While hiking our way down Maderas I felt like Bigfoot. Some parts are so steep that you really have to fight gravity in order to not fall or slip and the steps you take are sometimes more forceful that what you are intending. Having tired, shaky muscles makes it even more difficult to carefully control your descent and with my hiking boots on, I felt like I had enormous weights on my feet. I was joking that I was stomping around like Bigfoot because I felt a little ridiculous.
Chris was wondering if there was such a myth like in Nicaragua so I explained it to Pedro, our guide, and asked him if they had any similar legend. He said they did not. What they do have, however, is the legend of “Los Duendes”.
Duendes, as described by Pedro, are little people, rather than an over-sized human with gigantic feet. He actually used the word “enano” or dwarf, which is quite the opposite of what we suppose is hiding in the woods. The word “duende” is actually translated as elf or goblin. Whatever these small, human-like creatures are (dwarfs, elfs or goblins – no, I’m not geeky enough to know the difference), they are not friendly. If you were to pick an orchid (unfortunately it was not the season for these) or some other type of flower growing on Volcán Maderas, these little “duendes” would see to it that you wander off your path and become lost in the woods.
I can tell you there are some places where the correct path is climbing over suspended tree roots, and without a guide it would not be obvious which way to go. By law, you actually have to climb with a guide, and once we were past the halfway point, where it really turns to rain forest, I could see why.
I don’t know if Nicaraguans believe that there is a moral to the story or not, but I can only suppose that it would be “deja la naturaleza en su lugar” or leave nature in its place. There was actually a fiberglass sign that said this at Hacienda Mérida that had been made several years back to spread awareness about caring for the environment.
There is so much beauty to admire here in Nicaragua, but if you find yourself in the woods and you’re tempted to touch the plants or animals, think again or a little “duende” might lead you astray!