May 18 is “World AIDS Vaccine Day,” which a group of us from Granada celebrated by climbing the highest mountain in Nicaragua, Mt.Mogotón.
Our climb was part of a worldwide project called The World Aids Awareness Expedition, which started in Germany.
The idea of project, developed by Joachim Franz, is to climb to the highest summit in each country carrying a flag showing the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in that country. Franz wants to raise awareness about all people infected with the disease, not only those who are registered.
So a group of 18 full- and part-time Granada residents representing 10 different nations decided to participate in this great project this year. We collected money from local tour companies Solentiname Tours, Tierra Tours and Nahuatl Tours, as well as from the top hotels in Granada, including Hotel Gran Francia, Hotel Con Corazon, La Islita, Hotel Alhambra, Hotel Plaza Colón, Hotel Colonial, and Casa San Francisco.
The money raised financed the trip up to the northern city of Ocotal, where we also visited the Canyon of Somoto, an amazing natural experience! Swimming in the fresh water between the high, naturally formed cliff walls of the canyon is one of the best adventures in Nicaragua!
The hike up Mt.Mogotón was a bit more difficult. We started early in the morning with a rented bus from Cuadra transportation, in Masaya, and then proceeded in a 4×4 from the Red Cross in Ocotal.
Then we got the bad news: it’s not possible to climb to the top of Mt.Mogotón because there are too many landmines and a river that floods and becomes dangerous during heavy rains.
So we decided to pick another route to get to the next possible highest peak. That route was very steep and seemed never-ending. The surrounding nature is a wonderfully diverse tropical forest that has remained untouched because of the landmines. We couldn’t help but think that the mines had protected the forest from loggers.
Once we sweated our way to the top, we enjoyed a picnic, pictures and a panoramic view of the other mountain ranges in the clouded valley below.
By late in the evening, we were back in Granada, tired but happy to have fulfilled the Nicaraguan part of this project. You can see the pictures from our hike on the project’s official homepage: www.waae.de.
Some information about the situation of HIV/AIDS in Nicaragua: the country has the lowest transmission rate in Central America. But neighbouring Honduras has the highest rate, and there seems to be a connection in that Nicaragua’s second-highest prevalence rate (after Managua) is in the northern department of Chinandega, which borders Honduras.
Some Nicaraguan women who work in Honduras come back infected with HIV, or contract the virus from sailors in the Pacific port town of Corinto.
Though there have been many campaigns about AIDS awareness here, Nicaragua still has a predominantly machista culture. Many men are still proud of having many female partners and many children, and using a condom is not on their mind.
Pregnant women are asked to have an HIV test done to make sure they don’t transmit the disease to their unborn babies. Condoms and AIDS tests are free in every health center and hospital in Nicaragua. Hopefully this article will inspire readers in Costa Rica to participate in the global campaign. So far Costa Rica is still missing from the list.
Swenja Janine Schlegel was born in Germany and worked in the hotel and cruiseship industry before coming to Nicaragua in 2004 to visit and learn more Spanish. After living on the CornIslands for nine months, Schlegel moved to Granada, where she works as a German-English tour guide.