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Published: December 5th 2007
Rae and the Momotombo Volcano that buried the town
We used Managua as a base for a couple of day trips to Old Leon and Leon. First Old Leon - Leon Viejo.
We took a minibus from UCA heading to Leon for N$30 each and were dropped at La Paz Centro on the main road. We asked about the bus to Momotombo and were told it was a good 20 blocks to the terminal where the bus left from. So we took a N$100 taxi ride the 15 kms to Leon Viejo and he dropped us at the archaeological site which was on the outskirts of the village of Leon Viejo which was 3 km off the road to Momotombo.
It was US$2 each to get in and it was a little disappointing. The city had been founded in 1524 and abandoned in 1610 after it was devastated by the Momotombo volcano. Some clever clogs had decided to cover the ruins of most of the old buildings with concrete. Some were protected by roofs but concrete was obviously cheaper. Honestly, with only a meter or so of wall remaining they should have just left the brick exposed. It would have got weathered but at least it would be
A monument to Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba. The founder of Leon and Granada, he was beheaded here for treason. His remains were only found here recently
interesting to look at. And a security guard would not let us deviate from the tourist route. He also wanted to be our guide but we said no. The only redeeming feature of the site was a fantastic view from a hill top reached by a set of old stairs. We could see the lake and the smoking volcano.
We walked back out of the sleepy little town towards the turnoff hoping to catch a bus there. A taxi came up behind us and honked. There was already a couple of people in there but we got in when he told us it was only N$10 each. He dropped us where we could catch a bus back to Managua.
The next day we went to Leon taking the same minibus as the day before. It was an hour and a half to Leon and we could see Momotombo volcano most of the way.
We walked the short distance into town stopping at some churches. It soon became apparent that all the churches faced west, making photos in the morning a little difficult. The main cathedral was quite spectacular. We found breakfast at the Balcony Hotel, a new
Monument to the indigenous people. Some were killed by dogs in the main street for punishment for something or other
colonial style hotel. The food was OK and cheap but the service was poor. We walked north looking for one museum which didn't exist any more then returned to the center via some more churches. We found what looked to be the Gallery of Martyrs and Heroes and as we hesitated an older lady came up behind us and told us to go in. She turned on the lights and we went through the two rooms full of photos of heroes and martyrs. They were people who had died since the 50s, mostly young, lots in the late 70s. A few of their possessions were also on display. We signed the guest book and left a donation. A couple of blocks away on the main drag we found the Art Museum. It was N$12 each and it was more than worth it. The colonial buildings with their saloon doors and the art were very beautiful. They even had some Picasso drawings. Unfortunately one or two were on their way to being damaged by rust spots and mold. There was no aircon which is a little unusual for an art museum. It was now lunch time so the rest of the
Some of the unsightly remains
museums were most likely closed. While confirming this we found the ruins of the San Sebastian church. We sat back in the main square for a while soaking up the atmosphere and cooling down. On our way back to the terminal I saw a dog get his leg run over. Poor thing was yelping and ran into his home. His owner just laughed. Moments like this make you realise how little some people care for animals. Especially when you are poor the priority is to care for yourself and your family. The welfare of an animal is way down the list.
We scored for the trip back to Managua. We arrived at the terminal just as a minibus was filling up so we would have to wait for the next one to fill up. But the next one was a proper minibus with comfy roomy seats and a high roof. It was not just a van with seats in it like we had most of the time.
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