We left Utila at the end of September and took the early ferry to the La Ceiba dock where we met Omar who would transport us on our journey from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific. Omar was an enterprising and entertaining young Honduran who spoke fluent English. However, he was still working the bugs out of the direct shuttle company he had launched a couple of months before which filled a transportation niche on the gringo trail between the northern coast of Honduras and the colonial city of Leon in north-western Nicaragua. A late start was occasioned by a wait for additional passengers and a heated discussion over the wisdom of lashing backpacks and suitcases to the roof of the van with no luggage carrier or tie downs. This resulted in another delay while we waited for a second vehicle and driver to accommodate the extra passengers and luggage. Once underway the ride went smoothly.
Until … we were stopped at a military checkpoint in Honduras and Omar realized he’d left his driver’s license at home. A gratuity of about $10 USD resulted in the okay to proceed but we spent the rest of our time in Honduras dodging military checkpoints and roadblocks. Omar picked up a friend along the way with a driver’s license who drove the van across the Honduras-Nicaraguan border. Finally, after our nineteen hour journey, we arrived safely in Leon in the dead of night.
The original city of Leon was established in 1523 and, after Managua, is the second largest city in Nicaragua. It’s an important industrial and agricultural hub with a picturesque, traditional city at its historic heart that is easy to traverse by foot. Most visitors come to Leon to see the colonial architecture which includes the 18th century cathedral, the largest in Central America. Additionally, it‘s the intellectual center of the nation; a fact bolstered by the presence of the national university.
This time of the year is known as “muggy and buggy” and one thing the guidebooks emphasized was the oppressive heat in Leon. We, of course, figured that the heat and humidity couldn’t be any worse than Utila but, in that, we were wrong. Each day we arose, showered and then sweated through our clothing in a matter of minutes while walking around the city. Even when sitting in our B&B with the fans whirring, we would feel a trickle of sweat running down our backs.
As for the bugs, we witnessed the Leon bug eradication program in action – weirdly reminiscent of a scene from the old movie Ghost Busters. First thing one morning, and later that day throughout the city, a couple of young men with gas masks and backpacks carrying the gas-powered, insecticide applicators appeared to fumigate our premises. We stood in the front courtyard while they walked from room to room spraying each area and, soon enough, clouds of noxious fumes began roiling from the building. Out of the fog appeared our fumigators wielding their strange weapons and promising that the premises were bug free for another few months.
By Anita and Richard, October, 2013