It’s about a 2 hour car ride north of Managua to get to Leon, so we decided to Chicken bus it. Basically just he nickname given to city-to-city public transportation in Central (read: school buses from the1970s), I’d been warned about these buses being infamous for crowding and blaring terrible music. However, my first experience involved ample amounts of space and curtailed windows. Before I knew it, we were in the historic city of Leon.
I figured New Years would be a difficult time to book a room, but I thought we’d be okay for just the night of the 27th. Hah! I can be so silly sometimes! After checking pretty much every other hotels in the entire city, we were finally able to find a room at Casa Vieja: famously described by Lonely Planet as being the cheapest option to stay in Leon, this fact was reinforced by the fact that our key came on a chain with an ornament shaped like a girl who looked like she should be tattooed on the arm of a biker. None of this really mattered though, since the place also had a rooftop patio with the most comfortable oversized hammock I’ve ever been in.
After getting settled, Tom and I went to the Fratangas for dinner. Basically, an outdoor market that grilled basically anything you wanted them to (the fact that your meal was served with a massive helping of spicy sauce also helped)!
After drinks at Bigfoot Hostel, we crashed in time to get up for the main reason for going to Leon to begin with – volcanoboarding.
Ranking as one of ten”Extreme Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors“, “Death Defying Travel Destinations” and “Adventures for Active Travelers“, volcanoboarding basically involves taking a wooden toboggan down the side of a volcano at speeds of up to 90km/h. After an hour drive outside Leon and another hour climb up the Cerro Negro volcano (easier said than done when you’re carrying a toboggan along the volcano’s ridge and through 50km/h winds-strong enough to be blowing me in circles for the extent of the treck), we had reached the summit. After a few obligatory photos, we were ready to begin our descent.
Our guide pulled out 2 sets of elbow and knee pads (my knee pads were missing the straps and slid to my ankles after about 2 seconds) and told us the more we leaned back, the faster we’d go. After volunteering to go down first (watching anyone else crash would have just freaked me out, but I’d think it was hilarious if I did the same), I quickly learned that our guide failed to mention that even a slight motion to the left or right would drastically veer the whole board in that direction. Fortunately, I was able to make the connection between drastically flailing around and crashing to my death before the matter actually happened. I didn’t break any speed records, but was quite pleased with my 50km/h run. From there, I watched Tom make a successful run, and a couple people from another group end up crashing and eating volcano dirt. Then, we watched our guide make his professional run down the volcano. Now in this case, I’m using the word “run” literally. He literally bounded down the volcano so quickly, I’m pretty sure he was actually flying for a portion of it (at this point, my speed suddenly felt less impressive since I’m pretty sure it got beaten by this guy on foot).
The whole experience was exhilarating (a definite recommendation) and was only improved being topped off with some of Nicaragua’s best cheese wrapped in and drizzled over a tortilla with onion in a quesadillo.