After an uneventful bus ride from Granada back to Managua, the bus driver unceremoniously dumped us all at the side of a busy motorway, going God knows where. Unsure where to catch my connecting bus, I followed the crowd of other passengers moving towards a row of minivans parked further down the road. As we got closer all I could hear was a loud rubble of voices shouting. I was eventually able to pick out Leon, Leon, La-la-la-la-la-Leon being shouted over and over again by a rather sweaty looking gentleman, so I ventured over.
This was the weirdest "bus depot" (and I use that term loosely) I had been to, so far. It was basically a bunch of guys with vans screaming out destinations in a rather entertaining sing-song manner. They were very serious though and you had to move fast or who knows where you could end up. Each van had a driver and runner (i.e. a guy who got customers into the van and loaded their luggage). All the runners were grabbing people's luggage and throwing them into the vans, squeezing as many people in as possible. They all tried to get you in their van before you could find someone else going the same way for cheaper. Even if you said no or that you were going somewhere else, they would still try and load up your luggage and get you in. To add to the confusion there were tons of random people wandering around, going in and out of the vans trying to sell everything and anything. They too decided to shout out what they were selling in a sing-song manner…Agua, agua, agua…EMMMMPanadaaaas, EMMMMpanadaaaas! So it was utter chaos and seriously loud, but insanely funny to watch. So I was squeezed into a hot, sticky, van with about 14 other people and all our luggage and off we went to Leon.
After climbing the volcano in Guatemala, I said I was done with them, so I hadn't planned to visit Leon as "Cerro Negro" was the only real attraction there. However, I then heard that you could go volcano boarding there, so I figured this was a once and a lifetime opportunity not to be missed. I mean when was I ever going to be able to sand board down a fricking volcano again???? I stayed at the "Big Foot" hostel as everyone I met said it was the best in town and they were not wrong. It was clean, busy and had a nice bar/restaurant. Plus my friend Melanie, from Granada was going to be there.
That night the hostel across the road (Via, Via) was having live music in their bar, which turned out to be Nicaragua's version of "battle of the bands". Most of the music was good, but it was a very eclectic group of performers and the winners turned out to be 3 guys with drums, a guitar and an accordion, who sang traditional folk music as well as American rock music (weirdest version of "Living on a Prayer" EVER!!). It was definitely different, but we all enjoyed it and had such a laugh.
The next morning I ran into Adi & Chris my Irish friends that I met in Granada; they had arrived that morning and booked up on the same volcano trek as me. Later that day we set off in the truck with about 15 other people headed for Cerro Negro. On arrival we instantly realised that it was scorching hot and that we would now have to trek up this huge volcano while carrying our boards (which were really heavy), protective clothing (in the form of an orange prison jumpsuit & goggles) and water, whilst trying not to die from heat stroke. I'm not going to lie to you, it was SERIOUSLY hard going and at times I just wanted to lie down and never get back up. Thankfully the higher up we climbed, the cooler it got, thanks to a nice breeze that eventually reached gale force winds at the top.
We had two choices, the first was to go down standing up, just like snowboarding and the second was to sit on the board, like a toboggan. Because the ground was like gravel, you went faster sitting down and had more chance of falling and hurting yourself standing up, so most of us decided it was toboggan style for us. At the bottom was a guy with a speed radar gun and he would record everyone's speed at the finish. If you had a speed fast enough to get you onto the "top 5 fastest" board back at the hostel, then you drank for free all night! I didn't make it onto the board or anywhere close to it, as I fell off half way down the volcano. Although I did get back on and make it all the way down, the fall slowed me down a bit. I think I took a good few layers of skin off my leg and elbow, but it was worth it because it was sooo exciting and way faster than it looked. Some people made it down unscathed; others fell and rolled pretty bad, so I figure I did ok.
On our way back Anthony (our guide) told us horror stories of past boarding injuries, which made me wonder if my travel insurance would cover volcano boarding???? (Doubtful). We arrived back at the hostel looking like a bunch of coal miners covered in soot, only to find a bar full of mojito's waiting for us. After a few drinks and a long shower, I was ready to see what else Leon had in store. It turns out, not much! Adi, Chris and I headed off to explore Leon.
Leon is a very small market town and I'm sure as far as Nicaragua goes, it's pretty big and modern, but compared to the UK or Canada it's not. We had some street food and checked out the market and a few artisan shops. There were a few museums and such, so we decided to go check the "Museo de la Revolution". This was a bizarre attraction and to call itself a museum was a slap in the face of all the "real" museums out there. This was an old, abandoned building with dirt floors, a few murals, some guns and some old photos on the walls. No one spoke English and none of the photos had English captions, so we were feeling slightly ripped off when the janitor or manager or possibly just some random guy (still not sure what his role was there??) gestured for us to follow him.
There were 3 of us, so feeling safe enough we followed the strange man to the roof. On the roof he showed us the flag of the revolution and the amazing view overlooking the town. The roof was bouncy and liable to cave in at any moment, but our "guide" was so excited and passionate that it turned out to be a hilarious experience. Sometimes the experience you have is more important than the sights you see. That was about all Leon had to offer, so the next day I set off back to Granada for a few more days, before continuing on with the journey.