There is a place Nicaragua where you can stare into the pit of an active volcano. When you check-in at the front desk of the museum the attendant will show you a photo of a white pickup truck with a two foot wide rock sitting in a concave hood.
“If the volcano begins to erupt, do not get into a vehicle. Hide next to one until the rumbling slows,” he warned, with much more casual demeanor than the warning called for. There are seven volcanoes in Nicaragua and a few erupt relatively often. There is no sign warning tourist to take heed or warnings of sulfur sickness. No cautionary signs regarding health conditions or the frequency of eruptions and their size. You are just meant to use your common sense and not be coddled.
With poor wind conditions, you’ll certainly have to turn back. On the best of days you can see the fantastic orange and red churning in her belly. It doesn’t seem so very far from the surface, and much too close for comfort. Her steady breathy billows of sulfur will sear in your eyes until they tear. Even then, you’ll still feel a pull to stare at the glow. Stay a bit longer and your stomach will churn.
At a negligible 20km distance from the capital, Managua, Volcan Masaya has scorched her surroundings. In the fertile tropical winter, the land around her is barren. It seems to stand as a kind of warning from Mother Nature, reminding us that we are a speck in time and her power is omnipotent.
Travelers be warned, bring your own translator. The drive is rocky but not treacherous and this should certainly be on your list of stops if you happen to be road-tripping down the Panamerican Highway.