After three days exploring Leon, I was keen to take a break from its pre-Xmas franticness and ‘escape to the country’. I walked to the main bus terminal to catch a bus out of town to the tiny pueblo of Puerto Momotombo. The map in the guidebook only had an arrow pointing to the edge with 500m next to it, but I managed to find where to catch the bus I needed without too many difficulties after asking locals.
An extremely public altercation between a young man and his mother kept the masses amused. One of the spectators gleefully tried to fill me in what was going down but unfortunately I couldn’t understand all he was saying. I got the gist that the mama was trying to stop her chico from getting into strife and he was having none of it. You have to give it to these women – they’ll fight tooth and nail for their loved ones without heed as to who watches on. An ice chest had upturned over the road and as I helped the vendor return the packets of water to it, el Chico came tearing through the melee causing pandemonium again. Mama, of course, hot on his heels. I decided to leave them to it and crossed over to where the buses were.
I first had to catch a bus to La Paz Centro, then jump on another bus down to Puerto Momotombo. As the bus chugged through the hilly terrain, we passed all manner of transport including trucks, horse drawn carts and tuk tuks. Eventually, we hit the dirt road into Puerto Momotombo.
This little pueblo is situated on the edge of Lago de Managua and in the shadow of Volcan Momotombo; Nicaragua’s famous volcano which looms 1280m above the lake. Volcan Momotombo was directly responsible for completely destroying the original city of Leon in 1610 and even left a miniature of itself in the Lago as a reminder of who was boss in those parts. Now a days a sleepy little pueblo pays homage to its slumbering master and a kind of quid pro quo seems to exist.
I wandered down to the edge of the largo where a couple of thatched roofed open aired patios were situated. I had read in the guidebook that I could get a lancha to take me out to Isla Momotombo, however, this option appeared to be off the plate. What was on offer though (upon asking) was a delicious meal of pan fried fish with a tasty salsa, plaintains and salad. Washed down with my new favourite Nicaraguan beer, Tona. All for just AUD7! A cooling breeze came off the largo, local music was playing behind me, and in front was the spectacular vista of both versions of the majestic Momotombo.
After lunch, I decided to wander through the pueblo and see if I could find the Unesco World Heritage listed site of Leon Viejo. It turned out to be just on the edge of Puerto Momotombo and relatively easy to find. I passed an hombre on horseback guiding his small herd of cattle down the Main Street and waited for the dust to settle before continuing on.
The site of Leon Viajo was buried for over 300 years until archaeologists from Leon’s UNAN university eventually unearthed the chapel and central plaza. Further excavations revealed more of the city though time has taken its toll and most walls are not particularly high. It’s still an interesting visit and the view from on top of the still buried city fortress is phenomenal. Unfortunately, funds are limited so further excavations are slow to take place.
My guide, Martha, started the tour then asked how I got there. When I explained I caught the bus from Leon, she informed me that the last bus back to La Paz Centro had just left. Martha was going back via La Paz Centro after work herself so told me I could tag along and catch a tuk-tuk with her. My options seemed limited so I agreed. We did a whirlwind tour of the site, then walked back through town to catch a tuk-tuk.
Stopping at a small tienda on the main road, Martha bought groceries whilst I sat and chatted with the owner. As always, people from this part of the world are impressed that someone from so far away has come to visit their shores and want to know what Australia is like.
A tuk-tuk came by soon after and we hopped in. The driver stopped to pick up another two people so there were three of us squashed in the back and two in front. The tuk-tuk’s little motor worked overtime getting us up the hills, but the driver performed admirably in preventing us ending up under one of the various trucks that came roaring up behind us a little too close for comfort for even my seasoned companions.
A detour off on a rocky dirt track brought us behind yet another small herd of cattle on the move. As the two accompanying chicos on bicycles smacked their bovine butts with a stick, we were able to pass without incident.
Back in La Paz Centro I waited on the main road for a bus to Leon. This must have been Nicaraguan peak time as the bus was so full I could barely find somewhere to have both feet on the floor. So close to Christmas, locals were traveling to spend time with family and the bus was full of presents and packages for the festivities. As it was I had to get up close and personal with a large boxed pedestal fan with a mass of purple ribbon affixed to one corner.
I eventually made it back to the bus terminal in Leon and found my way back to the hostel in the dark. A quick reorganise of my pack was in order before bed as I was leaving the following day.