Total distance travelled: 37,469.3 kilometres (23,272.86 miles)
We’ve thankfully encountered no issues at any of our border crossings thus far, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean the experience has generally been a speedy affair (or occasionally nervous affair).
Our arrival at the Honduras-Nicaragua border would trump them all on this particular day (in terms of time, we were never nervous).
It wasn’t because our passports were not in order. It wasn’t because we didn’t have the money to pay the entrance fee.
It was definitely something to do with the crowd huddled around the immigration office, although we were at the front of the queue.
What made this a particularly slow process was the Champions League match between Barcelona and Paris-St Germain that was being played at that very minute!
Then Barcelona scored which slowed things even further!
Football fans continue to prove themselves the same all over the world…
Eventually we did get processed, and entered our 5th Central American country and the 8th country of this trip.
A bus was leaving shortly for Ocotal, and it was about this time that we realised our hopes of getting to Leon in a single day were a little optimistic.
As such, we revised our goal, instead changing buses at Ocotal for the town of Esteli where we found ourselves, along with a French couple who’d travelled the journey alongside us from D&D Brewery, deposited on the side of the Panamericana Highway.
In the guidebook it read like this might be an interesting place to pass the night, although in truth, at least for the few hours we were there that night and the following morning, aside from the church on the main plaza, we saw little else to interest us.
The following morning saw us sitting in a mini-van at the northern bus station, essentially waiting for it to fill, so we could be on our way to Leon, something that didn’t look like it would take long given after we boarded, only 3 spare seats remained.
45 minutes later however, when no additional passengers had appeared, it was agreed that the cost of the remaining seats would be split across all passengers on board and we’d be on our way.
Still, the extended wait did give us the opportunity to see how the locals used their heads solve the problem of loading huge sacks onto the roofs of the local buses…
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in Leon’s bustling bus terminal, by all accounts a haven for pick-pockets which had us on our guard, but fortunately no problems presented themselves to us.
Did I mention it was also hot?
So we did our usual foolish thing of walking the few kilometres into town, arriving hot and hungry then foolishly settling for the first hostel we came across, Bigfoots.
This place by all accounts, is one of the most popular in the entire city, possibly because it is also from here that brave and/or stupid souls participate in that death defying novelty that is volcano boarding.
We were unsure if it would be something up our alley, but when we saw the ridiculous price of $35.00 US per person, we baulked completely.
I think it was a combination of the aforementioned hunger, fatigue, heat and also a tip from an English friend that there was very little hostel availability in Leon, that culminated in us settling for a couple of dorm beds in this place
After all, it couldn’t be that bad could it?
Turns out, it could.
While this wasn’t the worst place in which we’ve stayed, it was certainly up there.
Perhaps it was a sign of our age, but throughout the evening we quickly tired of the ‘5-4-3-2-1 Shoot!’ chants on high rotation from the bar.
The fact that Sarah’s bunk was actually missing its mattress when arrived due to the previous occupant wetting the bed did nothing to endear the place to us, or perhaps it was the addition of one of our young roommates, whose birthday it apparently was, and who from about midnight through til morning started to vomit, then continued to do so until morning!
Yes, this was a party hostel, and part of the reason our time in Leon was limited to just one night, as we were in quite the hurry to get out of there as quickly as possible!
The city itself didn’t seem horrible, signs of its grand colonial past in abundance with its many cathedrals and churches on show on what was an incredibly sunny day.
It was another one of those cities of churches, so we wandered throughout the afternoon, after feeding ourselves on a cheese filled baguette, taking in quite a few of them as we wandered the streets.
Many had some lovely wooden panelled interiors, but in the whole they lacked the one thing that I constantly look for in the churches we visit.
A lovely domed interior!
We were also reminded of the time of year, as we came face to face with our first nativity scenes we’d spotted since our time in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste (East Timor) almost 12 months ago.
The main plaza alone sported quite a few, and we spied several inside the many churches during our visits, however all were missing one thing.
A little figure, that of the baby Jesus!
We could only assume he makes an appearance on the 24th, so we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled as we continue to tour the country.
Were it not for the first impression we got, or the memorable (for the wrong reasons) night we endured, we’d likely have given Leon a lot more of our time, and at least a second day to redeem itself.
As it was, we were more than happy to haul our packs back to the bus station the following morning, trying to find our way to one of Nicaragua’s most popular cities…
* To enter Nicaragua we were required to pay a $10.00 US tourist fee, with an additional $2.00 US processing fee, per person.
* Our one night in Bigfoot Hostel was $7.00 US for a dorm bed per night, per person.