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Masaya, Masaya, Masaya…

Oh what an adventure you held for me. On a damp overcast afternoon our group drove an hour down the mountain and around to the other side of Volcan Masaya where we entered the gates of the National Park. 

We stopped quickly for a bano break and a picture with Sandino. I have been teased that I have more pictures of him than a museum. The man has a shrine on every street corner…

We pile back in La Mariposas van and start the trek into the volcanic region of Masaya. We drove for a short distance up a steep hill that gave the van quite a work out and stopped at a wonderful museum. Inside we were given a bilingual tour of Masaya; a history lesson on how this mystical volcanic phenomenon came to be and a tour of the wildlife, and the volcanic chain that comprises Nicaragua. More than 25 volcanoes make up this tiny country which explains the steep mountains and deep valleys and the plush tropical rain forests. 

Masaya's last known activity was last in 1772 somewhere around the time of the Spanish invasion. During this time the lava was flowing and the Mayans were running for their lives, and the Spanish came raced in with all their Catholicism erected a cross and prayed for the lava to stop and it did so the legend goes. Every year on the same date everyone comes out to celebrate in that very same spot where the event took places. Masaya has been known to spit and shake from time to time over past 50 years but truly has been a harmless, backyard wonderment for centuries in Nicaragua. 

The volcano is breath taking and unique as it is a crater volcano and the world’s most perfect formed one at that. The volcano pass is so grand that you could walk it in a day but most go by vehicle and get out and walk up the nearly 200 stairs to the peak instead. This would be the same for us as we had plans to take in another peak and tour two bat caves before dinner.

After we hiked to the peak of Masaya and back down again collapsing in the van in a pool of sweat we drove over to the next peak and hiked straight up another…The pictures as you can see are dark for two reasons, the air is full of volcanic ash and it is dusk. As we arrived late on purpose, you see we’d not only come to hike the volcano but also to hike below it deep into the bat caves and learn about the ancient Mayan customs.

We hiked our way up to the other peak and were swept off our feet by the beauty of nature before us. An interesting thing here is that vegetation is virtually nonexistent as the volcanic ash air and acid rains are so bad that nothing can survive up here. On one side everything is green and plush and full of tropical life and on the other it is dead and yellow brown looking.

Making our way over by van to the sight of the bat caves we were issued our protective gear; a hard hat and a flashlight.

Then it was time to walk down into to bowels of the volcano and scope out some bat caves. The air was dank and dark and the ground was slippery unstable and full of roots that were larger than the trees. At first the cave felt narrow and small but then it widened and increase in space and a hollow eerie sound filled that dark cave.

It wasn’t creepy at all despite not being a fan of the dark nor bats. It wasn’t really cold either it was humid and the rock formations beneath the Earth’s first layer is intensely beautiful.

As we walked further into the cave the tour guide stops us and asks us to turn off our flash lights and begins to tell us of legends of the ancient Mayan practices. He tells us that in the very room we were standing they discovered evidence of human sacrifices. In those days in their culture it was customary to practices human sacrifice and follow the instructions of the Gods. During these times they believed the Gods were angry with them and that was why Masaya was erupting. They were instructed by and old witch to sacrifice young virgin girls as a way to make the Gods happier. Of course the volcano continued its shaking and explosions so the discovered more remains that just the sacrifices…

Then we headed off to the next cave where we got to peak in on some bats! This was by far the coolest thing I have ever done. Being a long haired girl and knowing the horrors of getting these pesky little critters in your hair I have a fear of them, that and they just plain ugly to look at.

However, that night as Bergman called us up in groups of three sit at the mouth of the cave you could hear their wings flap and feel the wind of them fly right up to your face…it was pitch dark with the exception of an occasional camera flash and when you looked down at the image you captured you nearly fainted at the sight. Hundreds if not thousands of bats swarming the area shrieking and flapping wildly at each snap of the cameras light. It was AMAZING!

Next stops Masaya market place the artisans markets and tours of Granada, Masatepe, Ticuantepe, & Catarina…
As Told By Jules: Journeys in Central America and beyond

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