For centuries people of different cultures have believed that below are very feet dwells a domain created for the torment and agony of damned souls. It was also thought that there were actual gateways from the surface that lead down to these realms of fiery. Mount Etna in Sicily, Mount Hekla in Iceland, and Mt. Masaya in Nicaragua are all active fire-breathing volcanos which have been documented in history as being entrances to hell. Last summer while I was in Nicaragua I happened to find my gateway to the underworld and its name was Telica.
Pretty much my entire life I have always wanted to see lava up close. Living in Oahu, Hawaii in my early twenties I dropped the ball and never made it to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. But during my stay in Leon, Nicaragua I found a tour company that not only allowed you to see lava but see it from the edgy of the crater at night.
After a quick ride out-of-town, a cruise along a gravel highway and a drive down a forest road that looked and felt more like a river bed we made it to the trail head. The weather was looking so so with some rain clouds in the distance but clear over the volcano. It wasn’t a very long hike and after couple hours we reached what I would call the no mans land, which was a barren landscape with nothing but rocks and volcanic debris. At this point I started to smell the pungent stench of sulfur coming from the crater up ahead of me.
As I reached the edge the first thing that hit me was the loud sound blasting from the depths of this cinder cone volcano. Being an Aircraft Mechanic the only way I could describe it was that it sounded like I was standing next to a Boeing 747 with one of its jet engines running at Idle. Made me a little home sick 😉 With daylight beaming down on us and smoke billowing out of the crater you could not see the lava at this point so we sat down for a tasty snack of coffee and cookies to wait for darkness to fall.
After watching a beautiful sunset over the other volcanos of the range we crawled up to the edge of the Crater and peered down into the abyss. The site was one of awe and amazement and the cropped photos taken from my non zoom lens couldn’t come close to showing how my eyes perceived this awesome spectacle of nature. Looking down into the pit I could see the bright red lava in patches in the shape of a large circle. The lava would go from red to black as it bubble up, burned and cooled. It was like a living organism ever-changing. With the red glow shining from the crater, the lava churning deep below, the blasting noise surrounding us, and the strong smell of sulfur it totally made for exhilarating experience!!
In a time when legend and lore explained the mysteries of nature not science it is very easy to see why people living in the distant past could mistake volcanos as being a gateway to hell.