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By the time I leave Nicaragua I hope to have visited all of the protected natural reserves in the country. There are magnificently beautiful areas here. For a poor country, Nicaragua seems to have adequate staff to patrol the reserves to keep wildlife poachers and tree bandits away. Costa Rica could learn something from their neighbors on this count, seeing how Costa Rica has a lot of acreage set aside as protected but hardly any guards to ensure it actually stays protected. I was glad to see so many guards at the Masaya volcano, about 30 of them, all armed with loaded pistols, I might add. The guard at the front gate, where the money is taken for entrance fees, has a pistol and a loaded rifle. The guards are adorably friendly and eager to have their photos taken. They are a good group of guys, so long as you’re not a bandit I suppose. When I began slipping down the lava-ash trail from the volcano top, one of the guards left his post and gave me a helping hand all the way down the steep, unstable volcano slope, which meant he had to climb all the way back up to return to his windy position. Another guard, Christopher, gave me a side-saddle ride on his bicycle to give my aching feet a rest from the 3-mile march on the pavement down the main road back to the entrance. I felt like Katherine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, minus the cows and hay barn.

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