Jet-lag is such a pain, and I was reminded all too annoyingly how much when I awoke at 4.30a.m! After checking in with some friends back home I managed to catch another couple of hours before we were up and ready for breakfast. We decided to go with the Nicaraguan option again which was some great scrambled eggs, rice and beans and plantain. The star of the show though had to be the coffee!
We checked out and stowed our luggage in the car being met by our guide for the day – Anry – who was going to take us volcano boarding. When researching Leon this was the top activity which came up and MasAdventures came very highly rated. Straight away the guide made us feel completely at ease, he was super funny and stopped off at a peanut plantation and local farm en-route to Cerro Negro where we would be volcano boarding. Although quite small in comparison to some of the other volcanoes surrounding Leon, Cerro Negro loomed over us like a dark mountain. We registered with the park authority (just in case we died) and then parked near to the start of the trail.
We had the most perfect weather for the hike up, cloudy and windy which was perfect for the steep climb carrying some heavy boards. We each took it in turns to switch carrying the board, one of the advantages of going with a smaller group. We stopped a couple of times on the 45 minute hike and the views were absolutely beautiful! After reaching the top we were given a very thorough safety briefing before watching some other groups (who had clearly not received this briefing) board down the slope of dark volcanic ash. After kitting up in our protective suits, goggles, bandanas and gloves we were good to go!
We positioned ourselves at the edge of the slope and shimmied down a little to make sure we had good balance before picking up our feet to start to gather some speed. Anry was waiting about half way down to take a video of us so we stopped there to move some of the ash off the board before speeding down the last half. It took a while for me to gather the confidence to totally let go but once I had it was so fast and quite terrifying. At the bottom I took off all of the protective gear and luckily had managed to avoid most of the rocky ash getting in difficult places before watching Carolyn speed down. Definitely a top recommendation for anyone in Leon.
We did the short walk back to our vehicle before driving back to Leon to get spme lunch. We stopped at ya voy for lunch with our guide – after he recommended it as one of the best placed to eat in Leon. We ordered, garlic chicken, steak with coffee salsa and spicy shrimp. The garlic chicken was amazing and the shrimp really good, the coffee salsa was a little strange but the meat here is always so good. We were chatting with our guide about our plans for the next few days and luckily he agreed to come with us for the next part of the trip to help with navigation and guiding us round the places.
After picking up our car we headed to Leon Viejo – which was the first city built by the Spaniards when they came here in 1524. The city was abandoned in 1610 because the nearby volcano Momotombo exploded and buried the city. The ruins of the city were found only in 2001 and so the excavation work has not been going on for too long but they have managed to uncover the city walls and some house walls from the era as well. We went first through the museum of pre-Spanish occupation where they had displayed some ancient pottery and carvings and we learned of the significance of the chief and how they break the bodies of the dead into tiny pieces before storing them in round vase-like containers. Then we passed through the later section when Spaniards occupied the city and learned how in order to get to the chief they had to use his daughter to fall in love with one of the Spanish men and to tell them all of his secrets so they could have the upper hand during the battle. The Spanish used some pretty gruesome methods of killing including setting their dogs on the people which scared the rest of the local population into submission. We hiked up to the viewpoint out over Lake Managua to the 2 volcanoes, one of which had devastated the city and the other which was used by the city inhabitants to make sacrifices to their gods.
It was a cool stop although because the excavation work is still in the early processes some imagination is required to understand the full scale of the city and a good guide to explain all of the stories and tales of the ancient civilisation. After we finished our tour we drive down to Granada where we were going to be based for the next 2 nights at the Hotel Casa Barcelona. It was a little out of town but its run by local women as a place to work and make money and it had off-road parking! We dumped our luggage and showered – unfortunately in cold water – to get all of the volcano rocks off, before heading into Granada.
We decided to walk into the city centre, which was about a 10 minute walk. We wandered through the market area and then headed for the Central Park area where they have a huge yellow Cathedral which was very pretty. We wandered down the main street of restaurants and bars before deciding on Toritos. I ordered the seafood pasta which was filled with a tonne of seafood from fish to octopus and Carolyn had the paella, the specialty. The food was good but the Malbec we had with it was even better!
It had been a long busy day and we had an early wake-up the next day so we headed back to the hotel after dinner and crashed out.