Champion Cocks and other Nicaraguan Specialties

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Leon was so amazing it deserves itīs own entry.  Amazing.  So we arrive there Saturday afternoon and immediately find an amazing hostel complete with a garden, lots of hammocks, cozy room with vaulted ceilings, really great.  Our hostel also has two Dutch tour guides offering really unique trips, and so the fun began...We sat down to eat and there before our eyes was a flyer advertising a real live cock fight, you know, just a regular Sunday outing.  We were so in. 
We woke up on the big day and immediately ran into a couple of friends from Xela and they too were in.  About 12 of us drove to Don Pedroīs home where he has a cock fighting ring and we enjoyed all the tacos Dona Anna could make and all the drinks we could drink.  Don Pedro gave me one of his fighters to hold and showed us the hooks they use (less painful than the natural spike roosters have on their legs...this gets covered with mini boxing gloves and the hook goes around that on one leg).  To train these birds for endurance they hold another rooster in front of the bird being trained and walk backwards making the bird run after it.  Before they fight, they also swing another rooster around in front of the fighting bird to get him all riled up - nuts to see!  I guess two male adults next to each other fight naturally so they put two birds in the ring for 15 minutes and itīs over when one of the birds drops his beak to the ground...or dies, but we didnīt see that luckily.  OK fine, some died afterwards.
So, ringside is packed with us and maybe 100 locals screaming and shouting and drinking and people have bet on these birds so it gets pretty heated.  The trainers are right in there with the birds and every time there is a break between rounds, they scoop up their bird and literally put the whole head in their mouths to suck out this blood.  Sooooooo gross!!  Or they blow the blood out of their nostrils.  The birds are flying and pecking and bleeding all over the place, really something to see.  But most people are there to chill and drink some beers with their friends and it was a really cool atmosphere around Don Pedroīs house.  Also it was cool īcause we won 50C (about $2.50) off his bird!  
The next morning we went volcano boarding.  And yes, it was as cool as it sounds!! We hiked up this active black sand (volcanic rock) volcano called Cerro Negro holding onto a sled and a jumpsuit.  It was about an hour up being blown all over the place because of our sleds (toboggans designed by an Aussie...!), and then we hiked along this mammoth crater where you could see all the yellow sulfur and the smoke still billowing out.  The view from the top was absolutely incredible - volcanoes, black sand swallowing up trees, fields, Leon...The hike itself was worth it.  And then we peeked over the edge and there is this steep black decent and all we have is a little plank of wood with a string.  So awesome.  So they teach us how to break and we put on our jumpsuits, sing a little Beastie Boys, and they give you a big push and youīre off speeding straight down this mountain-side as fast as you want to, racing the person beside you - In my case Nik, who I beat!! - volcanic sand ricocheting off your face.  400m straight to the bottom and the whole thing will be on YouTube soon....!  We probably didnīt get much faster than about 30+km/hr, but it was pretty awesome.  We were completely black at the bottom and I was picking volcanic rock out of my ears and nose for a whole day after.  
Then we climbed the biggest cathedral in Central America and visited this jail where Somoza kept political prisoners during his most recent rule - also saw many of the torture areas and were given a very vivid and gruesome description of life in this jail only 30 years ago.  This fortress has amazing vistas of Leon and the surrounding volcanoes, truly amazing, but directly behind this fortress is a huge dump.  In this dump live about a dozen families who breathe in the fumes of burning garbage and use the disgusting river next to it for everything...horrendous...These families make only about 3C a day (where 19C equals $1) by collecting garbage like cans etc.  They subsidize this income by stripping a newly built bridge of all itīs iron as well as removing the prison bars to sell.  A road runs through this dump and our guide decided to take this road out.  The people we saw were very friendly to us, but it is not exactly safe (they have nothing to lose)...which is why it was a bit dodgy when our tire went flat here half hour before dark...!!! Haha But, all was good, some other tourists passed us shortly after so our guide could get another tire iron from town (his was stolen before in that dump I think) and we were off. 
One of the guys who came to our rescue was a local and he told me of this live festival that night so we checked that out - amazing culture here, the entire crowd can recite the poetry of Ruben Dario on command which astounds me (he is basically a saint here), amazing dancing, singing and skits put on just by the general population of Leon.  We found some more local live music later as well that was just incredible as well as an outstanding art gallery and local painter.  In addition to having so much artistic culture, the people here are so ready to embrace anyone into their culture and share their country and music with you.  Amazing.
We went to the market the next day on a mission to prepare a local dish, India Viejo, with Dona Anna at her place.  We sampled all sorts of cheeses and sweets, drank some juices, and just took in the activity of the market.  We walked by where they sell all the meats and fish etc and found not only heaps of endangered turtle eggs, but armadillos, and live iguanas too which we ended up buying 3 of since this girl we were with burst into tears on seeing iguanas (her pet at home) bound and gagged ready to be turned into soup (I hear itīs delicious...).  So I carried a bag of iguanas off to Don Pedroīs house to be set free which was awesome as they kept trying to escape by running up my legs on the bus.  We stopped at a localīs house who makes all the tortillas and beans for her community (Santiavo, indigenous and independent of the government) and we made our own tortillas, delicious, and then went to Don Annaīs to make our own traditional lunch as well - basically a chicken and veg soup with a corn base.  Don Pedro was also a revolutionary guerilla and was eager to share his stories with us.  Really warm people.   
We arrived in Grenada Thursday the 22nd - It is the historically conservative town of Nicaragua with Leon being the liberal town.  As a compromise and an end to fighting, Managua is now the capital. 
Hope you are all well.  Thanks as always for reading and enjoying! Lots of love, Us. xoxo
PS - Really weird to see plastic evergreen Christmas trees for sale where all you see are mango and palm trees...bizarre!  
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