At 9pm Eduardo, my guide, and I were dropped off at the base of Volcan Baru, at 1,800 meters above sea level. We hiked for almost 6 hours before arriving at the summit, the highest point in all of Panama, at an elevation of 3,475 meters (or 11,400 feet for us estadounidenses). This is the highest elevation that I have ever hiked to.
Volcan Baru is a stratovolcano, sitting along the Pacific Ring of Fire. It used to be 500 meters higher before it collapsed due to a large landslide about 50,000 years ago.
When we were at the base Eduardo gave his friend (the police sergeant who lives at the summit protecting the communication towers) a call to inform him of our arrival. We would be sleeping at his headquarters until sunrise.
We didn't see much at night, but heard nocturnal animals and saw fireflies (which I haven't seen since Italy). When I found this 3" long spider (I know I should be consistent and use cm... 7.6cm) Eduardo said, that it is just a small spider. I said it isn't small! He said, you are right, it is just normal.
Upon our reaching our final destination we could see two different lightening storms, one over Costa Rica and the other over Panama. It was incredibly amazing to have hiked to a higher elevation than lightening.
That being said the hike was exhausting, exhausting because of the time, and also due to the elevation.
It was the last third of the hike that affected me the most. I couldn't sit down to rest out of fear I would just want to lay down and close my eyes.
But we had a mission, the Sergeant was waiting.
Eduardo knocked on the door and the Sergeant woke up to greet us and show us to our bunks.
His is the lower right, mine was the lower left, and Eduardo slept above me. I immediately fell asleep, only awoken when a small group of people arrived at 5am with the hopes of sleeping here as well. They slept in chairs and on the floor and the one extra bunk, until sunrise.
After the other group left I looked outside and had no desire to wait there, it was so cold and completely covered in clouds with no view at all.
The Sergeant made us coffee.
My favorite thing about this picture is that they had no idea I was taking it, they were not posing. This is just what they look like when they drink coffee in the morning.
Even though it was cloudy, and Eduardo kept telling me how dangerous the path was, I wanted to walk the ten minutes to la cruz. The cross is technically the highest point on the volcano.
The path was not dangerous at all in my opinion, and I was getting irritated because he kept telling me how to climb it and to be careful (which I don't like at all). At one point he grabbed on to my arm and repeatedly said I was scaring him, I told him it is more dangerous for him to hold on to me than anything else. But I was careful not to tell him that it was nothing, a little fearful they may be my last words.
I started getting hopeful that we would have a vista when blue skies would temporarily show, but it would get filled in with clouds almost immediately after.
We gathered up our things and had another cup of coffee, ready for the descent.
But then when we walked outside it had cleared up on the Pacific side!
On a clear day you can see both the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean, but I was happy with anything.
The crater is pictured above. The last major eruption was 1,500 years ago but there was a minor eruption just 500 years ago.
Volcan Baru is considered dormant but potentially active.
These clouds are covering our view of the Atlantic, but I think it looks beautiful.
The hike was 13.5 km (that is 8.3 miles) each way but on the last km a truck drove past us and asked if we wanted a ride and since we would have otherwise had to call a cab to get back to town I was more than happy to hop in.
It was a crazy night/morning but an experience I will never forget. The tour was a bit pricey for what it was but being a single woman (and being aware of the unsolved disappearance of two Dutch girls in Boquete) I was not about to hike it alone. Plus I got to speak Spanish the entire time, just another bonus.