Thursday, 13 November 2008

... Central America: I Am The God of Hell Fire, And I Bring You...

Fire!

Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya is home to craters that are the most easily accessible ACTIVE volcanoes in Nicaragua! It consists of a pair of volcanoes, Masaya and Nindiri, which together make up 5 craters. Of these 5, the crater Santiago is still pretty active....actually so active that it is still smoking & steaming and at night you can peer down into it and see the red glow from the liquid mag-ma (has to be said in a Dr. Evil voice!). In 2001, the crater exploded and sent rocks up to 500 metres from the crater. Vehicles in the visitors area were damaged and from then on they now have to park FACING the exit... for a quicker getaway.


So, after a morning of exploring Granada I was going to go and attempt to appease Chaciutique, the Goddess of Fire, a mere 24km away. I couldn't wait. And the bonus was I had a volcanologist with me! Only problem is Native inhabitants, according to legend, threw young virgins into the molten lava in the crater. Skeletons found in lava tunnels, near the volcano, give further evidence to the human sacrifices.  So unfortunately no lava swimming for me... I just hoped she wouldn't be too miffed.

The craters were described as 'The Gates of Hell' by the Spaniards.  The museum/visitor centre was a worthwhile visit for a detailed look into the history & geology on the way to Plaza de Oviedo. The plaza is the clearing at the top by the rim of the crater and named after some crazy Spanish monk who decided to climb down into it believing it was liquid gold down there. He apparently made it out alive minus the liquid gold one must assume but dare I say a mighty fine 'tan' and an attractive rotten egg smell about his person. Apparently though a type of parrot is not at all phased by any of this and quite happily makes nests down there.

Bobadilla cross looks over the crater in order to exorcise the devil. Of course the original is no longer there but the one that is is believed to be on exactly the same spot.  177 steps to reach it gave some pretty breathtaking views of Managua, Granada & the Masaya region as well as the craters.


But Santiago was definitely the star of the show. Billowing smoke & steam from its depths was amazing to watch. We kept getting into trouble with the park ranger for dawdling because, as you can imagine, Zarah was in Volcano heaven and I am just a geek anyway. Once the sun had set and we had visited the San Fernando crater we went back to Santiago but came at it from the opposite side. Holding onto a wooden post perched precariously near the edge we were told to look down. One word and one word only can best describe this: WOW!  As clear as anything amidst the toxic sulphur containing clouds were two little craters glowing bright red. It was eerily beautiful as I choked back the tears. No, I wasn't being a sap... the Sulphur Dioxide/Sulphuric Acid/Hydrogen Sulphide combo and other chemical delights were making my eyes water as I fought the urge to hack up a lung.


Tzinancanostoc lava tunnels are home to thousands of bats - its translation means Bats Cave. For a brief period of time one of them was a temporary home to us as we hiked about 160 metres into it. The bizarre lava formations were very neat but the bats were really cool. We all turned off our lights and just hit the buttons on our cameras.



Almost 5 hours after leaving Granada we returned. The first thing on my mind was a nice shower, cold of course, because I was pretty sure that when I licked the back of my hand I could taste Sulphuric Acid. May be the Goddess of Fire got her claws into me after all!?!?

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