Volcán Masaya, Nicaragua – Volcanoes stink

In the early morning a new sound is added to the howling monkeys and the many other unknown sounds. It is a bird type “electronic clock”: “Teeleeleet, teeleeleet, teeleeleet”. Three times, exactly like the standard clock, and after an exactly measured period of time: “Teeleeleet, teeleeleet, teeleeleet”. Can’t anybody press the stop-button? Since nobody does me this favour even I have to understand that the night is over. Sound inventors have to have studied in the jungle. These similarities can’t be coincidence. We wanted to get up anyway to see the parrots with sunshine. This time we might go without guide and without paying another entrance fee. And see, if we don’t rush through the jungle like mad we don’t chase all animals away and get to watch something. The convergence to the Chocoya breeding ground can be noticed according to the background noise, parrots aren’t really known for their delightful singing. Like nearly all parrots the Chocoya are monogamous. Not only that: They spend their whole life together, fly together, leave and return together. Not without announcing that strongly.

Not even 30 km away from here the national park Volcán Masaya is located with two volcanoes and five craters. One of them, the Santiago, is the only permanently active crater in Nicaragua. Poisonous sulphur and hydrochloric acid gases escape permanently from its 450 m wide throat, and sometimes it spits bigger chunks, why the car has to be parked back-in. Sometimes it’s possible to see the lava or glowing stones in the inside, especially during the guided night walks, but right now the surface is – perhaps due to rainy season – more chilled and just dark. Only the smoke and gas production is enormous. Park rule recommend not staying longer than 20 minutes, but today nobody stays voluntarily longer. The wind is inclement and blows the smoke into our face. The eyes start to water. It penetrates into the lungs and causes a tickly throat. I can taste the smoke, a strange mixture of sulphur, battery acid and the perfumed aftertaste of aluminium acetate, then it runs down the throat into the stomach. The head starts to ache. All brain cells shout in chorus “get out of here”!

Since visibility is mist-filled, we keep it short, walk along the wall at the edge of Santiago crater and up the stairs to the viewpoint with the large cross where we can see the lava rock-mottled surrounding and Lake Masaya. There is only one hike allowed without guide to some other viewpoints, but we delay it to tomorrow, hoping for more favourable wind. Chocoyas, the small parrots, live and brood in very poisonous surroundings of the crater walls. Over time they got accustomed to the gases that offer a very effective protection against natural enemies.

The crater looks back to a long tradition of artificially caused deaths. The Chorotega Indians that lived here probably threw virgins into the lava to sacrifice them to the goddess of fire to placate her. The Spaniards used the magma hole to get rid of unbelievers and criminals. The Somoza dictators were particularly perfidious up to make people disappear: Opponents were flown with helicopters above the crater and dropped.

It is allowed to camp on both parking places at the visitor centre some kilometres below the crater. There is a moderately interesting museum. Per person 100 NIO entrance fee plus 50 NIO for overnight. Parque Nacionál Volcán Masaya, N 12°00’11.3’’ W 86°08’54.6’’.

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