Nicaragua: Arriving in Leon

I get up nice and early, partially because it’s so hot, and partially because I can hear the streets begin to come alive. Dogs are barking, birds are singing (or just making really weird noises) the sound of engines coming to life for a daily commute. I take a nice cold shower and get on my way. I ask the same front desk guy that helped me last night how I can get to the bus station. He shows me a little google maps image of a 1km walk to the bus station, which is easy enough to follow until there’s a team of policias blocking the road. None speak English but try to point me to an alternate route. I find it pretty confusing so I walk that direction but try to consult my map. None of the streets have visible signs with their names or anything of use, so I’m just following the roads based on the shapes and how many blocks I feel like I’ve gone.

I end up outside a grocery store, a fancy big one, the equivalent of a Metro back home. I haven’t eaten since I was in Houston yesterday so I decide to stop and grab some fruit, as well as reconsult my map. One apple and one orange cost me $2.50. If it were a little Mom and Pop shop I’d assume I was being ripped off, but the price popped up on the screen and everything. I pay it, but I regret every decision I’ve ever made leading up to this point. I’m hungry but not $3 fruit hungry. The orange isn’t even ripe, my apple isn’t crispy. Huge mistake.

The cashier can’t help me with my map and speaks no English. I give in and take a cab for $2 to ensure I make it to the bus station. Turns out I was going the wrong direction, so this is a good choice. My cab driver doesn’t speak any English either, but knows where I’m going so it doesn’t really matter. I do wish I had made a stronger effort to learn conversational Spanish before I got here, though.  Immediately as I arrive at the bus terminal there is a van boarding to Leon. I ask cuanto? and am told it’s $2. Wonderful. Cheaper than two pieces of fruit and I’m traveling all the way to another city.

Crammed into a van with 16 other people, we get on our way to Leon; this is where Ilona is waiting for me. A little kid sitting next to me pukes, her mom yells something about it to the driver, and he just waves and keeps driving.

We make a random stop at a sort of gas station. The driver gets out and says some Spanish stuff, and everyone reaches for their wallets. I still haven’t paid the $2 to be in this van so I kind of assume that’s what we’re paying for. Weird that it would be right now though. Some people are handed bagged water. Yes. Water in a square, limp plastic bag.

I use my extremely limited Spanish to ask the man next to me what I’m paying for and how much it costs. I don’t understand when he explains why we’re paying, but he helps me count out 54 Cordobas ($2) which answers the how much. It must be the price of the trip. I just find it a very strange time to pay.

We get back on our drive, and the girl sitting ahead of me starts blasting Sorry by Justin Bieber at full volume on her phone. I’m jammin’. Some verses have been covered in Spanish. It’s great.

I make it to Leon and share a “taxi” (it’s a guy on a bicycle with a shaded bench area in front of it. Like a reverse tuk tuk) to the BigFoot hostel. I reunite with my little Ilonski and sneak myself into a private room that she’s sharing with some friends she met on her first few days in Managua. Saving that money.

Randomly during lunch, I look to my left and see someone I used to work with 2 and a half years ago in Lake Louise, Alberta. The conversation goes like this:


“Yes?” – stares blankly at my face. She clearly doesn’t recognize me. This is awkward.

“I’m Naomi. I worked with you in Lake Louise.”


Thank god.

We catch up for a bit, I’m always baffled by how small the world is. I had no idea she was even in Central America!!

Ilona has already managed to lose her phone AND get a tattoo in the three days before I arrived (can’t leave this girl anywhere) so we spend a good part of the afternoon wandering around comparing cell phone prices. Fewer people than I expected are able to speak English. So our cell phone hunt consists a lot of me testing out the little my Spanish I know. Some words come out in French. I’m kinda learning as I go. It’s definitely fragmented, but we manage to get her a phone and even barter the price down a little bit.

The food choices in Leon are scarce. Burgers. Hotdogs. Shwaramas. You know, all the traditional Nicaraguan cuisines. Ilona and I have to walk forever but do manage to find a more authentic looking restaurant and share quesadillas and fajitas. We pass a cute little town-square style area and a beautiful, yellow colonial building. I love all the bright colours of the buildings here; everything is painted in bright pinks, blues, yellows, and greens.

It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to do here in the evenings besides drink, and I have no interest in doing that when we plan to hike up the side of a volcano tomorrow…in 34 degree heat. So it’s a pretty mellow night.

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