It took slightly less than 12 hours to travel from Alegria, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua. I woke up at five AM so I could do some rudimentary Chi Gong exercises before catching the 6 AM chicken bus to Santiago de Maria, then another bus to San Miguel, then another still to El Amatillo at the border with Honduras. Two enthusiastic young men immediately helped me into tricyclo taxi and pushed me through both immigration posts and left me at the shuttle for Nicaragua. This was a ¨”combi” that had to fill all 12 seats before we left. The highway in Honduras was full of potholes, but the worst part was arriving at the Nicaraguan border where more enthusiastic men wanted to help me, though this time I was not being pushed around as easily. The immigration post in Nicaragua was the worst I´ve yet seen: unorganized, took 30 minutes, half of which for the official to get change for my $20, the fee was $12.
I had a leisurely lunch at the bus stop and took another shuttle to Chinandega, then yet another to Leon, where I finally got a cheap taxi, just $1 to my hostel. I was so glad Lazybones had a swimming pool. I was exhausted.
Leon is an interesting place. I like it, so its difficult to describe accurately without seeming derogatory. Its dirty, yes, but by now I´ve come to the conclusion that garbage exists whether it is hidden or not, so I´m not offended. Its old and lots of buildings are falling apart. It is lively and offers a lot for the wanderer to see. I feel like it is Antigua´s opposite in some ways, dark and seedy, and not entirely tourist minded. It took me a while to get some shots of the ubiquitous horse and cart.
I can´t say that Nicaragua is significantly cheaper than El Salvador, but I have found a couple of places where I can eat well for under $2. One is Pelibuey (Nicaraguan for Lamb) where it is hot and sweaty, like most of Leon, and the racket next door is from a gym. Well, the racket is mostly from the street, its very noisy in Leon. The other good spot is a French bakery called Pan y Paz where I took this photo (the juice is guayaba and the croissant chocolate) first class quality.
I´ve been here a few days, mostly just to recover from that horrendous day of travelling. I lucked out and caught a Cuban Trova act at La Olla Quemada, Fulancito y Tal, really world-class performance. I finally felt like I was in the Leon of my imagination. Alas, I did not have my camera.