Nicaragua: León & Masaya

I spent a few days in León hanging out with my Aussie friends, drinking and playing pool, exploring a bit of the city, and going volcano boarding. Whaaaaaat is volcano boarding, you say? Well, it takes place on Cerro Negro near León, a little baby volcano that’s about 200 years old (it is the second youngest volcano in the world, after another in Mexico). Naturally, a baby volcano such as this one isn’t so tall like some of the other volcanoes I hiked in Central America, but, you know, it’s still pretty huge. The group of us that went to go boarding got jumpsuits, goggles, and gloves to wear as protection. We also received long wooden planks with a rope knotted through it, which apparently count as “volcano boards,” that we each had to carry up Cerro Negro for about 40 minutes. At the top we saw some amazing views!

On the way up…
Our view from the top of Cerro Negro.
Me, the Aussies, and the jumpsuits before we boarded down.

When it was my time to go boarding, I tried to go as fast as possible. Pretty early on down the volcano it was clear that the jumpsuit and goggles weren’t very good “protective gear” as I got volcano soot and little rocks all inside my suit, in my eyes, mouth, ears, hair, and boots. When it started to get so bad that I couldn’t see where I was going, I didn’t want to slow down or stop, so I just closed my eyes and kept cruising down as more rubble flew up into my face. When I made it to the bottom, I think I couldn’t open my eyes for several minutes as I tried to wipe volcano dirt out of them. Shiiiiiit, but it was hella fun!! They gotta start giving us better goggles though…

While I was staying in León, I met a lovely Canadian chica, Alexa, who stayed in my dorm. We hit it off and went exploring León together. We went to one of the churches in León, where you can walk atop the roof. We had to take our shoes off for this one, so we didn’t scuff the spotless white church roof! I’m not really a religious person, but churches are an important part of many cultures, not least of all Latin America, and they can be quite beautiful. The following photos are from this church in León. 

After staying in El Tunco and León with the Aussies, it was time to split ways for the time being. They all went to San Juan Del Sur to party it up, while I wanted to explore a bit more of Nicaragua before heading south. Before going to Granada, I spent a few days in Potosí (a small fishing village) and Masaya, where I was able to see the lava in a live, active volcano!!! Check out the photos below.

At Masaya National Park, they have a little museum about volcanoes. Inside is also this mural, which represents the cultural and spiritual meaning of the Masaya Volcano to the local indigenous people.
This was the view behind me as I walked up to the edge of the volcano opening.
Look at that orange stuff! Holy shit, that is real lava!

I walked up to the top, then meandered my way over to the opening of the crater (it looks waaaay bigger than what you can see in these photos). When I peaked over the edge, my jaw literally dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t look away. The red hot steaming bubbling mass of orange burning liquid was mesmerizing, like something I had seen in National Geographic photos or on a science tv channel. Never in my life did I imagine I would see actual lava. I stayed up there staring into the crater for a good 10 or 15 minutes before retreating down, standing in awe. 

You might be thinking, “Isn’t it really dangerous to stand at the top of an active volcano? Couldn’t it blow you up at any minute?!!” All I can say is, apparently it is safe enough. Since it’s a national park, there are people who work on the volcano every day and monitor the lava levels. They close the park if there is too much smoke or when the lava rises too high. But….in my opinion, it wouldn’t be so much fun if there wasn’t a little bit of risk involved. 😛 

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