Sunday, November 8, 2009

"The Mouth of Hell"

El pais des volcanes y lagunas Nicaragua is sometimes called -- the country of Volcanoes and Lakes. These volcanoes are live, and Volcan Masaya is one of the few in the world where you can walk right up to the edge of the crater and look down into an open lava pool. In the daytime, you can't actually see lava through the plume of sulphurous gases, smoke, and (sometimes) ash, but at night (we went first in daylight, then after dark), you can peer down to see the glowing boca de enfer as the Spaniards called it centuries ago ("the mouth of hell").
Here, as at the Chocoyero waterfall, chocoyos nest in holes in the stone walls of the crater. These birds have adapted, remarkably, to the inhospitable gases. People who live in the path of the volcano's fumes do not do so well. A number of health problems result, and very few crops will grow.
Multiple craters mark this volcano, which has erupted at various times from various openings, and there are caves that run underground between craters. One cave is sufficiently accessible that visitors may go there--at night, to visit the habitation of bats. We walked to one opening of the cave where the air was full of bats; they flew in and out of the cave, around our heads. We did not enter there but went to a larger opening not far away. There, we were able to walk deep into the large lava-tube (perhaps 1000 yards?), its walls dripping with moisture. The park service had equipped each of us with a hard hat (for which I would soon be grateful) and flashlight.
The floor of the cave was rough but somewhat regular in its roughness (if that makes sense), and I suppose I wasn't using my light as carefully as I should have been. I didn't see the edge of the large rock on which I was stepping or the 18-inch drop from it. I slipped, took a really bad fall into a pile of large rocks. So, I had a painful night, and the next day, had the adventure of visiting a doctor and having x-rays. My arm is in sling (3rd day), but it's not broken. I am very happy about my good strong bones (all that weight bearing exercise, paddling a canoe). I have some stunning bruises and a gorgeous temporary souvenir on my forehead. Grateful I am for that hard hat. Also grateful for the attentiveness of Paulette and Ismael of La Mariposa, who saw me through the medical visits, and for Karen's attentiveness as I very slowly regain use of my right arm. The hardest part of this adventure has been not being able to write. At least now I can, with the arm propped well, type.

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