I had an amazing experience with my independent guide Antonio. We woke up, had breakfast, bought snacks and water, and got climbing around 630 or 7. The jungle was super interesting - Antonio pointed out all sorts of flora and fauna, trees and monkeys and exotic plants and insects. The halfway point is gorgeous, all green, rolling hills and the cloud line. We then continued to the top- it's a very legitimate experience, as you summit the lava flow part, there are no real trails.
It's illegal to go with a guide because the Nicaraguan government got tired of sending helicopters up for foreign tourists who met disaster... that being said, it's not super dangerous. I reached the top, was fantastic, and made it down by 4pm. Never more hungry in my entire life.
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