Léon to Matagalpa by Bus-Worthwhile Photos to Follow

by Amy Rogers on July 20, 2012 · 13 comments

The bus station in Léon: Allow me to prozambulate….

Dozens of old American school buses adorned with colorful paint and the names of their destinations packed into a large open area with all manner of vehicles swarming around them such as cyclo-taxis, taxis, bicycles, mini-buses and hundreds of pedestrians.

Warning!! Lots of words!! Scroll down for photos and videos!!

The perimeter is a makeshift market where vendors sell juices and snacks, cook meat over open grills, and items such as shoes, sun-glasses, newspapers, and sundry trinkets are touted with vigor.  The smell of sizzling beef and chicken is mingled with that of burning plastic, rotting detritus, and shoe polish. Mangy dogs of every description scavenge for scraps in and around the ever shifting assortment of buses and people.

We found a bus labeled Matagalpa Expresso and called to a man hefting large crates onto the roof for information regarding the buses departure time. He waved us impatiently away and we couldn’t understand what he said, but got the picture when moments later a pickup truck pulled up alongside the bus and several men helped hoist a casket onto the roof of the bus.  We finally got another man to explain that the bus was reserved for family members of the deceased as well as students, and if we wanted to go we could but we would have to stand…for 2 hours.

So we found another bus bound for San Isidro (where we could transfer to Matagalpa.) It wasn’t an express but we were eager just to get going in any direction.

Before the bus even arrived a crowd was assembling where the door of the bus would open.  Women with babies and small children crowded in amongst everyone else and scrambled the best they could forward to get a seat on the bus.

When the bus arrived everyone moved forward in one bumping, jumbled, pushing mass to try to get on the bus. Adam and I finally managed to procure the last two seats at the back of the bus, but we didn’t get to sit together.

Soon the bus was completely full with bodies packed in so that the entire aisle was full of those willing to stand.  Entrepreneurs, seemingly on wheeled stilts called into the sardines within the bus selling ice creams, waters, sodas, fruits, and chips.

With a shuddering and heaving motion the old bus came to life and backed out of its space as people, dogs, sellers, and begging children fled before it.  Just as we left the crowded streets of Léon so that the wind from the windows could give us relief from the sweltering heat within it began to rain, and nearly all the passengers nearest the windows closed them.

I groaned as the bus got impossibly hotter and the mexican polka music poured from the speakers above. As the bus employee moved from the back of the bus forward taking money the people in the aisles struggled to shift to let him by.  Before I knew it, the petite student whose elbow grazed my ear at every bump was replaced by a pot bellied, belt buckled man whose huge stomach could have made the perfect pillow it was placed so near my ear and whose crotch now rubbed against my arm with each jostle of our creaking ride.

Adam, seated right behind me, dripping in sweat and clutching his bag and his guitar smiled reassuringly at me.  I held my bag close to my lap and smiled.  Sure, %90 of Americans would rather swallow sand and rinse it down with petrol than endure this ordeal, but this was just what we asked for. And, despite the discomfort, I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

We stopped in tiny towns along the way, the rain stopping, windows reopening,(hallelujah!)  and lots of people disembarking and slowly the bus emptied out.  Adam and I were able to sit together after a while, and then a movie was put on (some horrible bathroom comedy dubbed in spanish).  The lowlands slowly gave way to lush mountains and pointy volcanos occasionally slid by.  Villages, no more than a few shanties along the road came and were left behind us and the load of the bus continued to lighten as sacks of rice, mail, cartons of goods, and pails of god-knows-what were handed down into the waiting hands of villagers.

Soon there was only a handful of people on the bus and we came to San Isidro, a spot in the road with a gas station, pool hall, two story gym, and a few houses that marked the intersection of the road to Léon with the Pan-American Highway.  There we waited for our next bus while darkness fell and hunger pangs started to make themselves heard in our bellies.

After a good wait, our bus came destined for Matagalpa and along with about a dozen others we loaded on the bus, standing room only, of course, and set our minds on the 2 hour ride ahead.

Someone selling potato chips got on at one point and I was sorely tempted. however I really wanted a proper meal so we passed.  After 10 or 20 minutes we both managed to snag a seat, even though the aisles were still full of people. It was a long ride, it seemed, but finally we got to Matagalpa.

Scanning for photos? Here they are!

We made our way to Hotel el Castillo.

Set up on a hill facing west we acquired an amazing room with a view of the setting sun complete with our own bathroom, a white balustrade balcony, and breakfast included for $10.50 per person.  Can’t beat that! Our view is tremendous with the domes of the cathedral right outside our window and the steep lush mountains all around.

We’ve been spending a lot of time reading, writing, and snoozing. Sure, there is a lot of adventure to be had, but this IS our honeymoon, a doing a lot of nothing after 4 years of working our tails off is nothing if not well deserved (in my humble opinion.)

Check out our hotel and it’s awesome views!

Here are a few more photos of our killer view!

Working ain’t so bad when you have THIS view!

Napping ain’t so bad, either!


Did you see that cathedral in the distance? Here it is up close!

And here’s the Rio Grand de Matagalpa!

We’ve also found some delicious eating establishments.

Win! Coffee!

Win! Veggie Quesodillas

Win! Veggie Fijitas!

Win! Fresh Caesar Salad!

Win! Chicken and veggies with rice, beans, maduro. Check out our smudys. Mine was pineapple/cucumber and it might rank as the best smudy ever!

FAIL! EPIC FAIL! I guess you can’t always have it your way: Steak slathered in cheesy butter sauce, with french fries and rice. The whitest plate EVER! Can you even spot the veggie on the plate?…yep, just a sliver of parsley.

Alright folks! There it is! Happy Friday night to you all! Hopefully we’ll get some adventuring in this weekend!


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