Defying the intense smell of sulfur, the tourists come to look out at the seething lava pit near the surface of the crater of the Masaya volcano , whose fury the Indians tried to placate in the past by sacrificing maidens and children.
Photos: Masaya Volcano, impressive
“It is something extraordinary, unique in the world,” Noheli Pravia, a French tourist told AFP while watching the turbulent magma seen from the crater rim less than 100 meters deep.
Masaya, Kilauea in Hawaii and Nyiragongo in Africa are the only volcanoes in the world that have periodic outpourings of magma in its crater, says the Nicaraguan geographer and environmentalist Jaime Incer .
Lava of Masaya Vocano, located 20 km from the Nicaraguan capital, has been rising to the surface every 25 or 30 years since 1902 and after a while it disappears, but it always keeps emitting sulfur fumes that spread around the area, rusting roofs on houses and ravaging vegetation.
According to Incer, if the incandescent material rises its level up each occurrence, it is possible that within 150 years the volcano will make a similar eruption to 1772, when the flow reached the area where the international airport exists today.
A few kilometers from the volcano, the village of Piedra Quemada that keeps the vestiges of that eruption is based.
“Before there was no land here but stones , ” says Sandra Perez, one of the 6,000 people who have learned to live with the volcano and do not believe it is a threat.
The small cone, 400 meters high, came 5,000 years ago. It consists of five craters of which only one -called Santiago- remains active, crowned by a dense plume.
Six months ago, the hole increased activity with magma flows accompanied by sporadic micro-earthquakes.
“It ‘s the first time I have seen something like this, it is very impressive , ” says Mijaela Cuba, an Austrian nurse.
She is one of the 4,000 tourists who have climbed to the burning throat of the volcano in the last two weeks since the government authorized the entry of people, although limited to a visit of a few minutes due to gases.
Only green parrots and bats nest permanently and survive in the toxic environment of the crater.
It s “very special” adds excited young Taiwanese Sami Yen who takes photos to the crater rim where the magmatic waves are heard.
The volcano is located in the most populated area of the Nicaraguan Pacific and is part of a protected area of 54 km2, which include vast fields of petrified lava populated by white trees, the Sacuanjoche, the national flower of Nicaragua.
Snakes abound, white-faced monkeys and animals that can withstand high temperatures, says the guide Luis Solano.
The flames of Masaya, who made two strong eruptions in 1670 and 1772, frightened the Spanish conquistadors.
“It ‘s a mouth of fire that never stops burning , ” the first governor Pedrarias wrote to the king of Spain in 1525.
The friar Francisco de Bobadilla was believed that the door to hell, so he installed a huge cross at the edge of the crater.
While the greedy Friar Blas del Castillo thought the gold was melted and washed down hanging from a basket to remove material according to the legend.
Chorotega Indians who inhabited the area tried to calm the angry volcano offering a sacrifice of children and maidens They claimed that the witch “Chalchihuehe” lived in the burning pit.
In the 70s, the Somoza dictatorship launched into the mouth of the volcano an ex-colaborador of the Sandinista guerrilla, David Tejada, the Sandinista excolaboradora Vilma Nunez told AFP.