Monday, 18 June 2012

Days 47 – 50: Nice to be in Nica

It was time to move off the island of Utila after two weeks of being isolated from the Spanish speaking world and eaten alive by sand flies. Our next stop was Nicaragua. Getting there took a lot longer than we thought (see below) but it was worth the wait when we finally reached the small and beautiful city of Leon.

The Leon cathedral at night

We got the 6.20am ferry from Utila to La Ceiba (L896), a taxi (L50 pp) to the local bus station of the Diana Express that took us to San Pedro Sula (L115 pp). We timed it well as we had plenty of time to catch the bus at 8.30am and we arrived at 12.45pm. Diana Express was the cheapest option; a more expensive company is Hedman Alas at about 4 times the price.

San Pedro Sula (SPS) is a major bus hub in Honduras, and it was there that we were trying to get the Tica Bus the next morning straight to Leon; the journey was from 5am to 5pm.

However, for the first time in our trip (not the last) the Tika bus was full on Sunday so we had to book for the next day and spend two nights in one of Central America’s most dangerous city with the highest homicide and AIDS rate. We stayed in a lovely B&B, Dos Molinos, run by a family in the safest area we could find. Because we were too paranoid about wandering the streets of SPS we spent the majority of our two days updating this blog and going to a mall only 3 blocks away for food, a cinema and AC.

There are only two places to buy the Tica Bus tickets, from the bus terminal (whose office closed at 1pm on Saturday but we had spent 20 minutes outside debating what to do...) and Tamarindo Hostel, which the owner of our hostel, Luis, was more than happy to drive us to, via an ATM(L638 to Leon).

The Chilli Inn hostel
We arrived in Leon (Monday 18th), we were greeted by a man in a sombrero welcoming us to Mexico… he was recruiting for the new hostel Chilli Inn which was only $5 a night for dorms plus two free drinks each night you stayed. The hostel was well decorated, social and clean with spacious bunk beds. Unfortunately the restaurant was a serious let-down but we found some nice places to eat in town.

Best breakfast in Leon
We found two great breakfast places that kept us full for most of the day; Nicaragua traditional “Nica” breakfast which is rice, beans, eggs and plantanes (fried banana). Our favourite was La Terraza which was C$65 for a large breakfast plus coffee (free refill) and juice of the day (we had a delicious refreshing watermelon juice). This place was also a beautifully scented bakery so the cooked breakfast was served with a fresh-out-the-oven roll. The second place was the very popular El Desayunazo which had even larger portions and amazing choice of waffles and pancakes (I recommend the banana ones!).

Strawberry waffles at El Desayunazo

We tried a restaurant called Cactus which had ok food but was a little steep in relation to quality plus they charged us an extra 15% on top for tax, but there was nothing on the menu to give warning of this. My salad arrived 40 minutes before anybody else’s…. even the lettuce started to wilt and half of it had come out of a can. But the mixed fruit juice made up for it! The recommendation was for the shrimp pasta which was very moreish.

We also went to park central to get some street food, I got a tortilla with cabbage and creamy sauce for C$20 (less than a dollar) and Harry got a slice of stale pizza for C$17. For the ultimate budget eat, it's pretty awesome.

As for the city itself, it closely resembled Antigua with the many single stored buildings painted a variety of bright colours.
The bustling and bright central food market

We found it nice just to walk around the town and shop in the big market which had more clothes and shoes compared to Antigua’s market.

Beautiful images painted on one of the city walls
 There is not much to do in terms of sightseeing except the many beautiful churches and cathedral which we climbed up to the roof to get some spectacular views of the city; the architecture of the roof was very interesting. A definite "must-do" when in Leon.

View from the roof of the cathedral
Entrance to the museum of Traditions and Legends

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