Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Masaya, Nicaragua

Some things always look a lot cooler in the movies than they are in real life. We hiked a volcano in Guatemala, and my experience was a little underwhelming. So we decided to visit another volcano in Nicaragua, but again - movies have ruined my perception of what an active volcano actually looks like. I don't mean to say that both experiences weren't worth the trip, but the Hollywood interpretation had given me a false expectation. Having said that, this volcano was actually pretty amazing to see, and I'm very glad we went. 

But let's start off the day with some of the other exciting things we did. We kicked off the day by visiting a waffle-themed restaurant in Granada. Since we are obsessed with Parks and Rec, every time Leslie Knope ate waffles, we were jealous - so we had to get waffles since we had been craving waffles for a long time. 

Then we went and visited the town of Masaya. People in Latin America are so funny and they always say things are soooo far away. I always ask if they know the distance, because for us to walk 2 or 3 kilometers isn't very far at all, but they feel like that is a little ridiculous. So once we got off the bus, we asked people how to get to the city, and everyone said it was really far (2 km) and we should take a taxi. We told them we like to walk and easily found our way to the center of town. 

We spent a long time in the artisan market they have in Granada. We ended up buying some chocolates, a few souvenirs, and some cocoa beans so we could make chocolate once we got home. It was a fun market, but that was not the only reason we had come to the town. We definitely wanted to see the volcano the town is named after. 

We walked down to a maintained pathway that ran along a lake. You could see the volcano from there - and you can see the steam coming from the top of it... or that could just be a cloud. We weren't really sure. You know how clouds can sometimes move fast, but so can sulfurous gas... yeah, we were kind of lost as to what was actually at the top of the volcano.

We decided to eat our picnic lunch at this little park, and while we were there we broke open a bunch of seed pods and dug the seeds out. These seeds are used a lot in jewelry making all throughout Central America, so Caitlin thought it would be cool if we brought some back with us so she could make earrings out of them. We may have spent a large chunk of time prying these out of the pods, but they are cool seeds and will make really cool earrings. 

After our time playing with seeds and enjoying lunch, we took a taxi up to the rim of the volcano. You can literally drive all the way to the rim - that is where the parking lot is. I think it would have been a lot cooler if you could've hiked up it, but driving up it was quick and it kept us out of the blistering heat for a little while. 

The Volcano Masaya has been called the "Doors of Hell" because of the heat and the nauseating sulfurous smell that the craters continuously emit. There are even signs at the top that warn you to only remain at the summit for 5-10 minutes or else you will get sick and potentially die. That's a pretty intense amount of gas if it can make you sick.

At the top, we were able to see little pockets of heat below the gas, and on occasion the crater would erupt in a steam cloud. It kind of reminded me of Yellowstone, both in the smell and in the eruption types. I guess that they had to gate off this area because someone drove their car into the crater. There have also been a ton of eruptions that have sent things flying all over the mountain, so it is best to have caution around the craters. 

We hiked up a little ways from the crater so we could get a birds eye view of the volcano. The terrain was a complete desert. It was so arid and dry, whereas the town below was lush and green. I wonder if the sulfur has something to do with the drastic climate change. 

We tried to get a picture from the top of the trail, but the gas made it look like we were in a cloud. I think we took a dozen different pictures, but we were never successful at getting one that wasn't filled with white smoke. 

A couple of pictures of the volcano from afar.

The crater was incredibly deep. Every once in a while the wind would pick up and you could see a new level of crater that wasn't visible before. It would've been really cool had we been able to hike down into the crater. Although, that would've been terrifying, because if something happened, scrambling back up to the lip of it would be nearly impossible. 

There is also a cross up on one hill - can't remember the story behind the cross, but here is a little factoid that I feel is interesting. The man who originally called Masaya the "Gates of Hell" was Fray Bartolome de las Casas. San Cristobal de las Casas (where we lived in Mexico) was actually named after him. Cool connection, right? Yeah, I thought so too.
After our time in Masaya we headed down a little further south in Nicaragua to La Isla de Ometepe. I'll blog about that really soon. I want to finish blogging about our backpacking trip this week. It is definitely possible if I'm dedicated, so we'll see how long this dedication lasts. :)

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