As most of the tourist spots we wanted to visit in Leon were closed for the Easter celebrations we decided to have a few days break from the city and head to the town of Esteli for a river/ canyoning trip!
A few hours from the city but another chaotic trip on the chicken buses! The chicken buses are still the standard yellow (or other random colour) buses that were once the old school busses in the USA and now the main form of transport in Central America for the locals. They are always packed, with no one knowing when they are supposed to leave or if they will take you the full journey! They are a fun experience though and cheap!
The town of Esteli is apparently the third largest in Nicaragua aside from the capital but compared to home it was a very small town. Was nice at night though, with all the locals socialising around the main square and park outside the church. As it was Easter there was also a big service going on in the church with a really good guitar player signing with the congregation.
The tour was a few hours outside of Esteli, in an area called Somoto. We had a good day, hiking, floating and jumping along the river at various different points. It would have been better during rainy season when the river level would be higher but we still had fun and it got us out of the city for the day.
That night we chilled at the hostel with a few drinks. Also we randomly saw a guy from our San Blas boat during the river tour, so he came around for the evening as well as some new friends we'd made. All planning on trying to meet up again further through Central America in Guatemala.
We had one more full day back in Leon before a 2am, 14 hour, shuttle to the port we would depart for the Bay Islands in Honduras but luckily most of the bits we'd previously missed were re-opened after Easter.
So we went up to the cathedral roof which was painted an amazing bright white colour and also giving great views around the city and then onto the revolutionary museum. The museum was based in a fascinating old building in the main square that had been used for everything from the town hall to a place for political prisoners and torture!
Since the early 20th century Nicaragua has been plagued by civil wars, US interventions and dictatorial leaders which left the country in a poor state. Through the middle of the century onwards a leading faction against the government came into force, known as the FSLN. These revolutionaries originated from Leon and fought guerrilla wars to return power to the people.
The tours were led by veteran FSLN fighters, luckily we found an English speaking guide who took us through a fascinating journey outlining all that had happened, when and why, over the course of the 20th century! In the later 2000's the FSLN regained power through the public vote and have worked for public health, education and infrastructure improvements for Nicaragua since; they're now definitely on the road to recovery! The museum was only a few rooms in size but had loads of pictures, paintings and artefacts.
The final night in Leon we visited a kebab shop we've been eying up since the first day and it didn't disappoint! Probably one of the best we'd had since home!
The stay ended with a few drinks and a late night awaiting the mini bus to Honduras... 14 hours across the country and to the port where we would set off for the Bay Islands!