Climbing Volcan Baru

Atop Volcan Baru

March 20, 2010 — garypeg

My wet jeans were about as damp as the iffy mattress I slept on and only slightly more so than the sleeping bag, so I did not freeze when I slipped them on. I suppose that having put the jeans underneath a blanket and my sleeping bag into which I added my body heat helped reduce the moisture a bit.

Outside it was bright and cool, perhaps around 60F, the sun warming us up as we walked from one side of the cell phone tower compound to the other looking at nearby Volcan and Cerro Punta, with Costa Rica and the Panamanian province of Bocas del Toro in the distance. There was still cloud over both the Pacific and the Caribbean, which changed a bit later just enough to allow me to see Puerto Armuelles on the Pacific side and a patch of emerald blue to the east.

Short video from from atop baru. At the time we could not see either ocean.

After an unusually oil-soaked breakfast – I think they even fried the plastic plates – we took began walking down the moutain on the east side, which will take us to Boquete. On this side the walking is easier, although in parts you are in walking amongst the stones and boulders of what looks like a dry stream bed, so you have to be very careful not to slip. The path is wide and there is no getting lost, unlike the Cerro Punta side, where a Peace Corps volunteer was lost for three days last summer before a small army of searchers finally found her.

The forest is thick on either side but like on the Cerro Punta side there are more birds in Santa Clara or there seem to be and you can easily see them there whereas here the ones you can hear you rarely see.

The trip down took over 5 hours and my thighs began to ache, and I began to slide inside my left boot, banging my large toenail against the front of the boot. The last two hours were difficult. When we reached bottom my toenail was blue. One of the former PCV’s is a nurse and she said I would probably lose the nail. But I had made it and fortunately Lourdes had arranged for someone to pick us up. Even after two ibuprofens I could not have gone much farther.

Video: on our way down the volcan

Climbing Volcan Baru

March 14, 2010 — garypeg

Volcan Baru is a national park and protected area not far from where we live, as the Tucan flies. On March 9th I received an invitation from Lourdes, the leader of one of the local agro-environmental groups. Gorace sells organic produce purchased in the Chiriqui Highlands, to join her and 5 others on a hike to the top, at an altitude of about 11,000? or 3400 meters. From here Balboa, I think it was, who was the first European who saw both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at the same time, the only place on earth where you can do so except at Cape Horn but that’s at sea level.

We left the next morning at 8:15, although I expected an earlier departure but then again I always expect things to start on time at least when it is important to do so. So I got there at 6 as instructed.

It is a beautiful hike from the Cerro Punto side of the volcano. But is is not easy walking as you pass through three vegetation zones at least, and in places you are on cliffs looking at 30-70? drops on one side. My heavy breathing must have shook the heavens as once we got near the top, 10 hours and who knows how many miles later (at least 8 I think), the lighting and thunder that had been worrying me for an hour now turned into a mostly light rain and hail storm. But we were within an hour of the top, the steepest part of the climb that had me taking one step at a time and then six deep breaths. The younger ones- that would be everyone else- flew by me on the way to secret cabaña Lourdes had secured and which had led me to accept the invitation despite the short notice.

I had delightful company. There were two former Peace Corps volunteers including one who worked with Gorace and another who served in Africa. The former still works for the Peace Corps and the other was a recruiter as well after her two year stint in Africa where she climbed Mt. Kilimangaro! Both were a lot of fun and I learned a lot from them about their time in Peace Corps.
Short video of the climb:

Next entry: At the Top

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