It is hot. Very hot! The kind of heat that wraps itself around you and hugs you tight. And here in Nicaragua in November it remains that way for the full 24-hours of every day.
To drink a cup of coffee is to receive an added input of heat that produces an immediate hot flush. Water circulates through the body at a staggering rate: litres are poured in and litres seep out. My hands remain moist and sticky, as does the rest of me, constantly. Every day there arrive moments when all I can focus on is being beneath an arc of cool water or beneath a fast rotating fan. In this steam bath atmosphere one’s movements and thought processes assume a sluggish attitude. I am a slower thinking and moving human being than I would be in the Northern hemisphere.
However, last night it rained in cloudfulls and it continued through the dawn and into the morning. The sort of rain that sends small children running into the street to cavort beneath overflowing gutters and cars to drive slowly through enormous puddles. And for a while the heat abated, the sun hidden beneath thick, dark clouds and the water cooling everything it touched. But nothing lasts forever and by late afternoon the mercury was rising fast in a dramatic race with the humidity. Both were in the high 80s by sunset and the relentless steaminess returned to squeeze the life out of everything.
Towering over the old colonial city of Granada is the shattered rim of the Mombacho volcano and the cones of several others can be seen in the distance. Looking at a map I realise that we are sitting plumb on one of the most active volcanic regions in the world. The Central American Volcanic Arc extends for almost a thousand miles and runs parallel to the Pacific coast to the west. There are hundreds of volcanic formations, ranging from major strata-volcanoes, to lava domes and cinder cones. Thus I am in a doubly ‘hot’ place geographically.
I like to climb volcanos and have scrambled up a fair few in my time. They are not always the most aesthetically pleasing places to walk being for the most part a raw and blasted mixture of hard and soft rocks. But looking down into the glowing crater of an active volcano is to be reminded that we tread on a very thin crust on this earth of ours and that not too far below is a swirling mass of molten rock and iron ore.
So while the volcanoes all around me sit placidly in the background I am conscious that they have the potential to erupt at any time with devastating ferocity and power. I am also aware that we live in a brittle world and that somewhere on earth beautiful and terrible events will happen every day. We must not be afraid.
So, I sit thinking and sweating steadily in the early morning fug. We live our lives by degrees: emotionally cold, politically hot, a lukewarm greeting. All is continually in flux with the status quo appearing and disappearing by chance. And the heat goes on. . . . . . I need a shower.