Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Our bank cards arrived; awesome!
Our first stop in Leon was our previous hostel to see if our bank cards had arrived. This was a big worry in the back of our minds, since our back up methods would soon run out. We’d read horror stories online of things going missing and never arriving, not helped by the fact that Leon has very vague street addresses. The literal address we gave was 25 metres south of a bank. A tip for others, our bank used UPS to deliver it and it arrived without issue while we were away.
Starting our month at QuetzalTrekkers
As we mentioned in our previous blog post, we had negotiated doing a month of volcano hiking with QuetzalTrekkers. Our next stop in Leon was a visit to the office to see what they had planned for us. Toby was then told he would be doing the Telica Volcano hike we’d previously done first things the next morning.
We then jumped straight into the action of trying to find some accommodation. We’d been told that spending around $150-$200 a month would find us something nice. It wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped and it involved a number of hours of chasing around potential places. The main problem being that it was peak season in Leon and a lot of accommodation was already booked up and not available. We ended up staying at Quetzaltrekkers for a couple of nights before we found a nice room in a family home about 5 blocks north of Quetzaltrekkers. This would end up being like a homestay where they spoke broken but easily understood English and we could practice our broken Spanish.
The house is about a 10 minute walk each way and late at night seemed to be a little questionable on safety. Quetzaltrekkers had a couple of almost working bicycles they could loan us for our time here in Leon. Rodora really should be on a child’s bike since she is only 5 feet tall, so her bike is a little too large for her. It cost us around 200 cords ($8) to get the brakes, gears and a couple of punctures repaired. For anyone in Leon looking for bike repairs, there’s a big area a block North of San Juan Mercado with maybe 6 or more little shops competing for your business. Puncture repairs around $2 each and new brake cables/adjustment for $1. They’re really friendly and do it there on the spot.
The first hike that Toby did was to repeat the 2 day / 1 night hike on Telica. This is one of the most popular hikes that is run by Quetzaltrekkers. We discussed this in detail in our previous blog post here.
Trivia at Via Via Cafe
A great introduction to everyone was our first Trivia night at Via Via Café (opposite Bigfoot hostel). As at February 2014 this was running every 2 weeks on a Monday night starting around 8.30pm and running for about 2 hours. Quetzaltrekkers organises the questions and runs the night. The night we were there it was very popular and all the tables were full of locals and internationals trying to win one of the prizes.
Full day Telica
This hike was another that we would both be trained on due to its popularity. This hike is regularly scheduled due to many people having time constraints and wanting to do it in one day. This typically leaves the office at 12pm hiking up to the top of Telica for sunset and dinner. At the top you eat some dinner and look into the volcano for the full effect of the bright lava at the bottom. The group then hikes back down to meet the private transportation and return to Leon typically by around 10pm.
With all hikes there are compromises, but the advantage for this is seeing the animals that come out at night. There is a range of interesting creatures we didn’t see during the day that are generally easier to see at night. We saw a number of trails for leaf cutter ants, about 10 scorpions, 1 tarantula, a number of Night Starks that we could walk up to as close as 1 metre away before they flew away. Snakes can also be common but we didn’t see any on our hike.
Central America Visa extension
There is a border agreement called the “CA-4” between Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Visitors that enter one of the four countries will only be allowed to remain 90 days total in these countries and will need to request an extension of stay at any Immigration Office in the 4 countries if they plan to stay over 90 days.
The other option depending on where you are is to cross into Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica or anywhere outside of the 4 countries listed to then re-enter. This is then a balance of cost and time as the official regulation says you need to be outside of the 4 country zone for 72 hours before coming back in. Reading stories online, this seems to be rarely enforced.
We had to do this in Leon because by the time we would end our time at Quetzaltrekkers we would be at the 90 day maximum. We could then have gone to the land border at Costa Rica to then return, but this would cost money and take the best part of a day depending on bus connections to get all the way back to Leon.
The option we chose was to go to the local immigration office in Leon to fill in our request and pay the fee of 500 Cordobas ($20) for each month of extension needed up to a maximum of 3 months. This office then takes your passport and sends it to Managua for processing which typically takes a week. If you go to the office directly in Managua there are stories of it being processed in about 1 hour. Obviously processing times in Central America are never guaranteed, so don’t leave it until the last minute.
Here is the website for more information and the address of the office as at February 2014. It is half a block south of the Church of Recoleccion.
De La Iglesia Recoleccion,
1/2 c. al S. frente a ferret. Bonge
Tel: 2311 5008
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/