I do like exploring volcanoes. As I live on an active volcano, with three other active volcanoes visible on the horizon, this sort of exploration is something I am regularly able to indulge myself with. The fifth nearby active volcano can not be seen from home, it takes a two hour drive to reach, a worthwhile trip as it is the one that is currently erupting. Since I have so many volcanoes in my life why would I want to visit another one? Because I love volcanoes!
Masaya is an active volcano just south of the capital of Nicaragua. It is part of a chain of volcanoes that dominates the landscape of the country. It is also easy to reach, part of a national park just a few miles off a major highway. You can drive right to the crater rim and look down into the pit.
While Masaya is not currently hosting any major activity it is home to an ephemeral lava lake and emits a steady plume of volcanic gasses. In many ways it is similar to visiting the Halemaʻumaʻu crater at Kilauea, a large pit with a plume of gasses. Like Halemaʻumaʻu, these craters are part of a larger volcanic edifice. There are three pit craters including San Fernando, Santiago, Nindiri and San Pedro that occupy the top of a complex of cones at the center of the caldera. The Masaya caldera is about seven miles wide with a large lake at the southeastern end. The last major eruption and lava flow was in 1670, with current activity confined to outgassing and the occasional ash plume.
Wandering the town of Sábalos I met quite a few people, from shopkeepers to a trio of giggling schoolgirls wanting me to take their photo. This town is familiar with tourists, quite a few travel the Río San Juan. Most would come through Sábalos on their way downriver.
I chatted for a while with a local guide, he was checking to see if I needed his services and spoke excellent English. He runs tours downriver to El Castillo and the biological preserves. Anything to make a living in the new Nicaragua he explains, alluding to the troubled past.
The docks are the focal point of the whole town. Nearly everyone passes through these docks, arriving on the river taxis that are the primary method of travel. As I complete my tour of town I head back to the docks. One fellow approaches me, says hola and shakes my hand. He asks me where I am from and where I am going, very friendly.
The camera was in my hand, my wallet tucked away in a deep zippered pocket. We talked for a moment, as best we could with my smattering of Spanish and his few words in English. Some other folks on the dock give me a knowing smile, they obviously knew his habits. Perhaps he was a bit drunk, maybe he was just a go-lucky sort of fellow, I expect he is harmless.
There is not much I can say, having exhausted the few words we shared in either language. I bid him goodbye and head for the little ferry to take me to the other side of the river and back to the hotel.
Still, our encounter stands out in my memory. Travel is like that, you meet people, you see another part of the world where life is much different. I wonder what his life story is, at least I have a good photo…
As one who has spent much of my life working with my hands, I appreciate the old skills. Cobblers exemplify these sort of skills. A trade that has all but vanished in the developed world, cobblers can still be found practicing in places like the market in Camoapa, Nicaragua…