We met our second day in Leon without a plan but we picked up steam as the day progressed. We started with an early morning walk through the streets of Leon and enjoyed the bustle of the city. The combination of motor bikes, cars, taxis, and horse-drawn carts makes this place so special. Leon is beautiful, yet gritty at the same time.
After another traditional Nicaraguan breakfast at the hotel we set out to find adventure. Our first stop was a blind massage. Yes, blind. As a way to put disabled people to work, there is a massage facility that employs blind people. We all got a great massage from Roberto and Sonia and the total cost for all three of us was under $25. The blind massage is located right behind the municipal market and across from the most popular hostel in town.
Next we wandered over to the Bigfoot Hostel and ordered a beer. It didn't take long to learn that Bigfoot is the center of volcano boarding and they had a trip leaving in an hour! We signed up on the spot. Our entire excursion cost $23 plus a $5 park entrance fee and included transportation to Cerro Negro volcano, a 45 minute hike, exploration of the volcano, boarding equipment, and a beer and cookie at the end.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with volcano boarding, it is one of the up-and-coming adventures on the planet. In Nicaragua it's done on the active volcano Cerro Negro. Yes, the volcano is active and last erupted in 1999. You'll see in our pictures that we were able to get right up next to the active vents and up to the lip of the crater. In fact, we scraped a little volcanic soil away and the ground under foot was so hot you could cook on it.
The reason you climb Cerro Negro is to slide down the western slope. On a specially designed board that gets a new formica strip on the bottom after each trip (because the heat burns it away each time it goes down the volcano), you slide down the 1000 foot slope as fast as you can/want. The speed record with Bigfoot Tours is 89 km/hr and a guy in our group tied the record. We are happy to report that the three of us didn't come close to the record but we all made it to the bottom without a scratch (unlike others in our group). Cross that off the bucket list!
At the bottom of the volcano you are greeted with a cold beer and a big congratulations. After the group finished sliding down, the large orange truck returned us to Leon, only to be met with detours and immovable traffic. It seems that the Sandinista-led government supplied Christmas pinatas to every street in Leon. Almost every street in the city was blocked and there were children everywhere whacking away, hoping to get candy. It was a mess in terms of traffic flow but a treat in terms of appreciating the Nicaraguan culture.
After a few complimentary mojitos back at the hostel, we enjoyed much needed showers and a wonderful dinner. Tomorrow we are off to Granada and the next big adventure. We're not sure anything can top today's experience, but we're going to give it a try.