One of the things I had to do in Balgüe was to climb La Conceptión. Sure, I could’ve gone for La Madera, the other volcano, which looks more like a steep mountain, but lost any interest when I heard that even women walk to the top, easily. La Conceptión, famous for his perfect cone, is a different breed. By all means it’s a dangerous climb all the way up to the steamy crater. Only three months ago it erupted, producing this black cloud off smoke and dust. Two months earlier two foreigners died while climbing to the top. Pues most of the people stay away from it like the devil a Jesus-statue. From a distant La Conceptión looks just like a stiff walk, as there is a paved path all the way to the top. Which is not the case I know now, Luc. At eight in the morning Deyner, José, two local friends, and I walked to the volcano’s foot. By then I was already out of breath and faced a 1700 hundred meter climb. We had little supplies, five liters of water, some dry bread and a piña, but forgot a knife to open it. I was surprised about Deyners footwear (Teva-slippers) and the old worn out army boots José was wearing. He didn’t even bother to wear socks or something. Soon clouds surrounded us. That was our luck, well at least mine; it protected us from the burning sun, but we realized that the view over the island would be poor as soon we reached the top.
The climb was harder than expected. You seek your way through the loose volcano rocks, jumping for hours from one to the other. Climbing, sliding, cursing. Wherever you fall its for sure that you brake some bones. I was behind all the time, excusing myself for taking all these fancy pictures. Which was a fuckin lie. Couldn’t even push the button due to deadly fatigue. Deyner and José, twenty years younger of age, non-smokers and used to heavy labor work, walked to the top. The last 500 meters (1500 feet) were the hardest. The soil was loose. One-step forward, two behind. At the end I crawled, cursing every fuckin rock my sore foot stood on. The change of vegetation and climate was dramatic at this altitude. It felt like doing exercise on the moon or something. The wind was blowing storm-like. The air was so humid that it felt like raining. We only wore jeans and T-shirts. I could vaguely see Deyner and José sitting ten meters below the mouth. ‘We have to go down Paúl’, Deyner shouted with his eyes wide open with anxiety as soon I reached them. ‘It’s too dangerous up here. It’s too cold, too windy. Tenemos que bajar.’ One picture I said bravely and crawled on my belly to the mouth. Then I got scared. You see, I could feel the storm behind pushing me and the same time the mouth was pulling me. like a vortex. With my face down in the hot soil, smelling the gas coming out of the volcano I took this picture with just one hand, without knowing I was aiming for. Believe me Luc; I didn’t have to guts to come closer than this. And I hope you’ll forgive for being such a coward. It was close enough. Back in Balgüe I realized that it was pretty dumb climb for a guy who didn´t pay for his health insurance.