Last weekend we decided to take a trip to Leon, a town about ninety kilometers from Managua. We had only visited once before with our Spanish tutor, a hot trip that took four hours by bus and left us with little desire to return. But we did, and are glad that we gave it another chance. The trip only took an hour this time, much better!
We left on Friday afternoon and made a stop for a late lunch in the town of Nagarote, which is famous for their quesillos. A quesillo is a tortilla with cheese, pickled onions, creamy sauce and vinegar. Add a little salt and chile it is one of our favorite Nicaraguan foods.
After our tummy’s were full, we went to the Ruins of Leon Viejo or “Old Leon” which is a UNESCO world heritage site. While the actual ruins aren’t that spectacular, we really enjoyed learning more about the history of Nicaragua. The views of the lake and Volcan Momotombo were also spectacular!
As we were leaving the town of Momotombo, we noticed these signs for Accion Medica Cristiana, the organization that I (Cassie) work for two days a week. Here is an essential medicine clinic that helps communities access necessary medications at lower costs.
We then headed up the old highway to Transito Beach. This is a fishing town that is bringing in a lot of visitors due to its world-class surf waves. The drive was a bit tricky with all of the pot holes, but it was worth the view at sunset.
On Saturday, we headed out early to explore some of Leon’s Churches. Kevin got up at 5am for mass (and difficulty sleeping in a $5 hostel), but I decided to sleep in. We were able to climb to the top of the Cathedral which allowed for some great views of the city and the surrounding volcanoes.
Afterwards we headed to the San Jancinto Mud Holes. Our book recommended that we have a tour guide, so we hired the guide at the gate, a seven-year old boy. He and his friends led us around the boiling mud holes that are nicknamed “Little Yellowstone.” As we were checking out the holes, my feet started to sink in. I got them out quick, but one foot was covered in the boiling mud. It got burned pretty bad which led to some really lovely blisters. I believe the photo is too graphic for the blog, however feel free to send us an e-mail if you want a glimpse. There is talk of a Danish investor coming into create a source of thermal energy using these mud holes, but after our experience, we don’t plan on returning.
We then headed up to Chichigalpa, the sugarcane capital of Nicaragua famous for their beer and rum production. And afterwards to Chinandega, the hottest city in Nicaragua surrounded by volcanoes. We checked out the central park, ate Chinese food in an air conditioned restaurant and headed out.
We finished out our afternoon by hiking and exploring Cerro Negro, an active volcano that last erupted in 1999. It was an amazing experience to walk inside a live crater and one that would never be allowed in most parts of the world. Afterwards, we took part in what CNN named #2 on the Thrill Seeker’s Bucket List – 50 Things to Do Before you Die. We rode down the volcano on a sheet of plywood and reached speeds of 40km per hour, I was the slowest in the group. This was a super fun experience and we were surprised at how safe it actually was.
After our ride down we retired ourselves to the beach for a night of good food, restful sleep (hammocks rented for $3) and the sound of the ocean waves. We woke up, ate some gallo pinto and went off to explore Isla Juan Venado, a mangrove forest which houses crocodiles, turtles and many rare species of birds. We are already planning our trip back!