Waking up in a new place while travelling, has an incredible effect. Very evident this morning having finally arrived in the only country in Central America I had never visited, and this was multiplied by the ridiculous journey into the early hours of today to get here to Leon, Nicaragua!
First things first. Get some grub. Walked out my hostel, which was conveniently located a 30 second walk from the main market which seems to be every day until about 2 in the afternoon. Short stroll down there, and a brief look at all the food made it evident they were all relatively serving the same stuff. Meat, either chicken or beef,, “gallo pinto” which is essentially rice and beans mixed, fried plantain called “maduro” and a side of cabbage salad. I was dumbfounded when I asked the cost and did the math in my head and realized a full plate came to only just over 2 dollars! What a steal and what a meal. For something so simple, it is so satiating and you feel full and energized, not stuffed and sluggish.
I had only planned to be in Leon for a couple of days, to see the town, and to do the boarding, or sledding down the volcano, something I had lined up as a must do on this trip. That being said, I never make assumptions about a place too deeply prior to arriving and was pleasantly surprised by not only the town, streets and architecture or Leon, but the feel of the place as well. It has a very authentic feel, as if I was merely a bystander watching a day in the life of a Nicaraguan.
A lot of places in Central America, you are just another tourist in a touristy location, and even though many people come and visit Leon, I felt like I was very out of place, in a great sense. I was the minority. I was watching people pushing their carts of fruits, other people going off to work, passing by beautiful churches, plazas and squares, all with a quaint “grunge” about it that says, this is the way Leon is, was and will always be. They are not changing simply because tourism here is rising. Even the hostels and restaurants you will find in your lonely planet book are often tucked away in old colonial buildings with beautiful, thick wood trim around the windows and doorways.
Then, something I will remember Leon for, one of the weirdest things happened. As I exited the beautiful church in the main square, I bumped into a friend from my hostel, and as we got chatting, I noticed a half naked homeless man over her shoulder. He had one hand down his pants, and was shaking the other one above his head towards the church in a garbled Spanish. He was extremely dirty and very skinny and judging by his actions, I assumed troubled with drugs. As I said goodbye to my friend, I kept my eye on the man, and walked off, just as he turned to one of the Lion Statues on either side of the stairs leading up to the church, and started screaming at them. Still, with my eye on him, I walked past him and just as I did he turned, and launched a rock, which he had been hiding in his pants at the lion, completely missing it. I follow the rock with my eyes as it soared well over the statue and passed within inches of a mans head passing by on a bicycle! Without any idea of how close he was to a hospital bed or coffin, the man cycled on and the homeless man continued yelling at the statue. All’s well that ends well and I could not help but find the humour in it all.
Passing through the streets of Leon, I was so grateful and happy to be in Nicaragua. This is the country in Central America, where I would be spending the most of my time, and of course, lining up my volcano boarding tour here in Leon!
To book that, I had a recommendation from a local to visit NicaTime which is supposed to be a reliable, and cheap tour operator to book the volcano boarding. A few blocks west of the main plaza and church in Leon, we found the little desk inside the massive doorways to book our tour.
Traveller’s Tip: You can book your volcano boarding anywhere in Leon, including through your hostel, but it makes sense to shop around a bit because many places offer the exact same thing, which is essentially the overalls, goggles, board and transportation, so you can easily save a few bucks.
All in all, it was $25 for everything, minus the $5 entry fee to the National Park, and we planned it for the following day where we would be picked up outside our hostel in Leon.
After such a horrible, drawn out journey getting here to Nicaragua things were looking up. Loving Leon, loving Nicaragua, volcano boarding booked. Starting off this country on the right foot!