Volcan Masaya and The Secret Prison
Only around 20km from Granada is the National Park of Volcan Masaya. This is a volcano with three craters, one of which is smoking and putting out large amounts of toxic gases.
At the crater parking lot you are advised not to stay more than 20 minutes and to park facing away from the crater to facilitate a quick escape if necessary.
After checking out all the craters and we headed back down – we’d only breathed a bit of the noxious gas but it was enough. We camped for the night at the Museum/visitor centre of the park.
The next morning we drove a couple of miles up the road to Fortaleza de Coyotepe which was an old Military fort with a very dark history.
This was a military outpost built in 1893 which was attacked and overrun by the US in 1912. It was later used by the Somosa regime (three dictatorial presidents who were Father, Eldest Son and then youngest Son each more brutal than the last). When the Sandinistas finally conquered it in the revolution they discovered that it had been a prison for more than 400 political prisoners. These were people who had been disappeared. They were held in two levels the deepest of which was almost constantly dark.
In this second level there were torture chambers where political prisoners were interrogated. The conditions must have been horrendous with large numbers of inmates crammed into small areas with no facilities for indefinite periods. These inmates were never allowed to leave their cells. After the Sandinistas liberated the prisoners they threw the guards in the prison and operated it for another 4 years – they did however put toilets in the cells and were slightly more humane than the Somosa regime.
The picture above shows the 1st level of cells. There were bars along the middle of the corridor and one side were the cells the other the corridor.
We were shown around the prison by a tour guide who had met some of the prisoners who were incarcerated here. Its difficult to imagine how tough it was in the searing heat here with disease rife, limited rations and poisonous snakes and spiders invading the cells – many of the inmates did not survive their incarceration. It was a very sobering tour and a real insight into the darker turbulent history of Nicaragua.
After leaving the Fort we drove to a Mirador overlooking Laguna Apoyo where we had lunch in a small restaurant. After this we drove South towards San Jorge which is gateway to the Isla de Omtepe in Lake Nicaragua.