[:en]Arriving to Leon is not easiest of tasks.
We took a small boat across the gulf of Fonseca and it dropped us off at the smallest immigration post we’ve seen so far, but it saved us over 10 hours of bus rides and got us closer to Leon.
At the immigration post, we were greeted by a slightly overweight man sporting a dirty white t-shirt with a few holes. It was safe to assume that we were the first customers of the day and perhaps of the week. He takes a look at all of us and requests our passports.
 20 minutes later, he has gone through all of them except mine. He looks at it, starts typing my information on the computer; all pretty standard. As he is finalizing everything, I notice that he put down “Costa Rica” for my country of birth.  I point out that I am not from Costa Rica, that I handed him a Colombian passport. He starts to examine the passport a little closer and says “You don’t have a visa for Nicaragua”, to which I reply: “I’ve been in all the other C4 Countries without any issues”. He says that that doesn’t matter, because if I don’t have a visa I cannot come into Nicaragua and that he does not have the “visa stamp”. 45 minutes later, after making a few phone calls and talking to some superiors, he comes back and tells me that there’s nothing he can do, that I’m going to have to leave or return to El Salvador and try to get a visa there. He keeps questioning where I live and what I do, I answer without any hesitation. He asks about my situation in the US, I tell him I’ve got my old passport with a US visa in it, and everything is solved. After paying a “I forgot my passport” fee ($20USD), the $12USD to get into the country (which on the website it says its only 10) we were finally on our way. By the time we were done, it was close to 7 and we had missed the last bus to Chinandega, so we had to spend the night at Potosi. A dusty little town only used by travelers coming from El Salvador on the same route we used. Which is not as popular.
A quick dinner and we were off to sleep at a little hotel/restaurant/bar that gave us a room for a reasonable price. We fell asleep quickly, but I was woken up by 2 small dogs barking, which kept me up for most of the night. The other guys didn’t seem to notice the noise, but at least I had a story to tell over breakfast the next day. And with that quick detour, we were off around 8 am.
Using the chicken buses in Nicaragua has proved to be not only the cheapest but also the best way to get about. There are quite a few routes, some with bigger/better buses than others but they seem to take you wherever you need to go. We made a quick stop in Chinandega and from there took another chicken bus to Leon.
We arrived around 3-4 PM at Via Via, a popular hostel recommended by Luke and Martin. We got settled in a dorm for 6 people and then go for lunch. 3 of us ordered the Indio Viejo, which we now know its quite a popular Nicaragua dish, the other two have one of the many items on the menu. 2 hours later, we are sitting on the common area when we see Christian come in being held by two workers and Andrea trailing behind them, he had collapsed on the street shortly after vomiting. He lays down while he waits for the doctor to come. He’s most definitely not looking great and is taken to the local hospital only a couple of blocks away from the hostel. 45 minutes go by, Danielle and myself are not feeling great. We get word from Andrea via Facebook message that they are going to keep him overnight. 15 minutes later Danielle is vomiting. 45 min more and I was next. Danielle and I were up all night with some heavy food poisoning, the worst I’ve ever had. The next day we walk to the pharmacy to buy some pedialyte and some pills. Christian is still being held at the hospital for one more night, and they are running a lot of tests to try to determine the cause. They don’t know what it was but it “definitely was not the food at the hostel,” and the hostel staff keep saying it was just “heavy food” we weren’t used to in our country (bull shit). The rest of the day we have barely enough energy to walk to and from the toilet, and only have our first meal around 4. Christian didn’t return to the hostel until the following day, 3 nights total. The diagnosis: Parasites in his stomach.
Leon is a colonial city in Northern Nicaragua. It’s the second biggest city after Managua and it has many, many churches that date back to early 1800s. It’s been an educational and artistic hub for many years. While we were there, they had a popular Nicaragua festivity called “La Griteria” or the screaming. It begins on December 7th at 6PM, when thousands of people turn to the streets to celebrate the Virgin Mary. Fireworks go off, lighting up the colonial buildings and painting the sky in a multitude of colors. It’s also the day when “La Gigantona”, a very tall doll dressed up in fancy clothes and put together by local people dances around the streets. There is a contest where the dress, dancing, music and many other criteria is judged. The city is full of lights and colors during this time of the year and were quite lucky to be there (and healthy) to see it.
It’s a beautiful city that due to a few days of illness, will always have an almost negative connotation in our minds. We were there for much longer than we wanted but we did what we wanted to do. We hiked and camped on active volcanos and did volcano boarding with a very cool organization called Quetzaltrekkers. It is definitely a must stop for anyone visiting Nicaragua and after all, we had a great time. Just make sure you never, ever, order the Indio Viejo at Via Via.

-Lodging: Via Via
-Kitchen: No
-Cost:~$9 USD for a dorm, breakfast included
-Date:Dec 2014
-Rating: 3/5
-Review: A restaurant combined with a hostel in the back, it has several small dorm rooms and privates situated around a courtyard behin the restaurant. It is a pretty hotel, but has a reputation for poisoning its guests (the pharmacist we went to said it was very normal to get weekly food poisoning visitors from them, yet they never admit that it could be their food).