As we drove into Nicaragua from Honduras, the change was instant. Gone was the luscious green rainforest and, in its place, hot dusty fields and leafless trees.
It’s the dry season over here but, until now, it hasn’t really shown itself and we’ve had constant storms. Clearly this hasn’t been the case down south – we spoke to someone who has been in Nica for two months and they’ve yet to see a drop of rain.
Leon itself, another pretty little colonial city, was unbearably hot. We loved the city but couldn’t find air conditioning anywhere and we couldn’t stand it for more than three nights.
Heat aside, it’s the first city we’ve been to which has felt ‘modern’. Where Antigua was quiet colonial beauty, Leon is vibrant, bustling and (I’m going to keep saying it, sorry), hot.
The parquet central lies outside the cathedral and comes alive at night with street stalls, music and crowds of Nicaraguan teenagers playing football.
We’ve heard Leon described as the centre of the revolution in Nicaragua. It was the first place to completely support the revolutionaries during the civil war and their pride in this is plain to see. The old prison, La Veinte Uno, in which many of the revolutionaries were imprisoned and tortured is now a museum of folklore and legends. It might have been quite interesting if the whole place hadn’t been done up with bizarre puppets and flashing lights.
Leon is also the home of Ruben Darion who is probably Central America’s most famous poet, another fact you can’t escape in Leon where there are statues and monuments on every other street.
Leon is a popular stop on the way south for many reasons, the most notable of which is the volcano boarding in Cerro Negro – the only place in the world you can board down an active volcano.
This means a hot trek up hot stones in the midday 38 degree heat in order to hurl yourself down on what can only be described as a wooden tea tray and which takes the grand total of 10 seconds. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun!
There have been some pretty serious injuries volcano boarding so we were quite nervous, but we made it down in one piece. I only got up to 35kph (the record is 90…) but that was plenty fast enough for me!
Cerro Negro is also Central America’s most active volcano and has erupted 23 times, causing a lot of damage to the city. Leon is well known for being one of the only cities in the world to move itself away from the site of one active volcano only to find itself planted right next to another one.