Get off the volcano - its going to blow!
Trip Start Jul 19, 2005
45Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
We got to Leon earlier this week and stayed at a very chill hostel called Bigfoot run by an Aussie guy who travelled through Nicaragua two years ago, and loved it so much that he now lives here and his hostel is thriving after only 10 months. Guess I'm not the only one who is slightly obsessed with this country.
Leon is also known as the university town and is filled with so much history, especially concerning the recent civil war (ended in 1979!) since a lot of the fighting was done in Leon. Walking around, you can still see blown up churches and bullet holes in the walls.
The first day, as we were walking around, a little woman named Maria came up to us as we were looking at one of the many murals that are painted on all the buildings in Leon. She began to explain who was painted in the mural, and what the pictures represented (such as two evil looking snakes that had "CIA" painted on them attacking other symbolic images - FYI: this mural was painted by Americans). She offered to take us around the city and show us all the murals, tell us the history of the civil war and be our "tour guide" for the day. Always a little freaked out when people are too welcoming and nice, this time I said, what the hell and decided to go with her, since I REALLY wanted to know about the history of Nicaragua.
From what I could understand from what she was saying, there was a mean dictator called Samosa, who in typical dick-tator fashion killed lots of people, was corrupt, and was pretty much ruining the country. Then the "good" guy rebels called the Sandanistas showed up and started leading a revolution against the bad guys. And of course America had to get their hands in too, but sadly supported the Samosa jerk rather than the revolutionaries fighting for the good of the people. That's the very basic lesson we learned from Ms. Maria. She did inform me though, upon hearing that I was American, that the people of Nicaragua did not hate me, because I am not my government and that was not my time, just like their government does bad things and all the people are not the government. Good to hear that, but I still couldn't help but feel bad as she told horrible stories about things that had happened to the people during the war.
After looking at the murals, we walked out to the old prison where prisoners were tortured during the reign of Samosa
There were also stories of headless priests helping children, pigs that ate people, a skeletal horse drawn carriage that appears during Semana Santa that only children and mute people can see. The best part was some of the dolls had soundtracks - you'd walk up and start reading about some crazy man-eating pig and one of the students would flip a switch and you'd hear pigs squealing and people screaming. What a soundtrack! It never ceased to scare the crap out of me b/c it was so loud and so random.
As we were walking around, we started to get a little worried because as we were crossing a street, a taxi cab driver honked his horn at us, pointed at Maria and shook his head and wagged his finger, saying no
The second day we signed up to do a volcano tour through the hostel. Daryn, the Aussie boss, drove us all out in his pick-up truck to the Cerro Negro volcano, which isn't the typical lava-spewing volcano you'd think of
So we hiked up the rocky side of the volcano carrying wooden sleds we were going to use to get back down the other side (the sandy side). We walked around the crater, and felt the hot, sulfurous ground and watched it steam. It was a little disconcerting standing on this steaming ground, considering the time frame of the eruption cycle, and the fact that Daryn was standing there explaining that if the volcano were to blow, we were standing right in the area that all the steam would collect and shoot out of. He also pointed out a nearby hill-like mini volcano that had been declared dormant - and then said to notice the big puffs of steam that were coming out of it. Not so dormant huh? All this was adding up to the fact that something was cooking underneath and it wouldn't be long until it was going to blow again. I was thinking - talk faster! Shut up! Lets get the hell out of here! But he just rambled on while I'm picturing flying through the air like Elton John's Rocket Man.
Finally the unnerving volcano lesson was over and we hiked to the other side to watch the sunset. Then the most unnerving part of all: the sledding down the side of the volcano. I was sitting there thinking, "How do I get myself into these situations, where I see a tour sign, think - ok, sounds fun without ever really thinking about what I'm getting myself into" I got up there and realized, THIS IS CENTRAL AMERICA where sometimes reason goes out the window, if it was ever even in the house in the first place
The incline was a 40 degree angle that dropped off to about a 42 degree angle right at the bottom. Daryn is sitting there showing us how to properly ride our scrap piece of wood with foam glued on it down the side. You had to keep your feet flat in the ground to create friction to keep you from flying down the side and crashing at the bottom. (BTW - this is the very volcano that Mr. ?, the world's fastest man, went flying down on his bike (I think) and is now in the Guiness Book of World Records. I was freaked out, but had paid to do this, so what else are you going to do? I just shoved off and started sliding. Luckily, or unluckily, my board didn't go as fast as I wanted/feared, but it still was zooming. Richard, on the other hand, is insane, and as I'm sliding down all I hear is "Andrrrrrrrrrrr!" and they he goes flying faster than ANYTHING I've seen. In two seconds he was gone. If I'd looked closer, I might have even seen flames. Well, we all made it to the bottom in one piece, and were all covered in a nice layer of black dust. Daryn had rum and cokes waiting for us all when we got back - and then looking back, it was not only the scariest thing I'd done yet, it was one of the most fun.
The next day, we recovered from our "surviving the volcano" celebrations and I spent the day deciding whether I'd travel onwards, or start working my way south to Costa Rica to fly home. After such a hard day of actually having to think about something and make some sort of decision, we had another night of celebrating. I was constantly harassed the entire evening by practically everyone in the hostel, including Daryn the owner, for deciding to not continue travelling north - but I'd made my decision and no amount of beer was going to sway me! So now I'm back in Granada and planning what to do with the rest of my time.
Well, that's it for now. Happy first days of spring and maybe be seeing you soon. P.S. I just put up pictures on entry #40 from Monteverde (finally remembered the right camera card). Take care!