There's No Camping at The Gates of Hell
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
Show trip route
The rampant economic colonization of Central America had already been very apparent to us in Panama, especially in areas like Boquete which is fast becoming a mini America. Lured south by the ideal climate, cheap land costs and almost zero tax rates, wealthy North Americans and Europeans alike - with a lot of help from the real estate speculators - are destroying the pristine forests in order to haphazardly develop tourist hotels, restaurants and residences at an astounding pace. This "development" is seemingly progressing with the blessing of the Panamanian government, but at what future cost?
Costa Rica has unfortunately not escaped this deluge, as American investors and retirees are buying up land to build Hollywood-type castles, monstrous beach resorts and massive shopping complexes. While in Liberia, we made it a point to ask some of the Ticos what they thought about it all. Naturally there are some who currently benefit greatly from the increased tourism dollars, but others were more insightful and feared that their country has already been virtually given away. When the cost of a small foreign-owned B & B has quadrupled over the past three years, what chance does an average Costa Rican have to enter the business world?
After an extremely relaxed and easy border crossing, we made our way to a shady spot on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. With a clear view of the Isla de Ometepe and its two stunning volcanoes, we stopped long enough for lunch, coffee and the inevitable game of Scrabble.
The water pump had basically given up the ghost by the time we reached Masaya, so we checked into a hotel and prepared ourselves for a lengthy stay. But miracles do still happen. After numerous phone calls, we located the exact water pump at a parts shop near Managua that advertises "we have what you couldn't even imagine". By three the following afternoon, a local mechanic had installed the new pump, and we were again declared fit to travel.
Back on the road and running smooth as silk, we headed for the Masaya Volcano National Park. One of Nicaragua's main tourist attractions, this park encompasses the two volcanoes of Masaya and Nindiri with their five formidable craters. Most impressive by far is the Santiago Crater, created in 1852 and still continuously smoking and steaming. Standing at the edge and gazing downwards into the crater, we could vividly imagine the indigenous people throwing human sacrifices into the boiling lava to appease the angry gods who must surely be causing the eruptions. The Spaniards later baptized the crater "The Gateway to Hell" and erected a cross on a hill high overhead in order to exorcise the devil who lived there.