Leon – Nicaragua

From the Lagoon to Leon was not the most pleasant of journeys. Into the three seats in the back of a minivan they squeezed seven of us, thankfully three of them were kids sitting on their parents lap so not too bad, and I was lucky enough to be squashed in by the window – which happened to be an empty space with a piece of wood across with nails hanging out and a piece of plastic sheeting hung across, – obviously a make do from a crash or being broken into, at least it was very breezy despite not being overly comforting.

As soon as we arrived in Leon people were in the boot, grabbing our rucksack and shouting at us to come with them, flapping maps in our faces and yelling, it was horribly overwhelming, especially in my still kinda still queezy state. Jake managed to get us away, made us walk ages off the main road with our huge backpacks in the heat and only managed to $2 off our taxi, NOT WORTH IT.

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We found the place remarkably easy, our guest house was right in-front of one of the main churches, it was called Punche De Oro, house of gold I think it means. The journey was long and we didn’t really do much the rest of the day, we found a little shop and got tea for the night and felt like we spent the rest of the day asleep.

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The next day we went out for brunch at this little pastry shop; found a much-needed laundrette and a proper supermarket, so at least we were not just having rice for dinner that night. We also met our host and his most adorable fuzzball of a puppy.

That night the sky was full of fireworks and found at this is likely to go on for the next few nights. Beautiful but very loud.

We got given breakfast the next day, a piece of toast and black coffee, better than nothing but I hate coffee. That day we went for a walk around the main square, saw a lot of churches, in the main square there was what seemed like a festival going on, but we could not figure out what for. There was a huge stage with dancers in the traditional dress, there was t.v. crews and a huge mural on the floor which appeared to be made out of spice. Down one street was full of little stalls full of traditional food and down the other one selling handmade souvenirs, was interesting to look down.

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We then went to the revolution museum and we were taken round by this little old Nicaraguan man who spoke very little english and we thankfully had just enough spanish to communicate. He wore a revolution shirt and a beret. We found out from him he was once an original guerrilla fighter on the frontline during the war. He showed us lots of pictures of the war and was so enthusiastic which really rubbed off on us, it was so interesting, he kept on raising his fist and yelling “Leon, Capital de Revolution!!”

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He fought when he was seventeen and was also captured and tortured because he was part of the rebel fighters. He fought against his father who was in the military, and all five of his other brothers, some who fought with him and against him were killed in combat and his mother killed by a bomb blast, he was so interesting – what we could understand that is. He was just so passionate.

He took us on the roof to look out over the city and showed us where the fighting was and which of the houses were destroyed. Jake definitely didn’t like balancing on the wooden beams of the roof so we didn’t fall through the corrugated metal roofing.

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He did try to sell us stuff but we just tipped him instead which I think he very much preferred. We also got to handle some of the weaponry that was used and could fire off a handmade bazooka. He showed us photos of him in his guerrilla uniform and he was so proud, it was an excellent trip I would definitely recommend.

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The day after we went to the Legends, traditions and myths museum, it is in an old prison were guerrilla fighters were held and tortured, and many homeless people held under madness, so not overly comforting place to be to begin with. Prison 21 I think it was called.

Inside there were a few tanks used in the war and a little shrine type thing towards the person who made the museum. Inside the actual prision there were a few pictures and a giant egg head type thing and a gigantic person who looked like a bad drag queen with no explanation at all. Really freaky.

Lots of the exhibitions were in the old cells, they played screams and witches crackles and had lots of manikin’s (which I hate) telling of the scary stories believed in Nicaragua. the rest of the museum carried out in the same way but a bit less horror and lots more manikins, ugh. we didn’t stay too long. It was interesting but not sure I would recommend it.

That night outside the church there was a lot more fireworks and many food stalls and a little fair and kids playing cricket, nice to look round but impossible to sleep with the fireworks scaring the stray dogs barking throughout the night.

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The next morning we were up early for a tour. We met another couple waiting, I think they were Polish. We then drove round to pick up another group, two German guys I think then off to Volcan Cerro Negro. It took about an hour to get there and was surrounded by lots of mountains and three other volcanos. Our one and one of the others surrounding it were still active  or dormant, and it is a concern that they would form together to make a super volcano.

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Cerro negro had erupted in 1999 and you could see to where the lava had spread too. It hadn’t gone very far so not bothered Leon at all, it was the ash cloud that had done the damage. Many old and young had died from not being able to breathe and families killed from their roofs caving in on them by the weight of the ash. All planes were stopped and it reached up to Belize and down to Costa Rica.

What we were doing there was volcano boarding, the only place in the world you could volcano board on a live volcano. We were given a little backpack with goggles and a  jumpsuit and a huge and heavy board (about 3 st) which we had to hoist on out backs and climb up the volcano. It was a steep walk and the loose stones meant we kept slipping back down, the wind buffeted us felt like we were about to be blown off with the boards. It was hard going but fun, the two german guys powered off ahead. Our guide was excellent and kept taking photos and telling us about the volcano and the city. He was 11 when the volcano went off and could tell us what it was really like to live through.

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At the top of the volcano we put our stuff down and walked around the crater, we could feel the heat rising from it and clouds of steam kept puffing up. We put on our sexy jumpsuit and goggles and used a towel to cover our mouth and face, he gave us a two min safety instruction, e.g. hold on; and off we went. Jake went super fast and fell off at the bottom and took a video of me going down after. I didn’t go as fast as him but it felt it. The stones sprayed up in your face and caught up in our hair and up our trouser legs, it was excellent but over, it felt, in seconds.

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The day after we got the bus to the beach, it was scorching hot and so we wandered along the shore, many people were surfing the waves were so big. The beach was mostly empty and we found a little bar on the beach front with a few people hanging out, we could sit at our table and still have our feet in the sand . We had a lazy day having a few drinks and swimming. The waves were huge, easily over our heads, I felt like a little kid again attempting to jump waves twice the size of me. It was excellent.

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The day after was our last day and I was NOT feeling good. I think maybe the heat of the sun and maybe swallowing some sea water yesterday didn’t help, spent most of the day asleep and packed ready to leave for El Salvador at 2am the next day.

Despite feeling like crap the last day I think Leon was one of my favourite part of Nicaragua.

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