After leaving Ometepe, we next headed to Granada. Known as a sort of colonial cultural center of Nicaragua, I actually found Granada to be underwhelming. It had a really pretty center square and some nice buildings, but other than that, there wasn’t a lot to do here. We did take a night tour out to the Masaya Volcano, which began erupting a few months ago. The pictures didn’t come out great, but in person, seeing lava churning around below you was pretty beautiful and cool.
We also ate more local foods while here. We got a gallo pinto breakfast yet again, plus mamoncillo, this strange, grape-like fruit. We also found a very happening street vendor one night that was making repocheta, tostadas with beans and cheese, and empanadas made from plantain dough rather than corn or flour.
Next up, we headed to Las Peñitas, a little surf town along the northwest coast. We found a nice B&B to stay in here, right on the beach. The house was pretty idyllic – it was completely open to the outside, and had an awesome patio facing the ocean, complete with beach chairs and a hammock. On the flip side, Las Peñitas was a little disappointing as there really wasn’t a whole lot to do. We tried to surf twice, but the conditions were horrible so that didn’t quite work out. And it was low season, so of the handful of restaurants and cafes that existed in the town, only a fraction were open for business. Still, though, it was a beautiful setting and a nice place to spend three nights.
From here, it was an easy, 45 minute bus ride to León, which I ended up liking much more than Granada. We took a bike taxi to our hostel from the bus station, and the poor driver was sweating profusely under the weight of our backpacks (couldn’t have been our body weight) in the Nicaraguan midday heat. We walked around the center a bit, admiring all the nice churches here. We got more street food as well, this time trying enchiladas, which are basically deep fried tacos, and carne en baho, a plate of beef, vegetables and steamed plantains and yucca potatoes.
We also went to a baseball game while in León. This turned out to be quite the experience. It took us a full 24 hours to figure out if there was going to be a game while we were in town, as they don’t have any sort of schedule published anywhere that we could find. Once we got that sorted out, we headed over to the baseball stadium, where we found a very long line of locals waiting to buy their $2.10 ticket into the game. Once inside, the scene was chaotic. There were no assigned seats, so we spent about 20 minutes looking for something open. It felt like the glorified images I have of baseball in the early 1900’s – you go to the stadium, buy a cheap ticket and look for an open seat. There were people carrying huge tubs of food on top of their heads, containing everything from unripe mango salted and spiced (this is very typical food from Colombia up), fried plantain chips, pizza, hot dogs and even cigarettes. There was also a duo of women posted up in front of our seats the entire game, selling quesillos, or bagged tortillas with rice, cheese and cream that are eaten in a less than appetizing way. One row behind us and a couple seats to the right was the band, a hodgepodge of locals who were playing everything from the drums to the cymbals to the trumpet. Everyone was yelling around us, either just to talk to each other or to cheer on the team. Others were throwing water over the crowd below them. It was hectic, chaotic and amazing – easily the most entertaining baseball game I had ever been to.
Our last activity in León was to go volcano boarding on the nearby Cerro Negro, an active volcano that last erupted in 1999. Although the volcano boarding turned out to be nothing special, the hike up the volcano was amazing! The surrounding scenery was beautiful, as was the volcano itself. We were able to walk pretty close to the crater – near here, the ground was really hot and there was steam coming out of the earth. After spending about an hour and a half walking up and around the volcano, we suited up in protective gear and boarded down. Given all the dust and rocks that got kicked up in your face and the fact that you couldn’t go all that fast, I didn’t enjoy the activity anywhere near as much as sandboarding, but it was worth a try.
And for anyone curious, here’s a picture demonstrating how long Spencer’s hair is these days.