Fine camping at the gates of hell.

Last night was spent camping at the visitor centre of the Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya (N 12.002972 W 86.148583). This was one of the best overnight parking places so far. The excellent visitor center is a couple of kilometers into the park, with the main attraction (the active volcano Santiago) a few kilometers futher on. At night the park closes but you are allowed to stay in the visitor centre car park. Just you, the volcano, the animal night-life and (we think) a security guard. Entrance to the park is about $4 USA per person and overnight parking is another $1.75 USA. Don't miss it if you are passing!

The view into the crater of Santiago is literally breathtaking (I think it is sulphur dioxide). Notices warn you not to stay more than 20 minutes and to park your vehicle facing down hill (for a quick getaway I assume). The park warden near the crater was wearing a respirator when we left.

The Spaniards, with predictable religious zeal, but little imagination, babtized the volcanoes as "the gates of hell". In the 16th century they planted a cross on the crater lip in order to exorcise the Devil. The last minor eruption was in 2000 when the resultant lava flow and fires reached the visitor centre, very sensibly built on a small hill, five kilometers away.

The Plaza Oviedo car park is right on the rim of the crater and in order to get a photograph of the entire crater (above) you have to stitch several wide-angle photos together.

We spent Friday and, more importantly Saturday night in Leon. We were intending to park in the car park of the Salman supermarket (other campervans have) however when we arrived we were turned firmly away. Whilst trying to extricate ourselves from the narrow one-way streets near the supermarket Ann spotted an empty school yard and asked the gate-keeper if we could park there. The gate-keeper asked the headmaster and the "professor" of English told us "yes"!

The reason for wanting to be in Leon for Saturday night was that the guide book said: "from early afternoon till midnight, the Parque Central is the scene for the Tertulia Leonesa (a big fiesta)". When we were there, from 19:00 to 21:00 it was the scene of some sort of award ceremony, where the "great and the good" made speeches and handed out awards (small plaster lions) for various artistic achievements. Luckily there was music and dancing between the speeches.

If you want to see the dancers in action, and you have lots of bandwidth, download this video.

Stephen Stewart.

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