Saturday, June 7, 2014

Riding up a Volcano in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is one of the few places I know of where you can actually ride up to the mouth of a Volcano. Not just see it from the distance, or hike for hours to get somewhere near it but ride right up to the rim and looks straight down into it! Too good an opportunity to miss and we thus went to Volcan Masaya. Before we got there though we wanted to order a glass of Coca Cola…

On a hot day, nothing tastes better that an ice-cold Coca Cola from a glass bottle. Yes they have them in Nicaragua too! Getting one proved hard though. After waiting for 20 minutes while the waitress helped people that arrived well after I had, I gave up no doubt said something expletive and left. Back at the table I was greeted by an American who lives in Nicaragua growing tobacco. An annoying man that pretended to know about Steve McQueen and a couple of other actors that rode Triumph Bonnevilles. His friends, which he undoubtedly calls 'buddies' thought both the Yamaha and the Triumphs were BMWs… because they had boxer engines…? They thought the panniers were the cylinders… right. Not sure what kind of tobacco they were growing but it seemed more like funny weed to me.

Meanwhile the waitress arrived at our table and asked what we wanted. Still thirsty we ordered the Coca Colas which were promptly put on the table. Now all we had to do was get rid of Yankee Doodle… Luckily they left as they realised their tobacco was getting hot…? What? Turned out they had a couple of thousand of dollars of tobacco strapped onto an old trailer behind a Mafia-look black US Pickup truck. I don't smoke but I'm glad they did as that meant they had to leave! 

We enjoyed the Nicaraguan madness around us for a while and tried to let it all sink in and make sense of it all. Despite all the dire warnings we didn't get the impression we were under threat or about to be killed. Nicaragua seemed friendly enough. I seriously like Central America… I don't understand it, but I do like it! The waitress refused payment for the 3 Coca Colas we ordered, because she had left me waiting for 20 minutes. We tried to pay but she wasn't having any of it! 

Back on the road we dodged senile taxi drivers, worked our way around the slowest buses ever invented… no let me rephrase that: the slowest buses while going uphill, converted into the fastest free-fall maniacs when going downhill. Some of them literally lift the wheels in corners! The aim for the day was Volcano Masaya.
Volcanic regions have weird landscapes and Masaya ins't any different. The big volcanic rocks that have been thrown around by the powers of the volcano like marbles makes me feel humble and small. Just trying to comprehend the enormous forces at work to do that is difficult.

Volcan Masaya is a national park, luckily, and as such requires an entry fee. It's not high and being able to ride to the top is a big plus! What we didn't know is that you can ride right up to the crater and look down into it. Just look at the video above to see what we mean!

Of course there is smoke coming out of a volcano, so finding a no smoking sign was somewhat hilarious. There are 5 craters in the vicinity. One can be reached directly by road, the others by going on horseback tours operated by a lovely family in conjunction with the national park. We stayed up around the rim for quite a while. It was a special moment at a special place that we wanted to last somewhat longer! We had already heard that camping was possible although there isn't an official campground as such. Motorhomes can park overnight in the parking area next to the visitor centre, which is a very nice spot. Opposite is a picnic area where we could pitch the tents but for some reason the security guard wasn't too keen on us camping there. We couldn't quite make out why until his colleague explained that they have had some problems with rattlesnakes recently...

Our personal security guard for the night
complete with gun...
The security guards explained to us, in very broken English, where we could camp, and we couldn't believe our luck! On the rear side of the visitor centre is a huge covered balcony with views over the valley and lake below, and that's where they suggested we'd pitch the tents! Out of the sun, in the breeze and a million dollar views. Pitching a tent in the breeze is the best thing to do, we had learned that in Norway and Sweden. When it's windy there aren't any mosquitos :-)

To top it all off we were greeted by a white faced Monkey! He was jumping around the trees looking somewhat unhappy about the intrusion into his territory. We rode the motorcycles around the building, while he sat in the tree literally less than two metres above me. The monkey wasn't the only resident. Behind us was a colony of bats that had an air race over our tent, a cat came and had a look too and of course plenty of colourful and noisy birds.
Had we been in a campervan then we would have had to camp in the parking area, now we had a penthouse!

The park is closed at night with steel gates and a security guard at the entrance. The visitor centre is two km into the park itself and has its own security guard again. He sort of became our own personal security guard for the night, complete with shotgun. What a great day!