The hike starts steep, and doesn’t let up. After about 100 yards, I was out of breath, clutching the straps of my backpack, staring straight down and wondering how much further I would go before I would give up.
The coolness of the night didn’t prevent the sweat from completely soaking my t-shirt, but I didn’t mind the dampness. After about an hour of hiking, my legs felt good with that familiar burn in the calves received while playing hockey. Happy that I felt this good after hiking such a steep slope for so long, I cheerfully started to whistle. My breath quickened and I was reminded of the altitude change I was undergoing, I stopped whistling.
I decided to stop for a snack and to change my socks about 2 hours into the hike. I sat on a log for about 10 minutes, downing some fig newtons and an apple. After this rest, about 10 steps more up the volcano I felt my legs start to tire. They had been rewarded with some down-time and they wanted more. I ignored the dull pain and kept going, this wasn’t that bad – I was going to make it to the top!
Being alone on this hike at night was quite frankly, scary. Part of the reason I kept going was that noises spurred my imagination, preventing me from stopping. Visions of a puma, following close behind helped to maintain my pace up the mountain.
Rustling in the jungle caused my already fast-beating heart to race. At one point, my flashlight caused the brilliant red eye-shine of an animal to appear in the trail ahead of me. I froze as the chills went through my body from my feet to me head and back down. The creature, about two feet tall I would guess, just stared back at me, probably more scared of me than I was of it… probably. It moved away after a minute and I waited a minute longer before thoughts of something from behind got me started back up the trail.
Scared Of The Dark
The trail maneuvers in and out of the dense jungle canopy, providing minutes of light from the moon followed by the pitch black of the jungle. While hiking in the moonlight, I turned the flashlight off in order to save precious battery life. I should have brought extra batteries, but looking back now, hiking up by moonlight was really cool and I am glad for those times when the artificial light was off.
Soon enough though, up ahead I would see the thick jungle approaching, the blackness of the trail seemed like an approaching tunnel. My pace probably slowed each time I saw that tunnel ahead, but my feet kept moving, and the flashlight clicked on 2 steps before entering the darkness.
The darkness within the jungle was thick, and the small flashlight provided little help. Sounds seemed to be magnified by the inability to make out objects clearly, and more of the sweat now came from fear rather than the humidity. As slow as I must have entered the covered areas, I must have exited that much faster. As soon as the gray light of the moon was visible up ahead my hopes seemed to soar and confidence was restored – only to be mocked again by the next patch of black.
About every 30 minutes or so, I would come across a power pole. For some reason, seeing these poles made me feel safe. I laugh at myself now, but those power poles probably helped me get to the top! I reached the spot where I could see the communication towers after about 3 hours, 45 minutes, and decided to again take a quick break.
Elated that I had made the journey this far, thoughts of the view I would soon see played out in my mind. I looked up, and was blown away by the number of stars in the sky. I had seen pictures like this, but never with my own eyes – absolutely breath-taking! I quickly ascended to the top, using my hands in some places to get to where the 8’ tall white cross is.
I touched the cross at the same time pressing the stop button on my stopwatch. 4 hours, 8 minutes, 35.72 seconds. I dropped my bag at the side of the cross, set the camera on the ground aimed at the cross, hit the 10 second delay and walked over to get in the frame. I had done it!
The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment drowned out the dull throbbing in my legs. I sat, rested, and waited for the sunrise – huddled in my parka at the foot of the cross.