Somoto Canyon in Nicaragua, an epic adventure for backpackers in Central America…
“Hike volcanos, help kids!” The shout echoes off the valley walls as the group laughs, pulls on their Quetzal Trekkers tees and sets off. We are right on the canyon outskirts. I slip into my ‘garbage shoes’ and follow the Spanish and American guides as we scramble up small mounds of scree, dodge thorny bushes and hop over small streams. Up ahead, the mouth of the canyon grins widely, as if ready to swallow us whole. The sound of rushing water is getting louder, I crest a small rise and, ahead of me stretches the river. It gargles and splutters, an engine coming to life, as small rivulets of water rush to meet it from all sides. I plunge in, quickly it envelops me as the water gets deeper, faster. Soon I cannot touch the bottom (not hard when you’re 5ft 6).
We float through the echoing Somoto canyon, pausing every now and again to navigate white water rapids, sun ourselves on rocky islands and explore the many caves lining the river’s edge. In places, the canyon is wickedly hot and relaxing in the water offers a delicious respite from the sun. In others, the canyon walls are so high and the water so deep that it is like jumping headfirst into a plunge pool… Our diminutive Nicaraguan guide easily handles two rucksacks as he sprints up a ramp of pebbles and boulders. At the top, he throws the pack into the churning waters below, turns to us, smiles and jumps backwards. He is gone, three seconds later, I hear an audible splash as he lands in the river. I rush up the ramp, the drop is not too much, perhaps five metres. I pause, screw up my courage and step into nothingness, the water rushes to meet me. I plunge into the river, shocked by the sudden chill, and pop back up thanks to my life jacket… I have just about enough time to get out of the way before the biggest Dutch guy I have ever met hurls himself from the rock, artfully spinning in the air, to join me in the river.
The day continued, we tackled a 30 metre abseil down a sheer cliff face, numerous cliff jumps, one from a suicidal 18 metres, and demolished pack after pack of biscuits. Later, we left the canyon in a tiny rowing boat and hiked further into the national park. We spent a night toasting marshmallows upon a roaring camp fire, soaking in the clear night sky (and the full moon!) and chatting about everything from Indian politics to why English people shouldn’t have to learn another language (seriously you guys, can’t you all just learn English?!). Eventually, we all drifted off to crash out in our tents, in just a few hours, it would be time to wake up, catch the sunset and milk a cow…
This adventure was made possible through the kind sponsorship of Quetzal Trekkers, who run numerous treks within Guatemala and Nicaragua. Quetzal Trekkers work with numerous projects in the region, mostly with street children, and plough all of their profits back into helping the local community. If you want to check out Somoto Canyon, consider going with Quetzal Trekkers.
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