Today was my first full day in Nicaragua and I had a great time. My eyes sting, I feel sick and am coughing a bit from tonight’s sightseeing activities though – I’ll explain more later on in this post.
The day started off with a lazy wander to the laundry and a coffee at a cafe with Guido just down from the main square. It’s a little awkward sharing a room with him as he’s from Switzerland and doesn’t speak any English, or Spanish, and I haven’t spoken Germany in many years so am finding communication a bit difficult but he seems a nice guy.
On the way back to the hotel I found half of the others wandering the streets carrying dry-bags looking lost so I decided to show them where the laundry was instead of just letting them walk around for ages – then we all decided to have breakfast to talk about the day ahead. A few people wanted to lay about near the pool all day until our afternoon volcano hike but me and Gina decided that we wanted to see this town as it seems really nice so after breakfast we wandered around town taking photos of the various churches, parks, the lake and the central square before grabbing a few more souvenirs and heading back to the hotel.
In addition to being a really nice town with lots of character the people here seem to be honest and nice people. This morning when buying some bottles of water ready for the day ahead the guy at reception in my hotel didn’t have enough change to give me and when I returned after my walk with Gina he had the money ready for me and came straight over to give it back which he didn’t need to (It was only 50p worth) but it was nice of him.
While waiting for the volcano hike I relaxed by the pool with a few of the girls, although I couldn’t get in as my swim shorts were in the laundry, but it was nice to just relax for a while as the rest of the day was hectic with lots of walking.
Then at 330 we were met by Ramon who would be our tour guide for the trip out of town to see the Masaya Volcano which we were told had become more active recently and there was a chance we would be able to see a glow of lava in the crater. The trip to Masaya didn’t take long but took us through a few nice towns and then into the National Park where, after checking in, our first stop was the Visitor Centre. Ramon gave us a brief introduction to the volcano and the centre itself before giving us a chance to look around at the exhibits that included maps, samples of lava, photos and paintings at our own pace before getting back onto the minibus to take us further up the volcano.
The next stop was an old lava flow from the eruption in 1772 which is entrenched in local folklore. Apparently when the locals in one of the towns near the volcano saw the eruption was heading their way they dispatched a team from the town, including the priest, to the top of the volcano to pray to the Gods they believed inhabited the volcano and when they did this the lava turned to the side and their town was spared. They marked the place they congregated with a cross on top of the volcano – a replica / replacement of which can be seen from far away. The lava flow itself was difficult to walk on but we stopped to take photos and have a brief introduction to the flow of lava from Ramon.
When we reached the top of the volcano the view was incredible. You could drive right the way up to the craters edge, making sure you parked your car facing the exit just in case, and from here you could see for miles in all directions. You could also see the smoke coming from the active volcano crater which, to put it bluntly, stunk really badly. We stayed here long enough to take photos, including sacrificial ones, before walking up to the highest point on the craters edge to see the cross I mentioned earlier where it was really windy and we had to hold onto our hats.
After being told about the cross we were taken on what Ramon described as “The Lord of The Rings Walk” which took us up and around the rim between the two craters on the Masaya Volcano to provide us with some really great views of the sunset. It was a bit tiring and at times we had to scramble up / down slippery gravel surfaces but it was definitely worth it. If you’re afraid of heights I wouldn’t recommend it as a couple of people had to turn back and they met us back at the minibus before we moved on to the next portion of the trip – an extinct lava tube that you could walk through.
On the way down to the lava tube we passed a couple of caves which were inhabited by bats and we stopped to see them. I managed to get a few good photos of them leaving the caves – they left in large numbers and some flew so close to me that I could feel the flapping of their wings going past my face! After seeing some pretty big spiders a few of us ushered the group on and into the lava tube. To walk in the lava tube we had to wear hard hats to protect our heads and use torches as we were able to walk almost 200m into the tunnel up to the point where it was blocked by rubble. Apparently during the times of the Sandinistas drafting people locals used to hide in the tunnel to avoid being dragged into military service and put rubble in the way to make everybody else think it was the end of the tunnel. We turned our lights off for a bit to get the full effect of what it must have been like hiding in a tunnel which was really creepy especially when you get bumped into by another member of the group – thanks Kelly!
Then it was time for what I had been looking forward to the most, the glow of the lava in the crater, so after returning our hard hats we got back on the minibus for a drive up to a lookout platform overhanging the crater on the side away from light pollution. When we got up there we were told we would only be able to view it a few people at a time and only stay out for a couple of minutes due to the fact the platform was currently engulfed in volcanic fumes and they didn’t have enough gas masks for all of us. The glow wasn’t as bright as I expected as it was just the light coming from one of the lava tubes rather than actual lava itself so it took a time exposure photo to capture it but it was still pretty cool – despite the fact my eyes still sting, I feel sick and have a sore throat some hours later!
When we returned to Granada we had a nice group meal out in town at a fusion restaurant. I opted for a steak and veg meal which, along with 2 drinks, only came to £12 which is amazing value compared to the UK! We had a chance to chat and reflect on what we had seen on the day – I’m very impressed with Nicaragua as is Gary by the looks of things. He thinks the sign at the border should read “Welcome to Nicaragua – the country that knows how to get its shit together” haha. That is true though things to seem to work better in Nicaragua compared to the other countries we’ve been to so far and it’s a shame we only get to spend 4 nights here. Tomorrow we head to our last destination in this country – Ometepe Island.