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INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL
CENTRAL AMERICA, CHIAPAS, AND YUCATAN.
Visit to the Volcano of Masaya.—Village of Masaya.—Lake of Masoya.—Nindiri—Ascent of the Volcano.—Account of it.—The Crater.—Descent into it.— Volcano of Nindiri.—Ignorance of the People concerning Objects of Interest.— Return to Masaya.—Another Countryman.—Managua.—Lake of Managua.— Fishing.—Beautiful Scenery.—Mateares.—Questa del Relox.—Nagarotis.— Crosses.—A Gamekeeper.—Pueblo Nuevo.
March 1. Anxious as I was to hurry on, I resolved nevertheless to give one day to the Volcano of Masaya. For this purpose I sent a courier ahead to procure me a guide up the volcano, and did not get off till eleven o'clock. At a short distance from the city we met a little negro on horseback, dressed in the black suit that nature made him, with two large plantain leaves sewed together for a hat, and plantain leaves for a saddle. At the distance of two leagues we came in sight of the volcano, and at four o'clock, after a hot ride, entered the town, one of the oldest and largest in Nicaragua, and though completely inland, containing, with its suburbs, a population of twenty thousand. We rode to the house of Don Sabino Satroon, who lay, with his month open, snoring in a hammock; but his wife, a pretty young half-blood, received me cordially, and with a proper regard for the infirmities of an old husband and for me, did not wake him up. All at once he shut his mouth and opened his eyes, and gave me a cordial welcome. Don Sabino was a Colombian, who had been banished for ten years, as he said, for services rendered his country; and having found his way to Masaya, had married the pretty young half-breed, and set up as a doctor. Inside the door, behind a little stock of sugar, rice, sausages, and chocolate, was a formidable array of jars and bottles, exhibiting as many colours and as puzzling labels as an apothecary's shop at home. I had time to take a short walk around the town, and turning down the road, at the distance of half a mile came to the brink of a precipice, more than a hundred feet high, at the foot of which, and a short distance beyond, was the Lake of Masaya. The descent was almost perpendicular, in one place by a rough ladder, and then by steps cut in the rock. I was obliged to stop while fifteen or twenty women, most of them young girls, passed. Their water-jars were made of the shell of a large gourd, round, with fanciful figures scratched on them, and painted or glazed, supported on the back by a strap across the forehead, and secured by fine network. Below they were chattering gayly, but by the time they reached the place where I stood they were silent, their movements very slow, their breathing hard, and faces covered with profuse perspiration. This was a great part of the daily labour of the women of the place, and in this way they procured enough for domestic use; but every horse, mule, or cow was obliged to go by a circuitous road of more than a league for water. Why a large town has grown up and been continued so far from this element of life, I do not know. The Spaniards found it a large Indian village, and as they immediately made the owners of the soil their drawers of water, they did not feel the burden; nor do their descendants now.
VOLCANO OF MAS AY A. • 9
In the mean time my guide arrived, who, to my great satisfaction, was no less a personage than the alcalde himself. The arrangements were soon made, and I was 1o join him the next morning at his house in Nindiri. I gave my mules and Nicolas a day's rest, and started on Don Sabino's horse, with a boy to act as guide and to carry a pair of alforgas with provisions. In half an hour I reached Nindiri, having met more people than on my whole road from San Jose to Nicaragua. The alcalde was ready, and in company with an assistant, who carried a pair of alforgas with provisions and a calabash of water, all mounted, we set out. At the distance of half a league we left the main road, and turned off on a small path in the woods on the left. We emerged from this into an open field covered with lava, extending to the base of the volcano in front and on each side as far as I could see, black, several feet deep, and in some places lying in high ridges. A faint track was beaten by cattle over this plain of lava. In front were two volcanoes, from both of which streams of lava had run down the sides into the plain. That directly in front my guide said was the Volcano of Masaya. In that on the right, and farthest from us, the crater was broken, and the great chasm inside was visible. This he said was called Ventero, a name I never heard before, and that it was inaccessible. Riding toward that in front, and crossing the field of lava, we reached the foot of the volcano. Here the grass was high, but the ground was rough and uneven, being covered with decomposed lava. We aseended on horseback until it became too steep for the horses to carry us, and then dismounted, tied them to a bush, and continued on foot. I was already uneasy as to my guides' knowledge of localities, and soon found that they were unwilling or unable to endure much fa
tigue. Before we were half way up they disencumber ed themselves of the water-jar and provisions, and yet they lagged behind. The alcalde was a man about forty, who rode his own horse, and being a man of consequence in the town, I could not order him to go faster; his associate was some ten years older, and physically incapable; and seeing that they did not know any particular path, I left them and went on alone.
At eleven o'clock, or three hours from the village of Nindiri, I reached the high point at which we were aiming; and from this point I expected to look down into the crater of the volcano; but there was no crater, and the whole surface was covered with gigantic masses of lava, and overgrown with bushes and scrub trees. I waited till my guides came up, who told me that this was the Volcano of Masaya, and that there was nothing more to see. The alcalde insisted that two years before he had ascended with the cura, since deceased, and a party of villagers, and they all stopped at this place. I was disappointed and dissatisfied. Directly opposite rose a high peak, which I thought, from its position, must command a view of the crater of the other volcano. I attempted to reach it by passing round the circumference of the mountain, but was obstructed by an immense chasm, and returning, struck directly across. I had no idea what I was attempting. The whole was covered with lava lying in ridges and irregular masses, the surface varying at every step, and overgrown with trees and bushes. After an hour of the hardest work I ever had in my life, I reached the point at which I aimed, and, to my astonishment, instead of seeing the crater of the distant volcano, I was on the brink of another.
Among the recorded wonders of the discoveries in America, this mountain was one; and the Spaniards,