Volcano: Day 5 in El Salvador

Photo of volcano crater

On Sunday, I hitched a ride with several other Bitcoiners to Ilamatepec, the Santa Ana Volcano.

En Route

Gas Station

We stopped at a gas station about midway from San Salvador to the volcano to stock up on water and snacks.

We successfully completed several Lightning payments. The gas station used a version of Chivo I was not familiar with. Instead of the Chivo smartphone app or the Chivo merchant device, this gas station had a dedicated POS terminal. It was like many modern POS terminals, consisting of a small PC connected to a monitor. (Perhaps a tablet based terminal is more modern).

The cashier accesses Chivo via a web based UI.

Typing in amount of transaction of Chivo POS terminal
Entering the amount of the transaction

We had to step around the counter in order to view the QR codes to pay with bitcoin.

Choosing Bitcoin in Chivo POS terminal
Selecting dollars or bitcoin

A man from our group helped the woman behind the counter to change the Bitcoin address QR code into a proper Lightning invoice. (Again, why are on-chain payments the default for places like gas stations and dollar stores?)

Choosing lightning or on-chain
Switching from on-chain address to lightning invoice

We executed several Lightning payments without issue! I do not recall there being any noticeable delay between the payments showing as received on our Lightning wallets and the payments showing as received in the Chivo POS website.

So far, this browser based Chivo POS terminal has been my most positive experience with Chivo yet.

Anti-extortion / Secret Wallet

Killian Rausch and I had several good conversations regarding how to make non-custodial Bitcoin wallets work for the needs of everyday people. He has a good Twitter thread about his conversation with a taxi driver.

One of the taxi driver’s concerns: what if somebody holds him up and demands all his money? This is simpler to solve with cash, as you just don’t carry a lot of cash in your pocket in a sketchy neighborhood. However, under a Bitcoin standard, somebody could very well demand all of the bitcoin in your wallet. An easy-to-use duress wallet is needed, one that is indistinguishable from the primary wallet. For example, something like a wallet that is protected with two PINs — one that displays a “primary wallet” with the majority of daily spending funds, and another PIN that displays a “duress wallet” with only a tiny amount of funds.

Another concern from the taxi driver: how does his family get hit bitcoin if something happens to him? Cash is simpler in this regard.

There are plenty of people working on products for this very thing; Unchained Capital and Casa come to mind. I think these are very good services these companies provide. We also need to consider inheritance for smaller amounts of bitcoin. My impression (correct me if I am wrong) is that these services are designed for people who have built quite the HODL. There needs to be a clear way to handle bitcoin inheritance for people with smaller quantities of bitcoin.


The hike up the volcano is incredible. El Salvador geography has been shaped by many volcanos over the millennia. Ilametepec is the largest volcano in the country, and is still active.

The neighboring volcano Izalco, the “lighthouse of the Pacific”

There is a relative of the agave plant which grow all over the volcano. It grows very tall, but is most incredible earlier in its lifecycle when it spreads massive, thick leaves across the ground. They can be see in the lower right of the photo above. The photo is deceptive — those plants are quite large.

One of the plants later in life, withering

If you would like to make the hike, you are required to have a local guide. You can hike the ascent in about 2 hours, or perhaps 60 – 90 minutes if you are an avid hiker or in a small group. Descent is quicker.

A nearby lake and the “island of the gods”

At the top of the mountain, there is a man who will sell you ice cream. It seems he hikes up the mountain everyday with a box full of ice cream on his back.

The view of the crater is amazing. When we first reached the top, a cloud had fallen into the rater.

This is what it looks like when a passing cloud falls into a volcano crater, in case you were wondering
Photo of clouds clearing from volcano crater
The clouds begin to disperse from the crater
Photo of crater lake in Ilamatepec
Clear view of the crater lake

You can smell sulphur in the air at the peak. If you pay attention, you will be able to see bubbles and churning in the water from the peak. The lake is very hot and the chemicals will hurt you. I’m told you’ll die within minutes if you fall in.