Masaya Volcano


I couldn’t remember if I’ve seen an active volcano in person before. I’d been to Hawaii, so it seemed probable. But for as much time as we spent in Asia, we never actually made it to a volcano, which retrospectively seems absurd. This time around, we made sure not to miss it.
Masaya volcano last erupted on April 30th, 2012. This did not instill confidence. Nor do the plooms of toxic sulfurous gas being emitted, and visible from across the river at our hotel. But, we were assured it was unlikely to erupt (note: they had no idea it was going to erupt last time). But we figured the probability was in our favor, and headed out.

Masaya used to be a super volcano with a 54km circumference. It’s been blown to bits since, but you can still see the outline from where our resort looks over the valley, and its an impressive sight indeed. I can just imagine how it used to look towering above the rest of the land, rim extended into the clouds.
In the 1500’s the Spanish deemed it the “mouth of hell,” and later erected a cross in order to exorcize the devil. I can only imagine the fear such a volcano must have caused our earlier ancestors. Even now, with all of the scientific knowledge we possess, it is still unsettling to watch constant gas being released, with the knowledge that lava lies beneath.

The last major eruption was in 1772, spewing lava paths a few kilometers down, still visible today.

There are normally hiking routes up the volcano, but they were closed due to forest fires, so aside from a 1km jaunt we were sequestered to vehicles to take us to the rim. The sulfurous gas, which looks foreboding from a distance was less invasive up close, and luckily, we were spared the awful smell that accosted our nostrils in Iceland.
It was, when the smoke cleared long enough to see into the cauldron, impressive. Most impressive to me, was not the lava looming beneath, but the birds that nested in the ragged cliffs that descend into the volcano. How that is evolutionarily adaptive, I can’t figure out. I also imagine high amounts of health consequences related to inhaling so much sulfurous gas, but that’s just me. .

It was a fun afternoon, in part because we happened across a celebration by a local town of their patron saint. While visiting a ceramics factory (why does every tour always include a market and ceramics factory?) we were bombarded with a soundtrack of firecrackers and boisterous yelling. The local residents had created a sort of platform from which they hung fruit and decorations, parading, rather drunkenly, with very loud tuba music (why tubas?) through the streets, of which there were about ten, for hours on end. Our drivers spent a good amount of time trying to navigate around them without being hit by a wayward firecracker. It was certainly an interesting side venture.

The rest of our vacation in the jungle consisted of moving between various hammocks placed strategically around the property. Tomorrow, we head west to the beach for the final portion of our trip!


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