T.A. Loeffler has a different definition of downtime than most of us. During her Christmas break from teaching at Memorial University, she took a vacation to go volcano climbing.

Loeffler, who has climbed to the highest points of six continents and now 12 countries, recently visited El Salvador, where she climbed nine volcanoes.

"I climbed in Guatemala five years ago on some of the volcanoes there, and got bitten by the Central American bug. Quite enjoyed things there," she told St. John's Morning Show host Anthony Germain.

"I wanted to do something active over Christmas. I think sometimes we can eat a lot and lay around a lot. I plotted out this trip, and knew it would have a lot of uphill climbing which I so enjoy. And it was also a trip that friends could come along with."

Loeffler said although the volcanoes are extinct and dormant, there were a few showing "a little bit of their stuff."

"Some had active fumeroles, and a fumerole is an area of the volcano that vents steam, and has hot mud," she said. 

"I also got to spend some time in some hot springs. On the way to the hot spring was a very intense geyser pool that was just boiling. I think one of the reasons they captivate us is that it shows us they're so much going on under the surface."

'Unrelentingly steep'

Loeffler said El Salvador's volcanoes are very steep, adding at times her group needed to hack their way through some of the terrain with a machete.

'I climbed in Guatemala five years ago on some of the volcanoes there, and got bitten by the Central American bug.' - T.A. Loeffler 

"Most of the volcanoes we climbed in El Salvador were jungle-covered, so we were in the shade which was a great relief, given the heat," she said.

"They tend to be unrelentingly steep. The terrain was steeply green with tropical cover ... we were on some of the volcanoes having to hack the path out with a machete."

Cerro El Pital

Loeffler said one of the highlights of her trip was climbing Cerro El Pital, the highest peak in El Salvador.

"Interesting in El Salvador in that it was actually a mountain. So, it was nine volcanoes and a mountain ... and that was about 2,700 metres," Loeffler said.

"Very different ecosystem than when we reached on the volcano sides. They would be growing coffee typically at the base, [and] sugar cane. And then when we got onto El Pital, there were growing the brassicas, the cabbages, the potatoes, the heartier root vegetables, just like here."

Loeffler said it was great to visit a new part of the world that she hadn't seen before, and to experience different holiday traditions.

"It's a beautiful country. It doesn't have the best reputation or course, but all the El Salvadorians we met said, 'Please go home and tell everyone that it's okay to come,'" she said. 

"We only saw two other folks that were tourists the whole time we were there ... so definitely a different tourist experience. And we did end with two days on the beach."