Nicaragua 3 (Leon) – May 2009

– Waking up on May 5th, or Cinco de Mayo, wasn`t the best morning for me.  We were out so late (or arriving at 6am in the morning would be considered too early) and I was not feeling too well.  We slept for 5 hours before we had to get out and check out…but we were late checking out but the lodge said it was ok.  Good thing as we tried to get lunch and I just couldn`t eat.  I knew I should, but really wasn`t sure I could handle it.  This was going to be a problem as we all planned to head west to the city of Leon and that would involve at least 2 buses and about 3-4 hours.  So I had to think…can I handle a few buses in this heat with a hangover or should I just stay where I was for another night on my own and head out to join the others in a day.  I just wanted to sleep more and lay down.

– In the end…I decided to get a Gatorade…suck it up and head out with the group as I knew it would be better if we were all together.  It was a rough ride in a hot van, but we got to Managua, the capital city.  We were dropped off on some corner and then found the next bus area.  Strangely…but we just found the right place, found the next minibus to take us to Leon and waited for it to fill.  This minibus just sit and wait till its full and then leave.  Too bad there is no storage for  your bags and Freddie, Mel and I all got to have our bags on our lap for an hour and a half drive.  Not the best, but of well.  That`s local travel and part of the journey.

-Once we got to Leon, we had to argue with a taxi driver at the bus station.  What we learned in this country is taxi drivers charge per person and not for the car or journey.  It was really annoying as they may or may not take you, may (and usually did) charge more since we were gringos and you really couldn`t do much about it. It`s a really poor country, so in the end, I was fine to just pay a dollar for the ride vs the 75 cents others were trying to negotiate.

– So we finally got settled into our hostel, met up with Caitlin and Alex as they stopped for a volcano hike before getting to Leon, and were in a new city.  I knew it was still Cinco de Mayo and I normally would have been all up to drink and party, but beer was the last thing I wanted and I took the night off from drinking.

Volcano Sand Boarding

– Our big adventure in Leon was going volcano sand boarding.  The newest volcano in Nicaragua is Cerro Negro and it normally erupts every 7 years with massive amounts of lava.  The last eruption was in 1999, so it was due to erupt any minute now.  If I would have known this before signing up…I may have opted out.  The guide told us this as we were right at the top of the volcano, so at this point, it made sense to board down faster.

– We first too an hour drive in the back of a truck…yes picture a pick up truck with some seats on both sides of the truck bed.  That was our transport in the very hot sun.  We passed a lot of cows in the middle of the road and actually had to stop our truck as we were surrounded by grazing cows.  Once we got to the volcano, it looked so tall and big.  The guide said it was about a 45 minute hike up and we were going to hike around the base to the back side as the rocks were a little easier to climb.  Humm….what did I sign up for?

– Next we were given our gear.  A sexy and baggy orange jumpsuit and goggles to protect our eyes from flying rocks.  Our sand boards were quite heavy and we had to carry this plus a big bottle of water as it was so hot out we didnt` want to dehydrate it.  As we hiked up the volcano, we had some lovely views of the country and could see where the dried lava was from that last eruption.  Guess it was a bad one and lava flowed for many miles.  We could also see the volcano steaming and lots of smell the sulfur smell.  The guide said we could walk down into the crater a little…not too far as it was warm, but it was a cool thing to go down into an active volcano.

– Once it was time to head down, we suited up, goggle up and then were taught how to go fast, slow down and hopefully not crash.  I ended up going down the volcano next to Caitlin which was fun.  It was such a fun ride down.  We were clocked with a radar gun and were going about 20 km/h, but it felt so much faster.  I was just trying to hold on and not crash, and was successful.  At the bottom, I had to get out of the way as the guide was coming after me and he was trying to break the speed record…which was 80 km/h.  He was clocked at 79 and was sad…but I was more worried as when he hit the bottom, he really was flying and flew off his board, but since he`s done it so many times, he knew how to fly out safely (or so he said).

– I knew we were going fast as when I turned my board over, the while front that helps you slide was literally burned off.  I saw the photo of the white on the board before I went down (the photo with Alex, Caitlin, Freddie and Mel) and then the one at the bottom when it was burned off.  Crazy the friction does that.

– After a great day sand boarding, we all partied at the hostel, drank way too much local rum, playing cards games and eventually headed out for a club.  This was also our main sightseeing trip in town.  So we walked past the big church, which was impressive, even though my photo wasn`t the best.  Then off to the club…but we found  hot dog stand and of course we all had to stop and get hot dogs and burgers at midnight before heading to the club.  It was quite a scene but we finally made it to the club oxygen.  Only problem was it was almost 12:30 and the place was empty and it really was just us.  So more drinking and some dancing and even trying to get the DJ to play some better music (but he refused unless we bought him a beer).  Around 1am, the place got packed and really picked up and was fun.  At 2:30, I decided I had enough and shared a cab home with another person in our hostel.  Really fun night and I still got some sleep.  The others weren`t as happy or awake as me.

– So to fill our time, we headed off to the cinema and the choices were really bad, and we settled on Mall Cop.  I will say this has to be one of the dumbest movies ever.  I can`t believe it did so well in the states nor that there is a sequel coming out.  Really silly but not even funny silly.

Final day in Nicaragua

– For our final day in Nicaragua, we all decided we had to go check out the beach as it was supposed to be the best in all of Nicaragua and the perfect end to the two weeks here.  The beach was called Pena Blancas and was a short 45 minute bus ride away.  So we all packed picnic lunches, piled into a taxi and literally made the chicken bus with just about 30 seconds to spare before it left.  That was great timing.  The funny part was the taxi charged us all a dollar a head for the 9 minute journey and the bus was 50 cents for an hour journey.  Go figure the pricing.

– Once at the beach, we were surprised how strong the waves and currents were.  At one point, we had currents pulling and pushing to the left and right and it was really had to stand.  We really were knocked over by the waves but it was fun and we considered working it in the waves was our exercise for the day.

-At one point when we were relaxing, a local man came up to us and we think he was mute as he wasn`t able to talk.  We tried to ask him some questions in Spanish to figure out what he was saying, but he was just making hand gestures and some squeaks. We think he was trying to tell us the waves were dangerous.  I ran into this in India where they told us not to swim as it was so dangerous and many locals die as they can`t swim.  So I Figured it was another warning like that.  The waves were fine for us, and we weren`t too worried.  What happened next, made the man`s warning mean a lot more.

– An hour later, we were all relaxing, reading or sleeping and out of no where…my feet felt water and we were drenched by a huge wave.  We were really far back from the shore, and already had moved back 3 times as the water was coming up.  So with this huge wave, all our stuff was underwater (towels, clothes, ipods, camera and books).  We were not happy campers to say the least and it took us a while to get sorted out.  It put a little damper on our beach day as everything was so wet and dirty, so we tried to wash our stuff in the water and hang on a fence to dry.

– At this point, game over.  We all headed to the nearest bar to get some beers and try to let our clothes dry out before we had to bus home.  I was bummed as my book was wet and I was close to finishing it.  Turning the wet and sandy pages was tough, but I managed to continue and not rip any.  Beers helped the day.

– I hate to say I didn`t see the city in Leon and i know there were a couple of impressive churches and plazas, but at this point, I`m just tired of seeing more cities and plazas and the fun I have with people is much more memorable.

Logistics:

Big Foot Hostel – www.bigfootnicaragua.com  Great hostel with a little pool (in the shape of a big foot).

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