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.
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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