Saturday, November 7, 2015

Days 35-37: Nicaragua to Costa Rica and Staring Down an Active Volcano Crater!

We made it to Managua, where they have these lovely tree sculptures among the trees dotting the median of the road. That was the extent of our time in Managua.

Our goal (okay, MY goal) was the active volcano just outside of Managua. After initially taking us to the wrong side of the volcano, I eventually found the town of Masaya. Even though it was already dark, we were able to find a nice little hotel with air conditioning, wi-fi, cold water, and on-street parking. But, the folks were nice, and I was able to arrange an evening tour of this volcano. The two nights we spent here, nothing happened to the truck being parked on the street. Guess all those thieves you have to watch out for in Nicaragua just weren’t interested in our stuff.
Sleeping in that morning was HEAVEN! And not getting dressed or moving until noon was even HEAVENER! (Yes, I do sometimes make up words!) And, it’s so hot in Masaya, Nicaragua, that the cold water wasn’t really that cold. More like tepid, so even that wasn’t so bad. Aside from the volcano, Masaya has the best food we’ve had yet! Everything was done right – from local fare to Chinese food, to Italian. In fact, the hamburger Bruce got from Mr. Blass was the best hamburger I believe I have ever tasted. It was the egg burger, and I don’t remember what all it had on it, but it was huge and delicious and tender enough that he didn’t have much trouble eating it. The big trouble he’s having now is that his dentures are too big and keep falling out since the swelling’s gone way down, but he doesn’t feel like his gumline is healed enough to put adhesive on, and he doesn’t believe he’s healed enough to get a permanent set made yet. So, biting is definitely an interesting task! But, that hamburger was so good, he bit several times until it was all gone!
After gorging ourselves on the food, we went back to the hotel to rest before my tour of the volcano and caves with lava tubes. Bruce stayed back in the hotel for this one, too. Driving up to the crater, we passed a baby volcano. I think he said this little one is growing at a rate of 13 cm each month or something like that.

They aren't kidding about 5 minutes. The sulfuric smell and the thickness of the smoke are awful!

Thisi s the black rock from the last eruption in 2012. Apparently, the farmers get excited over an eruption because the ash is filled with minerals, and they have bumper crops in eruption years. In the background, you can see the rim of the initial crater.

Sunset over the volcano.

When we got to the cave portion, we were given hard hats to wear and flash lights. The hat kept falling down into my eyes obstructing what little vision I had, and between that and the uneven, rocky ground, I fell getting to the cave. The only thing injured was my pride, but when we got to the cave, the guide had another guide walk me through it to make sure I didn’t fall again.

This is a lava tube. When there is an eruption or the pressure builds substantially, the lava flows into the caves through these tubes.

The different colors from the various minerals didn't come out so well.

Meanwhile, back at the active crater, you could see the glow of the lava through the smoke after the sun went down.

After that awesome volcano, I was exhausted when I got back to the room. I kid you not. I had to rest before I could must the energy to take a shower. I don’t think I’ve ever uttered these words before – That cold/tepid water felt really good!

The next morning, we headed for the border. Armed with the knowledge that our last guide made things work very quickly, and seeing the lines of people waiting (especially the 3-hour vehicle inspection line), we decided to go with a guide. This time it was on purpose!  I’m sure I could have done it myself, but I know I couldn’t have cleared both exiting Nicaragua and entering Costa Rica in the time they got us through. Instead of standing in the inspection lines, our guide brought the inspector to us, and the lines we did have to stand in moved quickly. I haven’t checked the receipts yet to see if we ended up paying them what thought we did or if they inflated the amount of fees. Regardless, it was worth it to not have to wait in that three-hour line! The order to process out of Nicaragua seemed to be: Complete the customs declaration, get a pre-inspection of the vehicle by a customs officer, get a thorough inspection of the vehicle by a police officer who will provide stamps on the customs form, get a ticket from the lady in the booth, cancel the permit at the back of the building, get the passports exit stamped.
Processing into Costa Rica seemed to be: Go through the fumigation area, get the passports stamped for entrance, complete the customs form in the hangar-type building, get insurance, get the temporary permit from the other customs building, show the police officer your documents and give him your ticket as you drive away from the border.
The guides know how many copies of things are needed, the order of getting things done, and who to talk to. They don’t spend any time wandering around wishing they knew what in the world they were doing or standing in the wrong line, which is a large portion of the time I spend clearing a border.

This is a truck going through fumigation getting into Costa Rica.

Using the guide left us with time to get down the road a piece, even though a significant portion of Costa Rica 4, a major road, was gravel. So far, as roads go, Nicaragua gets the award for best roads and Costa Rica gets the award for worst roads. Those are subject to change as we continue on, though!


  1. When you left Nicaragua did you have to go to the police station and get a Permiso de Salida for your vehicle?

  2. The police were at the border, but we did have to get our TIP cancelled by them.