Cops, Hippies and the Gateway to Hell

Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Thursday, October 25, 2007

     I arrived here in Masaya to check out their version of Halloween.  This city is supposed to be the cultural nerve center of Nicaragua and there are festivals going on all weekend.  I got here a few days early and Thurdsay morning I decided to check out the nearby volcano in my spare time.  I had breakfast across the street from my hotel and met a nice English guy named Carl who is also travelling solo.  He wanted to check out the volcano too so we decided to catch a taxi to the park a few miles from town. 
      Masaya Volcano is actually several giant craters, one of which is constantly venting huge plumes of gases which can be seen from miles away.  We reached the edge of this crater and and I was struck by the intense mineral smell.  As you breathe it tastes like a vitamin pill dissolving in the back of your throat and the sulfer and hydrogen chloride burn your eyes.  Legend has it that a spanish Catholic monk proclaimed the vent to be the Gateway to Hell upon arriving here, and a cross is erected in his honor.  Not to be deterred we walked around the edge of the crater and then ignored the Do Not Enter signs in order to reach another lower crater adjacent to Hell´s Gate.  It was equally impressive in size (several hundred meters deep) and you could see the bottom because this one was not venting. We felt pretty good about not heeding the warning signs until the weather changed.  
      Out of nowhere a thunder storm rolled in and started dumping buckets.  We scurried up the steep crater as the volcanic ash started to loose its cohesion.  We needed to get back to solid ground quick.  We ran uphill in the driving rain and finally reached the main parking lot and found some shelter with some Nicaraguan tourists and two park guards. Thoroughly soaked, we stood there and they handed up gas masks as the wind and rain caused the normally upward moving gas to flood the parking lot like a foul fog, reducing visibility to about 10 feet.
    The rain finally let up and we decided to go on a tour of some lava tubes nearby.  The flashlights barely worked, which probably helped us get closer to the bats. As we piled deeper into the cave the clumps of bats eventually woke up and eyed us sleepily before flying away.
       By now another group had joined us, a car load of people from all over the world (Taiwan, Holland, USA, Mexico) all attending an Ananda retreat to practice meditation, yoga, philosophy and whatever else.  They were nice enough, a little out there, but decent people.  We had no way to get back to town, so we decided to get a ride with the Ananda crew.  We piled into the hatch-back trunkof their already over-filed Ford Escort station wagon. 
        We were driving peacefully on the highway back to Masaya when the cops decided to flag us down.  The bearded dutchman was driving and started bumbling something to the cops.  Then the load-mouthed Mexican girl jumped out of the back seat and started talking to the cops.  I could tell we were in trouble at this point.  Why is anyone other than the driver involved?  The rest of the Ananda crew started to yell their two cents from the car and the situation devolved rapidly.  The cops began talking about wanting to see everybody´s passport (Which nobody had with them, including me) and that we had too many people in the car ( Ha!).  
     Carl and I just sat in the trunk, facing the opposite direction and keeping our mouths shut. Eventually the cops came to open the back and we stepped out.  We began to inch ourselves away from the scene and one of the cops started yelling at us not leave.  I said I didn´t know these people, but he didn´t care.  After a while the Dutch driver came over and shook our hands and said everything was fine and that he´d taken care of it.  This was our window of opportunity.  The cops seemed temporarlily pacified and Carl and I took off down the road.  We were less than a mile from town so we just walked back.  We looked back after several hundred meters and they were still there, probably all trying to talk at once and arguing in circles. 
     What were learned from that situation was that no matter what country you are in, it seems that Cops and Hippies just don´t mix.  Even if they´re speaking the same language they just can´t understand each other.  Carl and I had a laugh about that over some drinks and some traditional dances put on by the local high school students in downtown Masaya, and called it a night.   
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