up just in time to see the sun rise (picture).  What an awesome way to start you Christmas day.  We have breakfast of oatmeal and bananas with cinnamon, sugar and honey to put on it. As we are packing up, we are told to bring everything we brought up the day before, I grab the now empty dinner containers and realize my pack is really light.  I offer to take more stuff and people keep giving me empty water bottles.  So now my pack is full with 4L of water, 9 empty water bottles and a bunch of empty containers.  Maybe weighing about 15lbs.  I like how this day has started.  This group is fast. We fly down the volcano making it to our rest stop in 2 hours instead of the normal 3.  We have a small snack and go back on our way now with an even faster pace.  We end up making it to the crater lake, Asososca, by 9:45am which is probably the fastest time any group has done it so we all went for a swim, had lunch and hung out until 11:15am.  Overall it’s been a pretty good day.  We look up from the lake and you can see the big hole way in the distance where we camped the night before.  It still doesn’t feel like Christmas.

We fly through the last part of the hike and get to the bus stop where we relax and wait. And wait. And wait.  We find out the buses are done running for the day in the small town.  The girls flag down a truck to hitch hike.  15 of us with big backpacks pile into the back of a pick up truck. We were inches from the ground and every time we took a corner or hit a bump, I peed in my pants a little.

The truck dropped us off 5mins away from the bus station.  However, we didn’t have to wait at all as the bus was driving by and picked us up right there.  45 minutes later we were back in Leon.  Kristi and I jumped in a cab and headed home to our apartment.  We showered and skyped with Kristi’s parents.  We did all the dishes because I had the containers from dinner and Kristi collected all the bowls from everyone plus she had a pot from breakfast.  Then we finally got a hold of my family and skyped with them for an hour.  Christmas just isn’t the same when you don’t see your family.

We relaxed a little longer before heading back to Quetzaltrekkers for our Christmas dinner and secret Santa.  The director, Sam, was cooking dinner.  We got out a crappy plastic Christmas tree and decorated it with random things from around the house.

We made hot apple cider with Aguardiente and apple juice, and an old volunteer from 2 years ago showed up with 6 bottles of Flor de Cana, the fancy stuff.  The food came out, thin cut medium rare roast beef, scalloped potatoes, and roasted vegetables.  It was very well done and a great dinner.  We then decided to open presents.  I had drawn a loud friendly talkative guy who works as a fisherman in Alaska when he’s not volunteering at the Beach at Quetzal Playa.  I knew I could have some fun with this so I found a pink mug that said “Friends for Life” on the side and filled it with a pack of smokes and a small bottle of Aguardiente. He was very excited and we grabbed a couple pics.  I got a small bag of chocolate… a pretty safe gift if you don’t know someone.  Kristi got chocolate and a Spanish Cosmo magazine that she doesn’t care to read haha.

After presents it was time for dessert. Pineapple Turnover cake with ice cream.

Then it was drink and dance party time.  Even the volunteers from Bigfoot who live next door to us came over and had drinks.  Kristi and I were going to leave since neither of us had slept well in 2 days with hiking in between but Sam said no and poured me another shot of rum.  That was 9:30pm… at 11pm we ended up at Via Via where we had a couple more beers and finally made it home around 12:45am.  It was an awesome night out, everyone got along great and it was probably the most fun I could have without being around family.

Everyone today is nursing hangovers while Kristi and I work in the office. They all tried to go out after Via Via but everything was closed.  Lots of pics to come and we got some great footage on El Hoyo. We may be getting an upgrade on the netbook this week and hopefully you won’t have to wait until February to see everything.  Also Kristi learned another phrase in Dutch.  Now she can say “Lets wash this pig” and “The monkey came out of the sleeve”.

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