Once completing our crossing of the border into Nicaragua (story here) we were on the road in Nicaragua. As I mentioned before, we signed up for some sort of “one day tour” as part of our transportation to Nicaragua, but we had absolutely no knowledge of what was included.
Berman, our Nicaraguan guide, who we picked up at the border was fantastic. He was wearing a “Survivor” shirt, which I thought he was wearing because it was “cool” but it turns out he worked for the show in Nicaragua. And with a critical role. Berman was in charge of going to every remote beach before the contestants and crew arrive to make the beach “safe” for them. He rid the beaches of creepy crawlies, made lists of the fruits and plants that were edible, and which were toxic. He mapped out the areas with bad creatures and told people where it was safe to go. He was the first one to arrive in the morning and the last to leave. It was fun to hear his stories and adventures.
Within 2 minutes of crossing the border, we could immediately spot the differences between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The poverty was rampant. The houses that were made of cinder blocks were the nice ones. Most were made of a combination of cardboard and tin and trash. The People (many at least) looked much more weathered and worn, sadder and more beaten down. In Costa Rica, almost everyone we have met is happy with their life, regardless of their situation (Pura Vida), but in Nicaragua, there were a lot less smiles naturally on peoples faces. I discovered that by saying HI to people, most immediately lit up with a smile, but it wasn’t the default. Their shells are harder. And sadder. Our kids stared a lot. Unlike in the states, I didn’t tell them to “stop staring”, it was good for them to see life there.
Town after town, we would see the combination of slight wealth and intense poverty. Many many many people were just sitting. Staring out at life, with nothing better to do, or at least no reason to stop. Stray dogs and hungry horses roamed the sides of the roads, while their owners (at least the horses owners) also tried to find food for the day for their families.
Our first stop was a Volcanic crater lake that was quite beautiful. I do not remember the name of the lake, but I do remember that it was more than 400 Meters deep (1200 feet). It was a brief stop on the tour.
After 15 minutes of enjoying the view (and the WIND) we hopped back in the van and headed to Masaya. The town is named after the volcano Masaya next door. We were told later on in our trip that the Masaya Volcano (spoken Messiah in english) is thought to be one of the 6 gateways to hell.
We entered the volcano’s park and drove all the way to the top. The volcano is no longer spitting out lava, etc, but it is still very much active and smoldering. Berman told us that we could only spend 20 minutes there because of the sulfer and gasses. He explained that in the past, this volcano was offered sacrificial offerings (virgins, children and more). Immediately upon exiting the van, we could feel something. It was a very strange, yet mesmerizing place. We climbed the 177 stairs to the top of the look out (where a cross has been erected to ward off evil) and looked into the mouth of the volcano.
I’ve never seen anything like it. The land was barren, sulfer was very strong in the air. It was quiet and creepy. At the time, we were not aware that it was considered a gateway to Hell, but upon reflection and that knowledge, I don’t doubt it one bit.
The colors were intense, rock everywhere. It reminded me of the scenes you see in movies about nuclear wars. Smoke and steam rose from the base of the crater. The smells were very strong. Even the walk up to the mountain top felt dark within the walled path similar to the great wall of china.
We took some pictures (below) and enjoyed the view and after about 15 minutes, we were all ready to go. We headed back down to the van, loaded up and headed back in the road, deeper into Nicaragua. I’m so glad we were able to see a volcanic crater like that. The kids have a much larger grasp of what the inside looks like as we’ve only seen them from below up until this point.
It’s not every day that you can say you stared into the mouth of Hell. I’m glad we got to do it once.