Used to be a ‘new’ Jersey Girl   : now A Colorado Girl

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Granada, Nicaragua: Volcán Masaya

One of the tours we took was a late afternoon trip to see Volcán Masaya, an active volcano.  It’s the only volcano in the western hemisphere where you are able to drive right to its rim. At the entrance to the park we stopped to look at the lava field left by its big eruption in 1772.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Its latest eruptions have been in 2000, when it hurled huge boulders down on people and cars in the parking lot; and in both 2004 and 2008. The Spanish called it “the gates of hell” and and the local Chorotegas tribe called it “the mountain that burns” and made human sacrifices in the hope of averting an eruption.

After a short, steep climb the road led to the parking lot at the volcano’s rim.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

These were a little scary.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Just in case you need to make a hasty exit! They say the volcano gives no prior warning, it just erupts when it feels like it. But, the volcano behaved itself for our visit. It was putting out a good bit of sulfurous gas and steam though. Such a big, deep gaping hole!

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

More parking lot warnings!

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

Next, we climbed the 184 steps to the top of the observation point.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

The view was great from above!

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey


Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey


Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

We found two videos on YouTube that people had made in 2008 when it last erupted. One can be found here and the other here. Both are worth watching and I highly recommend you follow the link. The second video is funny because they are talking about whether or not the volcano is dormant or active when it erupts. In both videos the people are on top of the observation point and have to hurry down the 184 stairs to reach their vehicles in the parking lot.

Afterwards we watched the sun go down. Here in the far distance you can see the hazy outline of another volcano that is still active (in fact they harness the gas and steam to produce power), Momotombo. I just love saying that name. Momotombo. It’s hard to see, so I’ve outlined for you just in case. It’s never blown its top like Masaya has so it still has its classic conical shape. The cross in the foreground was erected by the Spanish Conquistadors as they begged for the Volcán Masaya to cease its eruptions in 1529.

Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey


Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey


Lynne Robinson, Hewitt, New Jersey

After the sun went down we drove to another spot in the park and met with a park ranger. We donned helmets and flashlights and headed off down a path to a underground tunnel formed by lava streams. Lots of little fruit bats and very interesting rock formations. It seemed like we walked and walked down that dark tunnel before we reached a spot where visitors can not go beyond. Our ranger made us turn off our flashlights and take in the total darkness. Creepy. And not a place for people who don’t like bats since they whizz by, barely missing you. I don’t mind the bats.

The last and best stop on the tour was the viewing point on the opposite side of the crater from where we were before to look directly down into the crater and see red, glowing lava. It was a little scary since there was no guard rail. Nothing but two pieces of wood crossed over each other to stop you from falling. in. I got just close enough to the edge to see the red glow, but not too close. This crater opening was recently formed during its 2006 eruption and is located deep down in the crater and can only be seen at night. The volcano was putting out more gas and steam than it was when we visited the rim earlier and our ranger said that was a sure sign we’d be able to hear the magma exploding—and we did! It sounded like grumbling thunder, only coming from deep in the ground instead of the sky. It’s something neither one of us will ever forget.

Here is a link to a short video Rick made although it does not have the drama of the two videos linked above!

Side note added: If you want to see Part 2 of the first video of the volcano erupting as they drive down the road it is here. Trust me, this bus is going very fast down this steep road! Obviously the driver is thinking “get these tourists outta here—fast!”



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