We made the trip from El Tunco to Leon on a 3am shuttle. Past the half mark, time was slipping away, and I needed to get South faster than I was moving.
I never recommend booking a 2 way ticket because your sort of stuck to this time-line, always worried about where you need to be, rather than focusing on where you want to go. You end up rushing, and subsequently sacrificing a lot of things you would otherwise have the freedom to do. It only made more sense to have a trip back home because of my plans to go to London after Christmas. I group booked my flights on cheapoair.com and saved over 800 dollars. Vancouver-Toronto-Belize-Panama-Toronto and then over to London for less than two thousand dollars!
Matt and the boys had all the time in the World, no plans, no care. But unfortunately for me I was time crunched, needing to get to Panama City for December 15th.
The shuttle to Leon costs 40 dollars, and the route crosses through Honduras before entering Nicaragua. Stamp Stamp 😉 The journey is over 12 hours, but the driver will take you right to your hostel.
Leon is a beautiful colonial town landscaped with cobblestone roads laid out in a grid, bordered by brightly coloured walls. Its congested, roads are busy, and people lay on their horn to communicate, making it very loud. It reminds me a lot of Antigua. There is a beautiful cathedral worth checking out, and a movie theater which is quite nice because when I was there The Mokingjay was out in theaters. I couldn’t allow my girlfriends to gloat about seeing it any longer, and it had been a while since I saw a movie, so I had to go. It is also way cheaper to catch a flick in Leon than in Canada so I truly felt like I was winning. The only draw back to seeing an English flick with Spanish subtitles are the jokes. The locals were reading faster than I was watching, always leaving me a couple of seconds behind in terms of laughs.
Leon’s most popular draw is Volcano Boarding, and since you’ll likely stop here on your route through Nicaragua, make sure you spend the extra day to do the excursion. Its such an adrenaline rush, not to mention* a once in a lifetime opportunity. As far as accommodation goes, look no further than Bigfoot Hostel, its the coolest place to stay in town, and they run daily tours to the Volcano for 30US. The staff creates a good vibe, they made delicious handmade mojito’s and the layout makes for a great social atmosphere. You’ll be happy you came.
(not to mention* What a bullshit phrase that is. As I sit here writing, I’ve gotten into an interesting discussion with my neighbor on the meaning behind the common saying. It basically contradicts itself. It should say: not to mention, but I will mention it anyway…)
Here are 8 tips to make the most out of the excursion.
- Bring a scarf, or something to cover your mouth. (No one likes smiling for a camera after you’ve reached the bottom with black rock sand all up in your teeth.)
- Bring some beers. Two words: liquid confidence.
- Bring 5 dollars with you to get your board carried up the hike. Not because your lazy, but because the people that offer do it for a living. They make less than 20 dollars a day, and you could spare the night out to support them. After all, this is their Country your enjoying. Give a little back.
- Don’t be scared. It looks ten times sketchier than it actually is.
- Volunteer to be one of the first people down. Trust me, the view from the bottom is much more hilarious. There will be wipe-outs, you will have a front row seat.
- Give it your all. Lift your feet, and lean back as far as you can, remembering to keep your body tight and balanced. You have one try down the volcano – make it count!
- Embrace the fall. Everybody’s doing it.
- Pee before you get back into the Shuttle, you’ve just drank a ton of beer and water. (It sucks otherwise.)
Volcano Boarding is another one of those pictures speak louder than words situations. Instead of describing the day, I’d rather just show you how much fun we all had.