How do you like the “click bait” title? 🙂 I didn’t come up with that description of the Masaya Volcano. Spanish explorers called this active volcano “La Boca del Infierno” or “The Mouth of Hell.” Father Francisco Bobadilla oversaw the planting of a cross on the crater lip in the 16th century in order to exorcise the Devil. It is named after him, “La Cruz de Bobadilla.”

For our first day trip in Nicaragua we decided to to visit a nearby volcano. We flagged down a bus on the highway at the end of our street and were on our way. Sydney didn’t think there was room for anyone else on the bus, but she never lived and commuted in Tokyo like Karen and I did. We knew better. They even made another couple of stops after we got on to squeeze a few more people on.

When I say the volcano was nearby, it was perhaps disturbingly so. Within 15 minutes we were getting off at the entrance to the park. If there is an evacuation zone for this volcano I suspect the home we are staying in is in it. But it hasn’t erupted in over a dozen years, so what could go wrong?

Our plan was to hike from the park entrance up to the top of the volcano, but since the last eruption they want you to have a getaway car, so we needed to hire a driver. The park entrance was 100 Cordobas each. “Conveniently” there was a driver hanging out by the entrance who wanted to charge us 400 Cordobas to drive us up and back. Since we aren’t rich gingos on vacation, Karen worked her negotiating skills and got them down to 200. Still a decent pay off for very little work.

Within a few minutes we were at the information center. I was declared “leader” of the group but all that meant was that I had to get out of the car and sign the guest registry inside. That mission accomplished, we were back in the car and a few minutes later pulling into the parking lot near the top of the volcano. The driver backed into the parking spot, like the handful of other cars, and we piled out. A few steps away a low stone wall marked the edge of the caldera. Smoke billowed up and out from beyond the wall. We approached the stone wall and looked down. The sides were sharp, dramatic cliffs at least a 100 meters high and probably more. It was a bit windy up there, but we caught the smell of sulfur a couple of times when the winds changed. When you were at the edge you could hear the bubbling and gurgling coming from the pit below. A couple of times, when the smoke thinned, you could see the red/orange glow of the lava far below.

We had planned on doing some hiking up there, checking out other geological features that we read about in various guide books, but all the trails were closed. Since our planned hike up, around, and down the mountain was scrubbed, we had several hours left in the day and no desire to head back to our little cottage in the garden. We had talked about going to Granada, an old Spanish colonial city a little further down the highway. We flagged down another bus and spent the rest of the afternoon in Granada. But that is another story…