If you want to take a look at the entrails of our Earth and hear its unearthy sounds, you have to visit the Masaya volcano, 30 minutes away from Granada. There are plenty of tour operators on Calle Calzada that offer day and night tours. Prices are very reasonable, I think I paid 20$ for a 5 hour trip. We drove off from Granada in a minivan through tropical rural scenery. We entered the Masaya Park, exchanged vans half way as if we were on some important secret mission, and joined outher fellow tourists, all young hipster Americans ad Brits. On the way up, the driver was explaining us the history of the volcano and how there is a new volcano forming right now, look, right there, and we expect it to explode and leak magma and gases any time. I just hoped it was not gonna be that night. The scenery was strange as we were going up the black slope of the volcano, the vegetation still did not recover since the last eruption and the whole side of the volcano was eerily covered in black dust, making me believe I was about to explore a different planet. We arrived in the parking lot at the top, we parked the van facing forward, towards the road, just in case we needed to exit fast. As we exited the van we were all given gas masks. All passengers put the mask on and disappeared in a cloud of sulphur that was just passing by, freshly out of the Earth’s belly, making everybody look like they just escaped an apocalyptic event. I preferred to inhale the sulphur clouds that the Earth was exhaling, I wanted the full experience. I could do that and ignore the damages to my entrails because I was not going to spend too much time in the area. However, the communities living around the volcano do get sick because of the sulfur in the atmosphere.
Masaya Volcano is actually two volcanoes (Masaya which erupted last time in 1772 and Nindiri, which erupted last time in 1670) with 5 craters in total. Plus the new one in the making! I went on the brim of the biggest crater (Santiago) next to the empty parking lot. I stared down and inhaled the gases, smoke, sulfur emanating from the entrails of our planet. We went up a very long staircase to the highest part of the crater rim. I climbed the stairs, with the sun setting behind the black rim of the volcano, pale and washed out by the sulfur clouds. I took my time walking slowly and taking in the eerie scenery. By the time I arrived at the top, the guide had finished explaining what he had to explain and was herding the group downstairs. We were on a schedule after all. We went up the next crater, San Fernando, just as the sun was setting. The top offered great panoramic views: on one side the Santiago crater and the steep black hills beyond, on the other, an immense green valley with a blue lake in the middle. San Fernando crater was spectacular too, dormant for the past 200 years, it had been conquered by vegetation and a small forest was growing on its bottom. One of the longer trails in the Masaya Park was around San Fernando.
By the time we descended back to the parking lot night was coming. Flocks of green parrots that live inside the Santiago crater were coming back home. These green creatures adapted to live in sulfur and were thriving in the smoke and gases that constantly puffed out the crater.
We had one more place to go, a cave that was born during one of the explosions – Tzinaconostoc bat cave. Besides the gas masks we received yellow construction hats and a very dim flashlight. We stopped by a bat-cave and took pictures among flying bats (a scary and a bit creepy photo shoot). Walking through the cave was an interesting experience, it was all made of iron. Apparently a bubble of gas came out of the volcano and created it long long time ago. One remarkable thing that stuck with me was the root of a tree who crawled inside the cave for at least 50 meters!
Night fell and our small group was the only one left on the brim of Santiago. Before boarding in the minivan I sat a while on the brim of the crater and looked inside. That all that smoke was the breath of our planet. And then, in the silence of the night, I heard the Earth breathe: a rough, hurling sound, like a huge wave crashing far away… It was incredible to hear our planet. In that moment our Earth really felt alive. The whole trip was worth just those few moments when I heard the powerful, magnificent voice of the Earth.