Leon Travel Blog

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We took the bus from Tegucigalpa all the way to the border with Nicaragua. Todd warned us in advance that the border crossing was very hectic with people trying to take you the 3km across the No Mans Land between the countries. He was right as we fought through the commotion of locals grabbing at our bags and offering to change our money. After being ridden over the crossing on bicycle tuk tuks we waited around for about half an hour for Todd to process our passports on the Nicaraguan side. From there we got a private van to the city of Leon.

There was time for a quick walk around before we went out to dinner at a restaurant that had been recommended to Todd. At first it all seemed like a nice peaceful place until the live band started playing in the next room. It was some of the loudest music I have ever heard, to the point it was uncomfortable to sit there and eat dinner. The locals loved it however, and were dancing all over the restaurant in between drinks.

After dinner we went to a hostel bar and played some games of pool. We went in search of a different place to drink but all we found were loud clubs so we went back to the first place, which now was swamped with other travellers. We had some more drinks there and then went back to the hotel.

The next morning Dave, Thomas and I went up Volcan Cerro Negro to go sandboarding. They call it sandboarding, but here it's more like volcanic-ash-and-gravel-boarding. We took a transport van with the group of about 8 for around an hour and a half from Leon to Cerro Negro. The volcano is not huge - under 1000m - but it is very active with the last eruption in 1999. This gave it a stark black appearance, similar to Volcan Pacaya. We were given our boards and bags of safety equipment and did an hour hike up to the summit. Along the way we could see down into the active crater, which was letting off strong emissions of sulfur gas. We walked around the main crater and had a great but very windy view down into the distance. We went back to near where we came up the side and got ready to go down on our boards.

Before we left Leon we were given the choice of doing the boarding either sitting down or the traditional standing up. Dave and myself had decided to do the boarding sitting down, while Thomas went standing up. We put on our protective gear and first up were the four of us doing it sitting down. It was a long way down from the top, and it looked quite steep too. First up were the other two people, who went down really slowly to the cries of disappointment from the rest of the group. Dave and I were determined to go a lot faster.

Dave and I left at the same time and not long after we got going I veered hard to the side and came to a slow stop. By the time I got myself aligned again Dave was long gone. I did the same again not long after but had started to work out how to stay in line. I picked up a lot of speed after that, with ash and gravel flinging hard from the front of the board as I whizzed down the steep slope. At times so much ash and gravel was coming up that I had to put my hand over my face just so I could open my mouth to breathe. About two-thirds of the way down I was going quite fast when I veered again to the side and stacked a lot harder than before. It didn't hurt much so I lined myself up again and went fast all the way down to the bottom. The whole descent probably took about a minute.

At the bottom we all had a laugh at our antics. We were covered thick in ash all over. Dave had come off at one point and torn a hole in his pants. I had a big graze down the back of my right calf from my bigger stack that was black with ash and with some blood coming out.

We then had to wait for the rest of the group to come down doing the standing up boarding. They went really slow because it is not at all easy to do on that surface. Nobody really got a big pace up so I was pretty happy to have done it sitting down when everyone arrived at the bottom anti-climatically after about 45 minutes. We got our stuff together and went back to the van and drove back to Leon. Needless to say I had a very long shower at the hotel but couldn't for the life of me get the ash out of the big graze on my right leg.

In the afternoon a few of us from the tour group went for a walk into the town and checked out one of the big churches on the plaza. Interestingly there were underground door passages in the main church area that we were told originally linked through to other churches in the city. Clearly at one point it was part of some kind of worldwide conspiracy.

After that we decided to go to a revolution museum nearby that we had heard about. We paid our small fee at the entrance and one of the locals followed us in and proceeded to give us a fast-paced Spanish guide to what was on the walls. None of us had more than a vague idea of what he was saying, but he was right into it so we didn't want to stop him and say we couldn't understand him. So instead we respectfully listened as he explained about various revolutions in Nicaragua, including the Contras of the 1980s. At the end he took us up on to the very wobbly corrugated iron roof for a view of the city.

That night we went out to dinner and near the end a performing group came in to the restaurant and did a traditional Nicaraguan dance where a Spanish woman costume around 2m tall dances around with a short Nicaraguan man costume with a huge head. The history of it is that it represents Spanish women from colonial times trying to dance with local Nicaraguan men.
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photo by: Chokk