Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nicaragua - Mombacho Cloud Forest

One of the best things about our Nicaragua trip is that I couldn't find a bad cup of coffee.  I'll bet even their gas stations served up a perfect cup.  On our day trip to the Mombacho Cloud Forest Reserve, we stopped at a plantation to sample coffee grown right on the slopes of the volcano.

Shade grown coffee.  We brought some home but you can also order it at:  The best coffee I've had in my life thus far has been in Nicaragua.

To get to the 'top' of the volcano, from where you can start hiking in the cloud forest reserve, you park at the entrance to the reserve and hop on an army-style truck.  It's a long steep road to the top of the volcano. This cobblestone road was undergoing repairs and we kept getting off trucks, onto other trucks, even riding in the bed of someone's Toyota pick-up.  At one point we got tired of waiting for the next truck to pick us up and tried to hoof it to the top. 

Still trying to get to the top.  It was so dang hot and (did I say?) steep that just before we reached the top - a truck finally came by and we piled on.  Again, most people don't walk to the top - everything was a bit disorganized due to road construction.  In this picture are all of the people that attempted walking to the top.  When it was all said and done, only the crazy Wyoming family and a couple of Aussies were still walking when the truck picked us up. 

Near the top of the volcano and at the end of the road is the Mombacho research and visitor center. From here, you can hike one of three trails.  The longest is the Sendero la Puma and to hike this trail you need to hire a guide at the visitor center for a very nominal fee.  The Puma is about a four hour hike.   You can get lunch and snacks at the visitor center. 

Scott in the 'tunnels' on the Sendero el Crater trail. 

There are 100 troupes of howler monkeys on Mombacho, with a total of 1,000 individuals. We didn't see any but we could hear them, and they are very loud, like jet-airplane-type loud.
What can I say?  Big sisters can be helpful.


Scott and Laura: the ride down was nice, we even had shade.

Do-Over Scoop:
Trails:  This was a great day trip but a fun alternative would be to stay overnight in the accommodations at the visitor center - to try and see the endemic Mombacho salamander.  But we only had so much time.  The trail we hiked, Sendero el Crater, with an additional spur to the fumaroles was perfect with the kids. And there's a beautiful view overlooking Lake Nicaragua and the 365 isletas from the spur trail.  If it had been just Scott and I we would have hiked the longer Puma trail. 

Water:  We thought we had taken enough water but ran out.   You can buy water at the visitor center but it's better to take your own refillable bottles.  In general, for our Nicaragua trip we took our Nalgene bottles and treated water with a steripen when the source was questionable.  But often we drank the municipal water and it was just fine. 

Timing:  The time spent there was just about right.  We left from Montibelli Nature Reserve at 8:00 am  and arrived at the parking lot at the park entrance at 10:00 or 10:30 in order to be there in time to take the park truck(s) to the top. If coming from Montibelli, however, I would allow more time.  Our driver drove insanely fast -- so that we could catch the 10:30 ride to the top.  We got back to the park entrance where our driver was waiting for us at about 2:00.  You can combine this trip with zip lining, but with kids, I would break it into two separate days.  The zip lining is half-day outing by itself.  I couldn't find a website to directly book with them but any hotel in Granada can arrange it.

For more information and some beautiful photography of Mombacho see the following blog: