Bubbling mud is cool; the volcanic beach – not so much

So Leon is situated on the Los Maribios volcanic chain. In the small village of San Jacinto, only 20 minutes away, there is bubbling mud. Only 20 minutes to the other direction is the beach on the Pacific coast. Put them together and it’s a full day excursion..

We invited Juan Carlos from Leon to join us for this day trip. Our first stop was San Jacinto, where the mud bubble.
It’s a tiny little village on the road to Leon from Esteli, which we actually passed on our way the other day. Once in the village, we parked near the improvised ticket office, and walked across a few stairs where some women were selling little pottery thingies. A whole pack of kids followed us during our short visit. We walked a few meters and reached an open field that was visibly steaming. There is lava underneath this land, and it heats up the mud till it’s bubbling and the whole area is steaming and stinking with sulfur.
There are some stick-marking to guide visitors; it’s totally not safe to just wander around this field. But the markings aren’t too clear and that’s where all the kids come in – they walk around with the visitors, and guide them on where to step, in return for a small tip at the end.
So this bunch of kids were walking with us, making conversation and playing with the mud. One little boy named Fernando spoke with me a little – he even knows a few sentences in English and we managed the usual in Spanish (how old are you, I’m 8, I’m 28…). He mentioned that I had a lot of mosquito bites (that was funny cause he didn’t even see my feet, only my arms!) and at first I thought he was just making fun of me, but he wasn’t. He ran and brought some mud in his fist and started covering all my bites with the mud – he said it’ll help. People pay a lot of money for mud from the Dead Sea; why not mud from San Jacinto??
Some of the kids brought big lumps of clay-like mud and started forming out little gifts for us – tiny little vases in which they placed some flowers. It was really sweet, but we really couldn’t take that with us.. But we did make a mud cat for them, and they enjoyed guessing what we were molding out and then helping out with the whiskeres and tail. They were all tipped, of course; even that frisky little kid that asked for a tip even though he only got there when we were leaving…

After all the bubbling mud excitement, we drove to the beach, which is only 20 km away from Leon. In Nicaragua, as in all Central America, 20 km can take a looong time; they’re fixing up the road and it’s all full of pot-holes and detours. We got to Las Penitas after over an hour. It’s a tiny little beach town, with a few hotels/hostels, and a freaky beach…
The beach is volcanic, which means it’s almost completely black. It was a cloudy day and hot, and the ocean was extremely intimidating (aggressive looking waves…); all these factors put together made it quite gloomy and not so attractive.

Still, our day excursion was fun, and we enjoyed just hanging out in the Tortuga Booluda hostel. We met at the hostel Valerie, who has been living in Washington DC for the past three years (although she’s moving to Philadelphia for law school), and she gave us some tips on where to look for an apartment and such. We’re can’t wait to meet her again in Washington next year!

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