Sweat. I have never truly sweat before I came here. No sports game I played in, no hot Canadian Summer day, not even hanging out in my greenhouse of a computer room at home. Being in Leon is what it means to sweat. You are always wet, shade, sun, wind is just currently drying sweat that will later melt back into sweat. I have no idea what the temperature is but it doesn´t matter, I have decided there are only 3 temperatures/ conditions that matter. Quarter litre, half litre, and litre, this being of course the amount of sweat you produce just walking around somewhere. It is hot, for us Canadians anyways. Even the locals are sweating though, not nearly as much, but they still are.
The sad part, this is the rainy season (hasn´t actually rained yet though) so it´s cooler than the dry season. If you´re coming from a cooler country and have packed what you think is a weeks worth of clothes, it isn´t. A normal set of clothes for a week will last half a week. You were one set for the day while you´re out and about and another set when you´re at your hostel/hotel to lounge in after you´ve had a nice cold shower. Never thought I´d wish the water colder.
So, sand boarding. We managed to call late on Sunday night to Quetzall Trekkers a local tour group that has an amazing deal for sand boarding and everybody should do it as it is worth the money, especially compared to what we heard others got on the same tour with other groups. We were the last 2 in the group and had to be at the Quetzall office the next morning at 7:30. We made it about quarter to 8 which is good considering it was our first night of real sleep. I think we both were asleep by 9:30 which is mucho early for me.
All 15 of us on the tour hopped in the back of a big covered truck. Think a modern covered wagon but smaller. Seats were allright, places to hold onto, it was covered very well and the driver knew all the bumps and slowed down appropiately. After about an hour drive we made it to the base of Cerron Negro Volcano which is the newest volcano in Central America I was told being only 150 years old. The last eruptions were in 1992 or 93, can´t remember which. We could see the volcano while approaching in the truck and even though it was smaller than others it still looked like a bit of a climb.
So after some rigging of straps through our sandboards, which are plywood with metal underneath, we put them on our shoulders along with some other gear and headed up the hill. I will add pictures to this if I get the chance here or when I´m at home at end of trip. We started hiking up which was rocky at the bottom but cleared out into failry fine shale by the end of the climb. It also wasn´t very steep really, more gradual and would be quite doable for people who don´t usally hike at all. Coming from the mountains back home it was a nice easy hike.
It has beautiful views while hiking. I enjoyed the contrast of the all black rock volcano to the lush green on the nearby hills and other volcanoes. Once at the top, about 45 minutes to an hour later, we dropped our boards and did a little tour of the views. At one point while looking into the crater the guide, Veronica from Miami, told everyone to dig a little hole with your foot, maybe and inch or two and then put your hand above the rocks and feel the heat from the volcano. I missed her saying this so Lindsay told me to do it but didn´t say don´t touch it, so I dug a little hole and slammed my hand down onto the rocks, which was akin to putting your hand on a fairly hot stove. Pulled away right away do didn´t burn anything which would have probably taken a few more seconds at least. Very cool though to see how alive this volcano is. Lots of good sulphur smells and weird bugs that live in the crushed up rocks. Also bees live in parts of the volcano making this rather tasty honey we had on our pancakes that morning, tastes nothing like honey up North.
So after many pictures we started suiting up for boarding. They were bright flourescent yellow, imagine highlighter, jumpsuits that you´d wear in the auto shop or such. Complete with crazy funky goggles and gloves. Then you surfed straight down the side we didn´t climb up. It looks really steep and you wouldn´t dream of going down on something with wheels, (though people have and set records) but on a piece of plywood it was a good speed. I went down standing up and Lindsay sitting down on hers. After getting the hang of it and holding onto the rope at the front just right I had a stretch of riding for probably half the hill without wiping out. It gets tiring standing up, but is less dusty. Once we all made it to the bottom, we packed the boards up to go a SECOND time. This tour lets you go twice for the same price.
So we hiked back up and did it again. I sat this time, which is much much faster. You can steer a little by putting hands on the ground, just like tobogganing and if you lean back just right you can get some good speed. Again I was going pretty good until I wiped out near the end killing my speed. This one dutch guy that went last nearly hit Lindsay at the end of his run blowing past her at at least 25 km, maybe more, I´m not very good at judging speeds of sandboards as I haven´t seen to many whiz by.
In between runs the tour gave us snacks, cookies, fruit, and juice and there was plenty of water provided by Quetzal. After run two, we went back to the parks ranger station and the tour provided lunch. That was sweet. It was tacos a la fresca. So fresh veggies in tacos with beans, tasty.
The station also sells some cold drinks if you´d like. They are also breeding green iguanuas for reintrodution into the wild so you can check them out in the little pen they have. They are very skittish creatures that run away even if you´re standing still.
Finally we headed back into town, unpacked the truck and even got free t shirts, which is good because I only had one more clean shirt already. This tour with Quetzal was awesome. Only $30 per person which is the same price every tour group offers but you get to board twice, tons of food and water and a free t-shirts. Some folks here at the hostel did the tour the same day and went once, no t shirt, and food was a few bananas. (There are a lot of bananas here). So if you´re in Leon, TIP we highly reccomend going to the Cerro Negro Sandboarding tour with Quetzall Trekkers. Look them up online and book a tour once you´re in town. The sand boarding ones go everyday.
We didn´t get back to the hostel until proably 4:30 or so. We showered and then figured out where to go for supper. After walking around many blocks we ended up at Barbaro. I´m assuming it mean Barbarian. It´s a fairly swank restaurant/bar for this area of the world it appeared. Food was awesome. Lindsay had pizza, which would feed 3 normal people in this heat. We didn´t get that from what our waiter said, sounded more like 3 slices so we figured it was a one person pizza. We took the rest back to the hostel which has a fridge. I had some sort of grilled chicken on a skillet which was great and filling. Also 2 awesome pina coladas for the equivalent of $2.50 back home, beer is always around $1.25 or less at some places. The beer is as cheaper, usually cheaper than water.
Headed back to the hostel and had a lovely chat with a European couple who got here a day before us and are off to El Salvador sometime soon. Then a bunch of us started playing a really old version of Trivial Pursuit, everybody knows how that goes. Even worse playing an American triva game (invented by Canadians) with mostly Europeans. I skipped out early as we had booked a tour for the next morning that we had to be up at 5 am for in order to catch a bus to the beach to meet our guide. Totally worth it but that´s for tomorrow.
Hasta Manaña, or at least until I come back later to write about Day 5.
Ryan and Lindsay (who is not feeling so well right now, hopefully it passes soon)