This day was our first attemp at riding public busses (aka chicken busses) on our own. Leon, Nicaragua is about 2 1/2 hrs from Estelli. A direct shuttle costs about $20. We got there for $3.25. Woohoo! First, we took a taxi from Sonati hostel to Estacion Sur (South bus station) for C$20.
At the station we said we need to go to San Iciro. A very helpful man pointed us to our bus. It was headed to Managua and we just needed to get off at San Iciro. Seems simple but we had no idea where that is. Luckily, after the bus headed down the road (it leaves every hour) the money man who travels down the aisle to collect the fare told us he would let us know when we reached San Iciro. Fare:C$19 (less than $1 U.S.)
True to his word, at San Iciro the money man motioned for us to get up, grabbed my bigger bag from the overhead rack, and accompanied us off the bus. He then pointed across the street and said “Leon.” There was our next bus. Hooray!
While waiting for the bus to go, vendors come off and on yelling “Taammmallless. Gaaaasseeeeoooosssa. Paaasstillles.” etc. Some sell fresh fruits and vegetables. One vendor even gave a whole spiel about a medicine he was hawking. The bus stops frequently to let people on or off (thru the front and back!). There are often so many people on the bus that the driver can’t see if the passengers have gotten on. But, that’s okay. They have an intricate system of whistling and smacking the bus wall that somehow translates to stop, go, wait, everyone’s off who is getting off or everyone is on who is getting on… and the driver acts accordingly. It is amazing.
I paid the money man the C$45 (about $2 U.S.) fare for the ride from San Iciro to Leon and settled back to watch the scenery go by. We arrived in Leon in the rain (yuck, but we can’t complain, it has been relatively dry the entire time considering this is considered the rainy season). Leon’s version of a tuk-tuk (remember those from Guatemala?) is a bicycle with a passenger cart in front. It was really fun! Of course, as soon as we got off the bus we had taxi and tuk-tuk drivers yelling out destinations and hotel or hostel names to us. We had planned to walk to the Sonati hostel in Leon so we kept ignoring them. However, one guy was really friendly (in a tolerably pushy way) and we couldn’t help but ask how much. Immediately another driver biked over and offered less. The two of them went back and forth on which driver we should go with, and eventually the price was half the first quote. They did our negotiations for us, lol! The pushy friendly first guy won out when he whipped out a towel and began drying the seats. 🙂 (Unfortunately, I neglected to get a picture of one, but this is us riding in one).
We were really excited to go to the Sonati hostel in Leon because we had such a great time at the one in Estelli. But, alas, our expectations were somewhat dashed. There were a lot of people there, but everyone (really, everyone!) was plugged in to a device of some sort. And pretty much stayed that way through our whole two days there. Sad.
We made our own fun, though, in the form of fort building! They didn’t have any private rooms available, so in order to have some modicum of privacy in the four bed dorm we hung extra white sheets, our red Delta blankets, and blue ponchos on the sides. Our stay in Leon coincided with the USA’s Independence Day so it was the perfect fort. You’re never too old to build forts!
Our whole reason for stopping in Leon was to go Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro volcano. We found a great tour outfit called Quetzaltrekkers and booked our adventure for the next morning. After that, given the long day of travel, we climbed into our respective forts and konked out!
Audrey and Rhiannon – two chi as who are now professional bus riders!