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13th February, 2017

Corinto, Nicaragua

Nicaragua, like several other Central America countries, was probably pretty much a no go area for tourists in recent times. Nowadays however, a certain degree of normality has returned and tourists are very much encouraged, so another plaque exchange ceremony took place. The Staff Captain officiated in my absence as we were half way to one of the country’s great tourist draws, a dormant (sort of) volcano, Cerro Negro.

The 2,388 foot conical peak of the ‘Black Hill’is part of the Maribios volcanic chain, active over the past 150 years and standing out from the green tropical vegetation that surrounds it. The drive to get there was two hours, the last half an hour of which was over bumpy dirt tracks, so we were keen to get out of the minivan and stretch our legs, despite the daunting challenge that became very obvious on our arrival.

The guide advised the climb should take around an hour plus, but the return down a scree of loose smaller ‘stuff’ would only take twenty minutes or so. We set off, climbing carefully through black volcanic rocks, some the size of coke nuggets others very much larger. The trail became steeper after ten minutes and then it was a slog towards the first ridge where we paused. Here the easterly wind had picked up considerably so it was head down and hold on to the hats.

Three Saganauts elected to turn back at this point, but the rest of us continued along the narrow ridge, to the right the bottom of the crater many hundreds of feet below looked most unwelcoming. The views were stunning, way in the distance more volcanoes, one quietly smoking. In the near distance the black lava flows from ‘our’ volcano could be seen penetrating the tropical vegetation as though some giant ink pot had been spilt. The last 500 yards took us to edge of the last eruption, below the crater looked like some giant asteroid had crashed into earth leaving a hole of vivid browns and reds. This was a spectacular sight.

The Saganauts gathered for a photograph, broad satisfied smiles on their faces, and clutching onto anything that might be blown away. Then it was time to descend, some were cautious, side stepping in the loose scree. I waited then decided to ‘scree run’, leaning back and digging the heels in. Five minutes later I was at the bottom, having passed just about everyone at a great rate of knots, but my legs feeling like jelly and my trainers full of the gritty black lava.

Returning to the minivan, we set off for the town of León for a spot of lunch in a delightful old hotel, then a quick walk to the cathedral square. I noticed in particular that the walls of several buildings had been brightly painted with brave reminders of a darker time, the message being that the spirit of the people will always overcome.

Upon our return on board the officials and their paperwork kept us waiting for a while before the ship could depart, but that allowed the passengers to see another glorious tropical sunset, this one over the dock towards the river mouth. We sailed shortly after, Nicaragua, done.

Captain Philip Rentell

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.