I was mildly hungover from the previous evening’s rum related indulgences. My womb had chosen today to engage in The Wringing and felt like it was twisting itself into impossible shapes in order to expel that pesky lining it insists on producing every fucking month. It was a bit breezy today and the lake was choppier than a mere lake had any right being. It was basically a trifecta of misery and the one hour ferry ride from Ometepe could, quite frankly, fuck right off. We ended up taking a colectivo from San Jorge to Rivas, we were caught off guard when someone offered us a reasonable price. My brain bluescreened at this anomaly and I forgot we were going to wait for the bus. It worked out well though, we got to the terminal just as a bus bound for Granada was pulling out. The ayudante bundled us into the back, loaded our bags on the roof and off we fucked.
I’d read a few blogs so I knew this trip should cost C$50. I also knew that we’d be charged more than that for a mythical luggage fee so I was already pre angry about the journey. It’s the deception that pisses me off. I know it’s not a luggage fee, locals often travel with three times as much luggage than any given gringo and they don’t pay a luggage fee. Just say it’s the foreigner price, I don’t mind paying a bit more because I’m foreign, I do it every time I go to a tourist attraction. It’s the bullshitting that does my nut in. There were about ten foreigners on the bus, we were all charged C$100 and we all paid it because what are we going to do? Get out and walk? Didn’t think so, mate. The ayudante has you by the pubes and there’s fuck all you can do about it.
Aaaaanyway. Once you’re in Granada which, by the way, is a really nice city you can’t help but notice the fuck off great big mountain it sits at the foot off. Actually it’s a volcano, it’s Volcán Mombacho and yes, you absolutely can go up it. You don’t even have to walk, you can sit comfortably in the back of a truck and that’ll do all the hard work for you. Oh go on then. We jumped on a chicken bus to the entrance and walked the 1.5 kilometres to the ticket office. That was nice and stress-free. As soon as we rocked up a guide asked us if we spoke Spanish or English then explained our options to us.
Okay, so. We’d read up on this and I knew there were three trails. The shortest, the Crater Trail, doesn’t need a guide. Sure, you can take a guide if you feel like it but you don’t have to. Then there’s a long trail, four kilometres, called the Puma, then there’s the Tigrillo Trail which is sort of the medium trail which covers the Crater Trail and a little bit of the Puma Trail. You do need a guide for the other two. Four kilometres sounded easy enough and we confidently announced that this was the trail for us.
Yeah no. This is not the trail for us and I’m so glad he was on hand to be honest with us.
“That’s a trail for people who just want to walk a lot,” he told us. “It’s up and down, up and down. If you just want to see some things the Tigrillo Trail is better.” So basically you’re not missing anything by not doing the Puma Trail, there’s not a lot of wildlife to spot and you can see all the cool volcanic shit from Tigrillo. Sold, mate. Tigrillo it was. And yes we’d very much like to hurl a significant quantity of money at the truck up and down too. Can you walk it? Of course you can, you absolute fucking masochist, but it’s a paved road and that last bit was painful even in the back of a massive 4×4.
We were introduced to our guide, Estela, then we were shown a model of the volcano and someone pointed out where we started, where we were, and what surrounded us. This isn’t a national park, it’s all privately owned by surrounding fincas but I think after a certain point it’s protected and you can’t farm or build there. Then off we fucked around the Crater Trail stopping first at a viewpoint over Granada and the Isletas de Granada. It was a bit hazy but we could see them which was pretty cool. The Isletas were formed, they think, when Mombacho vomited out a load of rocks about 20000 years ago, or there was some manner of Mombacho related landslide. Either way they’ve formed a striking landscape. Fun fact though, there’s no actual evidence that Mombacho has ever erupted.
There’s also a bit they call El Tunel which is a fuck off big crack you can walk through that formed when the first crater collapsed, then Estela steered us through the woods. It was actually a bit chilly, it hadn’t occurred to us to bring a jumper on account of the air in Granada being lava but we figured we’d just enjoy this brief foray into the world of goosebumps.
We visited another couple of viewpoints, one of which was to see the fumeroles which are fuck off big volcano vents. These ones weren’t particularly impressive, steam was coming out of a gaping hole but not a huge amount. Then Estela recommended that we have a little rest before we tackled the tiny section of the Puma Trail that we’d we doing. Apparently it’s up a bit of a hill. Righto then. This is the bit you can’t get to without a guide and there are rangers there to make sure you don’t sneak in.
You can’t actually get to the highest peak on Mombacho and thank fuck you can’t or the FOMO would have been strong and would probably have resulted in me clinging to a rock and crying a lot whilst Tarrant tried to convince me I wasn’t going to die. You can, however, get to the second highest and we would be doing that which resulted in a hard slog up a hill which only got steeper and steeper as my heart tried to make a break for freedom via my rib cage and I tried to convince my legs we weren’t going to die. The view from the top was worth it though, we could see over Laguna de Apoyo all the way to the smoking Volcán Masaya. The next bit though, that was the bit I couldn’t get enough of.
They call it the dead forest and when we were told about it the guides described it as, “Like in Lion King!” They mean when the hyenas took over and everything went to shit. Apparently eight years ago this was all green like the rest of the forest but the sulphur got stronger and the fumes killed the lot. Estela said they only reopened this section to tourism a couple of years ago because they had to work out if it was safe or not. The assault on your entire respiratory system is epic. It’s fine, it just stinks, but every now and then the wind would send a particularly chewy bit your way and you’d gag and splutter.
