Hola from Nicaragua
Victor arrived at the allotted time to take us to Leon, a journey of about 2 hours. We checked into Lazybones hostel which looked exactly like Oasis (but nicer) in Granada, it must be because it’s run by the same people. A lot of people skip Leon but I have to say I prefer it to Granada as it’s less touristy and definitely has a more lived in feeling. It’s also bigger which I didn’t expect. There are still a couple of stalls in the square but not anything like Granada has and it’s pretty low on tourists at the moment probably due to the petrol strike. Auntie is still not good so I popped to a pharmacy to try and get something to help. I bump into a guy I met in Costa Rica (who has since been robbed at knife point in Managua) and we decide to relax for most of the afternoon as it’s roasting outside. Leon is the 2nd hottest city in Latin America after another one that’s just nearby.
Later on we had a little walk around town to get our bearings and as darkness fell saw a hauntingly beautiful parade of school children with candles who had caused traffic to stand still whilst they celebrated their school’s patron saint. I can’t imagine that happening in England !! We went for dinner at the Shark Pit and then headed back. We met Ed, a guy who is cycling through Latin America. As he’d some how managed to get what looked like first degree burns on his back Nurse Eileen was called upon to adminster a rather high dose of Aloe Vera. I had to take some photos as his face was very contorted at the slightest touch and not that I take pleasure in someone else’s pain but it was a hilarious spectacle to watch.
The next morning we met up with a tour guide called Wilbur who was taking us out to San Jacinta a village some 30 minutes away to see the mud fumaroles. The local children were on hand to guide us around as they have no school as the teacher can’t get there due to the strikes. San Jacinta looks like quite a poor village with thatched roof houses and home to around 7000 people. They again were parading the streets to celebrate a saint – it’s catching !! The children wanted to give us some hot mud as it’s good for the skin but we prefered to give them a little tip each for showing us around. They really were very sweet and the boys were mad on football. There were quite a few fumaroles all of differing consistency bubbling away. The volcano is quite far away but the area could go at any time although they’ve only lost one house so far. After a viewing and a drink we headed back but not before one of the girls had given Auntie a little pot that she’d made freshly for her – it was so sweet !!
Back in town we relaxed and played cards with Ed. Time to teach Auntie Eileen shithead, we had to play for 2 hours before she finally was one – must be beginners luck !! We went to look at one of the city’s churches and then headed to the Cathedral (Latin America’s largest and pictured above). It was huge and contained the tomb of Ruben Dario, Nicaragua’s finest poet (from Leon) with a very sad looking stone lion at it’s feet. As a fitting follow up we then went to visit his home which is now a museum. We walked in the shade as it doesn’t seem to even think about getting cool here until after 4.30pm. We ended up going for dinner in a lovely restaurant across the road called Mediterraneo and played some more cards before bed.
The next day we were up early yet again (it’s hard this travelling lark you know !!) as we’d booked a tour to go to Isla Juan Venado near Penitas. The object of this tour was to do a boat trip down a mangrove river and see some wildlife. We were thinking of a longer trip but as there were no stops for 5 hours decided against it. If we had we may have seen some crocodiles, but not to worry they’re not exactly my favourite animal and the boat is quite small. We hopped in and our driver tells us he has 7 children, he says it’s because of all the fish he eats – so there you go boys, a little secret, a lot of fish goes a long way !! There were red and black mangrove trees and that’s us above pictured on the boat going downstream. We saw loads of different birds and lizards but I think my favourite was the broad billed heron that looked incredibly shy sitting up in the tree. I have the photo !! The island itself is actually named after a man who lived here all by himself and eventually died here. We stopped at a point and walked through to see the Pacific ocean. A man had hung up a hammock and had an instant new home. You could see he’d had a good crab supper and lunch was a bucket of fish he’d already caught that morning. I guess he had a great setting but he obviously had no money, there is a lot of poverty in Nicaragua and you see it everywhere. We sped back and as the tide had changed couldn’t go right in to shore. Auntie decided to walk through the water and the driver offered to carry me. There were two small channels to get through and I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth so I let him fireman carry me over the first and then assumed a slightly more ladylike position for the second – thank goodness I’m wearing shorts !! We said goodbye and then had an iced tea (another addiction and I’ve got Auntie on to it too !!) before heading back to Leon.
Later that afternoon we walked down in to town to see the old jail, now, yes you’ve guessed it, a museum. Judging by the murals and other pictures drawn on the walls it was home to many a torture but now houses the local heroes of Leon – a relief for us !! We then followed our nightly Leon ritual which is Mediteranneo (well the food was so good last night !!) and cards.
Today is Saturday and I really loved today. It felt like we got a real local flavour of lived in Leon. Our shuttle to Managua is not until this afternoon so after my morning swim we decided to take a walk down to the old indigenous village of Leon called Subtiava. On the way, Auntie keeps waving at people in cars, they are taxis (the strike is over !!). I asked her why she kept waving at them and she said it was they keep waving at her, and she wonders why they keep stopping in front of us…bless !! Actually the people in Subtiava don’t really look indigenous here anymore, in fact they seem to have lost a lot of their original culture throughout the whole of the country. The streets although less than 2km from town are more spread out with more greenery and it just feels like a nicer place to live. We walked down to the market where the women were only too happy to pose for photos. In fact they were really putting on a show. I had to take one of the rice and beans lady (the classic Latin America stall) but I wouldn’t have wanted to buy my meat here as the flies were buzzing around it at all angles. We got to see women walking around with the heaviest baskets on their heads and literally whole families riding on bicycles (a bit like the Asian motorbike system). The church and museum were closed so we went back to the hostel to await our transportation. On a good note, the transport strike ended last night, so hopefully things should be back to normal asap, although I’m not sure how the taxi drivers are going to make up their wages, especially when they are struggling to survive as it is.
The minibus arrived and we were dropped off at the Managua backpackers. It seems to be in a safe enough area so we walked to the local Chinese and placed an order for take away (this in itself is a landmark as Auntie Eileen was the first peron who ever gave me a chinese take away). The hostel has a huge DVD collection so we sat down with the rest of the inmates to watch “In to the wild”, it was good but a bit depressing at the end, maybe I should read the book first next time.
Our taxi picked us up at 4.30am to go to the airport, sadly it’s time to say goodbye to Mi Tia Maria (Auntie Eileen). She’s heading back to the UK and I have conveniently arranged a flight at the same time to the Corn Islands, so I can drop her off. I know which place I’d rather be going to !! I think she’s enjoyed herself and it’s been lovely to have her visit me, although she quite often does if I’m in some far off corner. So it was a quick hug, a thank you for helping to take back some things and a goodbye. It’s time for me to top up the tan I hope !! My recommendation would be miss Granada and go to Leon, unless of course you have time to do them both !! Now it’s time to go and visit this pair of islands that everyone’s been raving about…………..
Plane = 24, Bus = 118, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.
Take care all