My daughter is bright, funny and great company. She is also fourteen and, like any teenager, loves her phone, playing Sims and spending hours on the internet. So imagine the delight I felt seeing her excitement as she peered into a crater of bubbling lava, watching as the rock sheared away from the side and dropped into the red hot pool with a dramatic crash. The drama was intensified by the fact that it was night time and we were on the brink of only one of three active volcanoes in the world where you can actually see lava, the others being in Hawaii and the Congo.
We had arrived at the Volcano Masaya National Park, the first of Nicaragua’s National Parks, at 4.45pm after a relatively short drive from our hotel in Granada. Not normally big fans of organised tours, we had been persuaded to do this on the recommendation of Jerry, our hotel owner and expert on all things local. A minibus arrived in plenty of time to pick us up and with a few other travellers in the bus we made our way to the park. Once we arrived we joined a large queue of cars and vans waiting to enter the park which was closed but reopened at 5.30pm to admit the volcano watchers. After a bit of a wait we were on our way, with only a specified number of vehicles being admitted at any one time.
We started the gradual drive up through the park and as our height increased so did our excitement. The smell of sulphur became stronger as we neared the top. Then we could view a large cross set up on the hill. Our guide explained that this was the Bobadilla cross, named for a Father Bobadilla, a Spanish priest who believed the crater was the ‘Gate to hell’ and placed the cross in an attempt to exorcise the devil. It was also supposed to represent the children who had been sacrificed here to appease the Volcano gods. The volcano had indeed earned its name during the rule of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasia Somoza Garcia who used the crater as a a convenient way of disposing of his enemies.
It was now getting dark and we arrived at the edge of the crater.
Masaya Volcano is still extremely active, last erupting in 2008 when it spewed a plume of smoke and ash over a mile high up into the air. In a nation known for being a land of volcanos, it is the most heavily emitting, a fact evidenced by the many lava streams we saw on our ascent. As a result, we were only allowed twenty minutes at the top and all cars were instructed to park with their fronts facing out, in case we needed to make a quick getaway.
We all made our way to the low wall surrounding the crater where we got our first glimpse of the inside of this live volcano. In the darkness it was even more awe inspiring as we peered down into the radiant heat and watched the molten lava swirling around. Every now and then, there would be a big splash as a large chunk of rock would break away from the side and drop into the pool below. It was incredible and beautiful, if a little sobering when you remembered the history.
Cue our time to go and we clambered back in to the van that had brought us through this National Park in Central America to see this sight that had captured the imagination of a world weary teenager. We dismantled her wheelchair and put it in the back before we began the drive back, accompanied by excited chatter from both the children.
Both our children are wheelchair users but they don’t let it stop them from doing anything. They always seem to find a way and standing at the edge of that crater reminded me again that there are always options if you really want to do something. Being in a wheelchair or having some disability does not automatically preclude adventures to the exciting places. It just means you may have to do a bit more ground work to make it happen.
In future posts I will be writing about places that our family have explored, both abroad and closer to home. I will attempt to pass on any tips we have picked up, both dos and don’ts! I will also be including posts from guest writers, people we have met who are also determined to have adventures despite the perceived obstacle of disability.
Please feel free to contribute, comment or pass on to anyone else to whom you think it may be of interest.