By the time our stay at the D&D Brewery came to an end, Dan and I realised that we were both feeling a little travel weary. We didn’t feel particularly motivated about our travels through Nicaragua, and had only been making half-hearted plans. After discussing how we were feeling, we decided that it would be a good idea to find a base where we could rest up for a few weeks, fully recharge and get ourselves excited again about the next stage of our adventure. And yes, we are aware it does sound a bit crazy that we felt weary from travelling – it’s not like we have any everyday stresses like jobs, rent and bills to deal with, after all! – but after being on the road and hopping between places for a while, it seemed like a good idea to hunker down and have a space to call our own for a bit.
Rather than take the multiple public buses and 12+ hour journey from D&D to León, Nicaragua, which was our next stop, we treated ourselves to the direct Tica Bus. This cost around USD $40 each and felt like absolute luxury, with air conditioning, comfy seats and even a toilet on board – which meant we could actually drink water and not deliberately dehydrate ourselves all day
, as is the norm for most of our journeys!
We booked ourselves a room at an Airbnb just a short walk outside of the centre of León, for the insanely cheap price of £10 per night for the two of us. If you’re ever in León we definitely recommend Airbnb over hostels – at most hostels we looked at we would have been paying around £9 each just for a dorm bed! At our place we had our own room and bathroom, and a kitchen and courtyard area that we shared with one other guest called Kris, along with our host, Philip.
Philip is from Belgium and has been living in Nicaragua for over a year, running an NGO that helps to provide education to local kids. Most mornings kids would be round at the house for lessons, working with Philip and some of his volunteers. Kris is from Canada and teaches English as a foreign language for a living – which we immediately started to pick his brains about, as that is what we plan to do after our working holiday visa in New Zealand! He had been travelling through Central America and is staying in León for a while to earn a bit of extra money by teaching English online.
Both Philip and Kris were brilliant company, and we hit it off instantly – especially when Kris informed Dan that you can buy a litre of rum and two litres of mixer from the supermarket for under £4! We quickly settled into a routine every evening, sitting and chatting on our rocking chairs in the courtyard over drinks and enjoying the cooler night air (sidebar: León is HOT. Like seriously, unbelievably, how-is-it-possible-that-people-even-live-here hot). I was personally thrilled to have a space to do some yoga out in the courtyard, and that too became a nightly ritual, with Kris joining in with my Yoga with Adriene sessions on YouTube!
Unfortunately, although we were all having a great time there was one person who was decidedly unhappy about our evening routine: the cleaner! She came over to clean the communal areas of the Airbnb for a few hours most mornings, but she came quite early and we rarely bumped into her. However, after the first week Philip had to go back to Belgium for a visit and left his friend Harry in charge of the Airbnb. One morning as I went into the kitchen for breakfast, Harry informed me that the cleaning lady was angry with me, Dan and Kris because we were having parties with 10 Nicaraguans every night (we weren’t), and because we were drinking alcohol and sleeping in late every day (we were, but still….what?!). I kind of stared at him a bit dumbfounded, until he took pity on me and reassured me that it wasn’t a problem, we could do what we liked – it was just a clash of cultures, and the cleaning lady was angry because she didn’t understand why us immoral, lazy foreigners drank lots of rum and didn’t get up at 4.30 every morning! Definitely the craziest incident of culture shock we have experienced so far.
A lot of our days in León were spent relaxing under the shade in our rocking chairs, reading our books, occasionally practising our Spanish, watching Netflix and venturing daily down to La Colonia supermarket to pick up our food for the evening – and as it is one of the very few spots in León that has air conditioning, we tended to linger there for far longer than was necessary. Honestly, whoever invented air conditioning is a seriously underrated individual.
We did manage to muster up enough energy in the relentless heat to hit a few tourist spots: one day we climbed to the roof of the Cathedral and were rewarded with beautiful views of the city and surrounding volcanoes. For only USD $2 per person, it’s definitely worth doing! On another day we visited the Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas (Museum of Traditions and Legends), which is without doubt the most bizarre museum experience either of us have ever had – and it left us with the conclusion that most Nicaraguan myths and legends seem to centre around ghostly women who go out hunting drunk and disorderly men in the dead of night, some of whom suffocate these men with their breasts if they catch them (Dan was of the opinion that this might not be the worst way for a guy to go, all things considered). On another afternoon we wandered around the Museo de Arte Fundación Ortiz-Gurdián, which has exhibits featuring both older and contemporary art, and is well worth a visit.
Dan also decided to do a two day trek that included volcano boarding down León’s famous Cerro Negro volcano, followed by hiking the El Hoyo volcano and swimming in a crater lake. He did this with Quetzaltrekkers, the company he hiked Volcán Tajumulco with back in Quetzaltenango, and once again he was thrilled with their professional service and had a fantastic time – although when he got back he said he has quite possibly never been so hot in his entire life. 37 degrees, a 14 kilo pack and hiking up a volcano in the sun for an hour and a half is the very definition of the word “challenging”!
We also found two great spots for big, cheap and delicious breakfasts in León: El Desayunazo and Nicaraguita Cafe. El Desayunazo was a particular favourite, offering not only heaping mounts of eggs and gallo pinto, but also the biggest, fluffiest and most incredible pancakes you can imagine, coming with either blueberries, bananas or strawberries, as well as a metric ton of syrup.
After three weeks of a lot of chill time and relaxation, Dan and I felt a million times better and were fully ready to explore the rest of Nicaragua, starting with a trip over to the Corn Islands…for chill time on the beach!