Leon, Nicaragua

leon red church from cathedral roof 500

Last week I made my way south from San Pedro Sula, Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua.  Leon is an old city rich in history but also one that is young and vibrant with a wealth of university students studying and partying within its limits.  

The area offers many options for day trips and is a great hub to explore this northern section of Nicaragua.  Its an hour from the beach, an hour from active and dormant volcanoes, and offers old cathedrals and plenty of shopping.  

The city itself is actually the second Leon.  Its inhabitants were forced to move the city’s location after a volcano eruption wiped out the town.  Today, Leon still experiences the effects of volcanoes with one of the more recent raining black ash on the city that piled inches thick in the streets, the roofs, and everything for miles around.  It took weeks for the air to clear.  

Flips on the Trip

Went to the market…..ended up in a parade.

  • I checked into the hostel late in the afternoon and planned to just run out, get some groceries, and come back for a relaxing evening since I’d been on a bus for around 12 hours.  The city of Leon had different plans.  I made my way on foot about 10 blocks to the market but got sidetracked on the way with crowds of people, followed by multiple marching bands, and finally a procession complete with elaborate float.  Given that I speak almost no Spanish I had no idea what was going on.  I attempted to ask some locals but I get pretty lost after the ‘buenos noches’ part of the conversation.  As the procession moved through the small city streets, the crowds sang songs, took pictures, and had a general look of awe.  All of the people walked along with a grand float that I later found out represented the patron saint of Leon.
leon parade band 500
leon patron saint procession distance 500
leon patron saint procession 500
leon patron saint 500
leon parade carry 500
  • Gave a local kid a lift

Walking the colonial streets takes you back in time. 

leon green door 500
leon red church 500
leon red church from cathedral roof 500
leon yellow church 500
leon square 500
leon cathedral rooftop panarama 600

The best hostel yet. 

Tortuga Booluda Hostel

leon tortuga hostel 500
leon tortuga hostel pool table 500
leon tortuga hostel hammocks 500

Took a ride of a lifetime….after almost dyeing on the hike up.

volcano boarding the Cerro Negro

leon cerro negro overview 500
leon cerro negro cones from top 500
leon cerro negro panarama 600
leon cerro negro cone 500
leon cerro negro view from halfway 500
leon cerro negro cone mountains 500
leon cerro negro top 500
leon volcano boarding cerro negro me 500
leon volcano board 500

Toured an 18th Century Cathedral

leon cathedral lion 500
leon cathedral inside 500
leon cathedral inside alter 500
leon cathedral roof 500
leon building through church door 500
leon cathedral bell men 500

Flops on the Trip

4a taxi that didn’t show up for 5a bus

  • Leaving San Pedro Sula has continually proven to be difficult for me.  The city seems to want to hold me in.  I had purchased a ticket for the ride to Leon on a 5am bus.  At that time of the day you have to pay up to have a taxi willing to pick you up at 4am.  Not shockingly, even though my taxi was arranged by the hostel I was staying in, it didn’t show up.  The hostel owner had to get out of bed to take me across town to the bus station.  Luckily this time I made it out of the city.  

My life and the lives of a dozen school children flashed before my eyes!

  • Not only was the ride to the Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding adventure bumpy, on the way back it was dangerous.  With around 10 of us piled in the back of a pickup truck similar to a military truck, the bumps and turns were uncomfortable but as we approached a 4 way intersection (2 dirt roads in the woods) I was truly scared.  Our driver, who had been driving like a maniac for most of the trip, didn’t even slow down as we approached the intersection.  Just as we were right up on it another truck piled with school children in the back sped towards, their driver not slowing either.  Our truck slammed on the breaks and we were all thrown towards the truck cab.  I was sitting on the end of the truck bed and landed on the 2 people beside me.  As this happened I locked eyes with a dark haired girl no more than 7 years old.  I fully expected the impact of hitting their truck and immediately braced for the impact and forthcoming scene.  We were all completely shocked as we rose our heads and saw the truck of children speeding away.  Luckily for everyone, the other truck’s driver never applied the breaks or saw us in time to speed up.  I am still shocked we didn’t collide and I am sure if we had, very few of the children would have survived the accident.  On our truck, most of us were left with bumps and bruises.  One guy, who had braced himself on a storage box in the truck bed left the scene with his forearm slashed and wrist bleeding.  I’ve always heard people talk about the moments that seem to be in slow motion but it wasn’t until that afternoon staring in the school girls eyes that I really knew how true it could be.  
leon volcano boarding truck 500

Crazy guy in the Hostel

  • I should have expected there to be drama when the first words another hostel guest says to me is “Do you know any other mad scientists?”  I was certainly less than thrilled to be sharing a dorm room with two guys, but this guy seemed genuinely sick.  Over my few days in the hostel, this guy made himself a nuisance to all the other travelers, hovering over, talking endlessly, and even intentionally trying to provoke people with his deranged theories of the world.  One afternoon when I was trying to enjoy a book on a hammock, he stood over me until I made the mistake of making eye contact.  For the next hour, I endured a pitch for a scam that wanted me to play a role in.  Essentially I was to befriend rich older men and tell them about my very smart friend and some invention he was trying to sell.  At the end of the never-ending story, he seemed genuinely shocked when I had no interest in executing his plan with him.  Luckily, on my last full day, the owner told him he had to leave as a large party was coming in.  I immediately started wondering where I would move to but was soon told, there was no large party….she was just saving us all from him, finally.  

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