- Managua – Léon
- Cerro Negro volcano
- Las Peñitas
Travelling around Nicaragua is a dream in comparison to my previous countries because everywhere is within a few hours of each other. There’s two options: 1) a chicken bus (quite literally bearded in to farm trucks and transported) or 2) micro buses (essentially a minibus). We microbussed our way to Léon that morning, arriving to a mass of rickshaw men insisting on our business. We did hop in one and pedalled our way to our hostel – Bigfoot Hostel. It was so, so, so hot and humid in the city which we had been warned about.
After dumping our bags, we set out in to the city with two priorities: lunch and booking volcano boarding. Luckily for us, right outside the hostel was a tour company offering a great volcano deal. We booked for the following day and set about deciding which shirt we wanted to publicise the fact we were adrenaline junkies! Even luckier for us was a shawarma restaurant on the corner of the block serving INCREDIBLE food. We lathered on the garlic sauce and stuffed our faces!
Our afternoon plan was to see what the city of Léon had to offer us. We went for a wonder around the streets, shocked at the skinny working animals, and then found the tourist information centre where they told us about a few good attractions. First up was the Museum of Legends and Traditions. Upon entry, we wondered slightly what we’d got ourselves in for! There were giant Carnaval type dolls around and a few other odd murals on the walls.
Once inside some of the exhibits, things got even weirder. The Nicaraguans sure do have some bizarre legends and traditions! For example, they believe in a breastfeeding lady who screams at promiscuous men and forces them to breastfeed from her; or, they believe in pig witches who are ugly females that come out at night after players and prostitutes. Whatever floats their boats!
An appropriate activity to follow this museum was a visit to the rooftop of the cathedral. Léon’s cathedral makes you think you’re somewhere in Turkey because it’s pure white with domed roofs. We had to take off our shoes to climb on the roof but it was a pretty cool view and building nonetheless.
It was the hottest part of the day by this point so there was no other options but to go back to the comforts of the swimming pool at our hostel. This was an absolute dream and exactly what we needed and we met some people who had tips for other places in the country too.
I vowed to exercise that evening but Léon didn’t seem the safest place to go running. I’d seen a Crossfit gym earlier in the day and it turned out that this was pretty cheap too. So off I went to the gym with a guy from the hostel, finding it to be a giant weightlifting gym full of both guys and girls. Also, the hottest gym ever, and it wasn’t long before I joined everyone else in there in sweating from any and every patch of skin on our bodies! But I felt great for going and finally getting back to the squat rack. The rest of our evening was pretty relaxed as we cooked dinner, chilled by the pool with a mojito and chatted about life.
Our second morning in Léon consisted of not a lot. I needed to make an insurance claim and before long it was midday and we didn’t know where our morning had gone! But this was volcano boarding day and we were excited! The weather wasn’t looking tip top but we donned our tops and head to the agency ready to go.
It turned out that we had a private tour which was perfect. Doreen, our guide, was a young female too and we ended up having a very funny time with her. I felt a bit sorry for our driver being outnumbered by the girls. We had to drive about an hour outside of the city and to the base of the volcano, Cerro Negro. There we were given backpacks and our boards and began the hike up to the volcano summit. Sadly it was cloudy so we couldn’t see it from the bottom but it meant we wouldn’t overheat on the walk.
It was about an hour up. Along the way we met an American family with an adorable little girl named Audrey who became our bestie for the excursion. She thoroughly entertained us along the rough uphill terrain. We were a bit bummed that we were missing the surrounding views but clearly God heard our cries, and a quite literally, a strong gust of wind came along and blew away the clouds. Within minutes we could see the whole area and the volcanic crater itself, which was smoking and pretty awesome.
Then it was time to volcanoboard! We were briefed and nervous. But Zalie was a wimp so I had to go first. I was worried about going too quick and losing control, flying off and smashing up my face on the rocks! But I needn’t have worried and about 100m down the 500m stretch, I let my inhibitions go and flew down the hill. It was so fun!
I hadn’t anticipated for how dirty you got at the bottom and I my hair was covered in volcanic rock. But I was absolutely nothing compared to Zalie who’d obviously been audibly enjoying her ride down, mouth wide open, catching flying rocks!
We watched Audrey and her family fly down too and spent some time playing around at the bottom of the volcano, wishing it wasn’t an hour to hike back up and go again. I wish we had volcanoes in the UK to do this on.
Back in the city Doreen took us for a beer and we giggled some more. She was Dutch and as always, met a guy out here five years ago and ended up staying. Now they run a volcano travel company and she appears to be living the life. After the beer, we returned to Bigfoot for dinner and a little bit of socialising but our night out was saved up for the following day.
We decided that our final day would be at the beach. Las Peñitas is a small town 20km’s from Leon and popular for surfing. Bigfoot had another hostel on the beach there where they were hosting a beach party that evening too. We hitched a lift to the town, being picked up by a lorry driver who was working locally. The staff at Bigfoot were extremely welcoming and within minutes of our arrival, invited us to join them cliff jumping.
Zalie was too wimpish for this but I went along with Omer and Alex as we jumped in to the giant waves crashing in to the rocks. Sounds dangerous, and probably was, but I survived. Getting out the sea though was a whole other matter! With 6ft waves heading your way and crashing on the rocks ahead and very strong backwash currents, there was a very short window available for which you could exit the ocean. It certainly wasn’t doable without also taking a few sand castles with you in your bikini though!
When we got back to our towels, we sunbathed, napped and read for a while until a shuttle from the city arrived with some more people. It really didn’t take us long to participate in a few rounds of beer pong either. But us girls proved much better than our male teammates and had a blast. We them watched the sunset with beer in hand and ordered some food before beginning party prep.
Our night started slowly with a few beers and rounds of pool. Unfortunately we proved to be not so good at that and shamefully embarrassed ourselves when joined by two Nicaraguans. At 9pm, the bus of Bigfoot Leon party goers arrived and that’s when things kicked off. It took less than 15 minutes for us to be several tequila shots down and hitting up on the dance floor. We had joined forces with Bertie, David and Mike and earned many a free drink from them.
By the end of the night we’d Shakira’d our little butts off, drunk too much, been for several dips in the pool and made many drunk friends. We’d had a whale of a time and were heavily paying the consequences of it when it was time for the bus back home. Zalie passed out on me and I tried desperately to keep my cool as we swing around the roads! Upon our arrival back at the hostel, I managed to lose Zalie and found her, face down, on the pool loungers completely out of it. The boys helped me put her to bed but not before she rolled off the lounger and in to the gutter, soaking herself, first!
Bertie and I head out in search of food but to no avail. So I was also back in bed soon after and ready to sleep off this alcohol intake! I knew forewell that I wouldn’t avoid the hangover in the morning and lo and behold, it was a heavy one when I woke up. We attempted to salvage ourselves with smoothies, eggs and avocado, and then checked out ready to find or way to Granada.
So, 211 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and I’ve hurtled down a volcano, climbed on top of a cathedral, drowned in the sea and proved my hips really don’t lie. I love Leon!