After making it past the Honduras border, things are very different. The road is wide and smooth, there are many nice looking farms with fat cattle and horses. Also the first speed trap I’ve seen in a long time, Nicaraguan police set up at the side of the road with a speed gun on a tripod. Luckily I always drive the speed limit.
I pulled into Leon late afternoon, but it’s still very hot, up in the 90s. Too hot for camping or a hostel with only a fan, after a little while looking around I find a nice Austrian hotel with all of the usual amenities just 2 blocks off the main square.
It’s down the block from this scary looking teaching hospital. The ER is right at the corner with Land Cruiser ambulances parked in front.
The square is nice once the sun hits the horizon and the heat dissipates.
Leon has lots of good places to discover wandering around the city center. More in the morning and late afternoon, at midday it is blazing hot and the streets are deserted. There’s a touristy restaurant right on the square with outside tables under an awning and a mister to keep the heat down but it’s still quite hot during the day.
The big activity is volcano boarding on nearby Cerro Negro. It’s an active volcano but has not erupted since 1999. Since the slopes of the volcano are all volcanic ash at a fairly steep angle, it’s the perfect spot for sliding down on a piece of plywood.
It takes about 40 minutes to hike up to the top, lugging the board and a little pack with the denim volcano suit, gloves, goggles, and some water. At the top we walk along the rim of the latest crater, watching steam venting out of crevices. The ground is hot at many points, you can scrape away the top inch of ash and feel the heat coming up.
There’s not much technique involved, just sit on the board and hold a rope attached to the front. Your feet go outside the board on the ground for braking. You can dig your heels in to go slower or just skim along the top of the ash to go faster.
Since I only have one shot at this I want to try to go as fast as I can without wiping out. I got the fast part OK but still wiped out a few times. First outing of the new GoPro and it came through intact, but with a few scratches.
Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding
On that last wipeout the board really smacked me hard in the ribs, about sternum level. I didn’t feel too badly the same day but next morning it was a struggle to get out of bed. Rather than moving on that day I decided to spend another couple of days in Leon relaxing.
Next stop is at Lago Apoye, a hostel with a mini campground. Nice place with a decent restaurant right on the beach. The water is warm but not super clean.
From my spot in the camping area I can sit and watch monkeys climbing through the trees overhead. Also the occasional huge tree climbing iguana. One day I looked up after hearing some rustling and saw a three foot iguana about twenty feet up directly overhead trying to cross from one tree to another.
Apart from a couple of brief rain showers the weather is pretty good.
Spent some time talking to Nikos and Georgia who are from Greece. They had traveled through Africa previously in a Land Cruiser setup like mine, then returned to Greece, bought a van, customized it for camping, and shipped it over to Canada to start their travels through the Americas.
Back to the city, this time Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.
Another nice, but hot, colonial town with lots to see. Lots of tourists as well.
Last stop is in San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast. Stayed at a campground a little way out of town run by a retired American Marine from Alabama. Interesting place, lots of other overland travelers here. They have a pool, restaurant, and bar with events to attract the local expats such as Taco Tuesday and Wing Friday. Tons of retired Americans and Canadians live here and it was fun to hang out and get an idea how they ended up here in Nicaragua. Met one guy from St Charles IL.
Below you can see my Land Cruiser, my friends Will and Cate’s big white camper Moby, a US Army communication truck converted into a camper by a guy from Colorado, not sure about the fourth one, they may have been a French couple. Also met John and Mandi when they stopped in for a few days, which was pretty cool as I had been following their blog before leaving on this trip.
Ended up spending a week here doing not too much. My Nicaraguan vehicle import permit is for 30 days and I want to use the full 30 days here before moving on to the much more expensive country of Costa Rica, as I have some time to wait before meeting my daughter Lisa in Liberia at the end of the month.