This was a really cool way to way to kill a morning but I can see why people would skip it due to the cost. The transport up and down the hill does bump the money right up but just the walk up to the second highest peak had me questioning all of my life choices. I’m not sure I’d ever forgive myself if we’d decided to walk from the bottom and Tarrant would probably leave me on the grounds of physical and emotional torture.
Tell you what’s abso-fucking-lutely worth it though; Volcán Masaya, and it requires absolutely zero physical effort. If you pay a tour agency to drive you there it involves zero mental effort too thus leaving you free to sprawl in the back of a pick up truck with your mrs and a couple of friends you made when you kept bumping into them throughout Central America. The done thing is to go in the evening, watch the fiery skyball fuck off, then as it gets darker you gawp into the crater of an active volcano.
It took just over half an hour to get to the national park and drive up the hill. The driver pulled over so we could get some photos of the sun setting over a lava field, then we jumped back in and pulled into the car park. The first thing you do is walk up a load of steps to a viewpoint but this isn’t completely necessary. We did it but no sooner had we cracked open a beer the sun dropped behind a cloud. Oh you little twat! Though it did kind of work out for the best, we wandered down to the crater viewing platforms perhaps a little sooner than we would have done if the sun had put on a show and guys, it does not take long for these platforms to become packed with an immovable throng of sweating tourists.
We got a space right at the front and I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. A red glow I guess? But when the gas and steam clears what you can actually see is a bubbling pit of molten Earth core. I cannot put into words how fucking awesome this is! You can just see the edge of it but you can see it moving and heaving, and the darker it gets the clearer it is.
I don’t even know how long we gawped at it for. That’s liquid fucking rock! Actual lava! I’ve seen loads of volcanos but I’ve never seen lava in real life. Obviously if I lived somewhere prone to a volcanic eruption or two I’d probably hope to never see lava ever but hailing from a country where the most interesting natural phenomenon we have is sleet, shut up and give me my lava.
Well we shall book end this post with rum. The hangover I mentioned at the beginning was thanks to drinking copious amounts of that shit with Jasmine and Matt the previous evening. After we were dropped back in Granada we all promptly headed to Calle La Calzada to apply more of Nicaragua’s finest liquid to our faceholes. It turns out it’s actually better value to buy the rum by the bottle so we just bought the half bottles. Too many half bottles. The following day was the kind of day where you have to gently coax your internal organs into functioning properly with offerings of Red Bull and Pringles and pizza. It was a poolside write off but it was worth it for a great evening.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Volcán Mombacho & Volcán Masaya, Granada Department & Masaya Department, Nicaragua
Stayed at: Selina, Granada
Useful shit to know…
How To Get From Ometepe To Granada By Ferry And Bus
- Take a ferry from the port at Moyogalpa. The schedules can easily be found online.
- The ticket office isn’t actually the window you see as you arrive at the port. Instead look for the ramshackle concrete that looks like somewhere you’d get your organs harvested. A security guard will show you. Or you can pay on the boat, lots of people did.
- We caught the 9am ferry. It cost C$50 and took just over an hour.
- You’ll run a gauntlet of taxi and colectivo drivers. The latter were asking for US$2 each to go to Rivas.
- We’d intended to wait for a bus but a colectivo driver said he’d take us for C$40 each, just over a dollar, so we went with him.
- We got to the terminal at around 10.25am just as a chicken bus was pulling out bound for Granada so we got on that.
- It’s meant to cost C$50 but every foreigner had to pay C$100. When one of the guys challenged him he was told it was for luggage. This is bullshit, there is no luggage fee, they just like to charge foreigners double and there’s literally nothing you can do about it.
- It took about one hour 45 minutes.
- Total cost: C$190 (US$5.20) each.
- Total time: Three hours and ten minutes.
- To get to Volcán Mombacho head to the corner of Avenida Barricada and Calle Nueva (coordinates 11.923831, -85.957208) where you’ll see several chicken buses.
- Someone will probably tell you which bus you need but you’re going to get on one bound for Nandaime or Niquinohomo.
- It cost C$12 each. Just tell the ayudante where you’re going and he’ll tell you where to get off.
- Cross the road and continue walking in the direction of travel and you’ll see the entrance on the left.
- Tuk tuk drivers will offer to take you to the ticket office but it’s only a 1.5 kilometre easy walk. They accept no for an answer straight away.
- The first thing you’ll come to is private transport which costs US$23 each if there are more than six of you. Just carry on to the ticket office.
- I completely forgot to get a full list of the prices for Volcán Mombacho but we paid C$875 each for the entrance fee and the return transport from the ticket office to the crater. Our guide was extra.
- Guide prices are per group and are C$440 for the Crater Trail (a guide isn’t compulsory for this one), C$730 for the Tigrillo Trail and C$910 for the Puma Trail. Prices are less for Spanish speakers.
- A guide is compulsory for Tigrillo and Puma and they do have rangers at the trailhead so you can’t sneak in.
- The transport isn’t mandatory but honestly, the five kilometre walk up gets very, very steep and you’re on the paved road the whole way so it’s not going to be pleasant.
- The cheapest way to see Volcán Mombacho is to take the chicken bus there and back, don’t take the truck to the crater, and only do the Crater Trail.
- If you arrive after 10am they won’t let you walk up, you will need to pay for the transport.
- We decided to take private transport to Volcán Masaya as we wanted to know exactly how we were getting home after dark.
- Abdalah Tours offer this for C$720 each which is about US$20. This includes the US$10 entrance fee so it’s a good deal.