Leon sucks. Its like Antigua Guatemala, only worse. There’s no parks, and all of the concrete makes the daytime temperatures unbearable. Not to mention the only activity there is boarding down a volcano in a jumpsuit. In that heat? No thanks. After one night, we exited that city quick. We dumped Cat at the bus station and Paul and I took off down the road towards Lake Managua. I was eager to find some nature after driving all day and then spending the night in that dumb city. Paul had heard of a treehouse hostel that was supposed to be really fun in the jungle near Grenada. We aimed to get there in a couple days. I wanted to try free camping on a lake because all of the beaches are public land. So we loaded up on supplies at the Maxi Pali and then tried to call a stretch of beach our own. After getting to the windy lakeshore and seeing the churned up dirty water, I wasn’t even that excited about it, but we persisted. We met some broken down motorcyclist who gave us some religious pamphlets and then told us about a fishing spot they used where we could camp. We drove past farms and farms before finally opening a gate and heading down through a field to the shore. Again, the water level here was high, so the shoreline was full of drowned trees and bushes. There were a few fish carcasses around too, so maybe we found the right spot, but it definitely wasn’t appealing for swimming. The wind never stopped howling from the East, so I slept sheltered in the van and Paul slept in my hammock. At 4AM I woke to the smell of burning rubber. I looked all around my van in the dark to see what was on fire, and then I saw something glowing down by the lake. It was just Paul. The wind was so powerful that I could smell him smoking a cigarette from 40 feet away. We were both pretty tired the next morning. I had wanted to try biking around there, but by the time we got mobile it was too hot to do anything but drive with the windows down. I got another ticket that day for passing a very slow truck on a solid line. The officer handed me an envelope to put my licence in, and told me I was supposed to go pay the ticket at a bank and they would mail me my licence. I pleaded with the officer to just take my fine so I could keep travelling. Finally I put 20$ in the envelope and passed it back to him and he was okay with that. We slowed down the pace and had a chill at a mirador above Lake Managua. You could see all the way to Lake Nicaragua and Isla Ometepe. I put my hammock up and had a nap before the last leg to the treehouse hostel. So the treehouse hostel was so bad that it encouraged me to write a tripadvisor review about it, which you can read here, and choose “it was helpful.” But while I was there I went on a little bike ride and met Jose and Juan Pablo who invited me into their yard. We shared vinegar-cured green mangos and some cheap rum. We sat around drinking and listening to really loud local music in Jose’s yard. Jose’s dad was wasted and very friendly. I let the boys ride my bike and then I showed them a couple tricks. We planned to visit aguas agrias, mineral springs, the next morning with Jose, and in parting Jose and Juan each gave me some bracelets right off their wrists. We left early from the treehouse and met Jose to take us to the springs. We expected hot springs because of the proximity to the volcano, but fortunately it wasn’t hot; it was very refreshing. We swam around in the crystal clear fresh water and then had a nap before leaving. As one of two cars, we took the ferry across to Isla Ometepe. By nightfall, we cashed in our plans to find El Zopilote, and we sought out Hacienda Merida instead. Conveniently, they are the makers of the island map that is distributed at the ferry terminals to tourists. The fresh made-to-order coconut ice cream at HM is worth the trip alone. But also, being on the less windy side of the lake, swimming off the dock was enjoyable. Camping cost 4$, and they have a nice gated compound to park in. We met some cool people at HM and decided to join them in hiking the dormant volcano Maderas the next morning. It was a goal of mine to mountain bike on a volcano, and although Maderas is inactive, it was still a solid mission. I pedaled/pushed my bike up halfway and then the forest turned really dense and our guide offered to carry my bike. Eventually the trail was so muddy and steep that I ditched my bike in the bushes and continued on foot. When we got to the top, we were in a cloud and couldn’t see anything. We could have been anywhere. As we started hiking down, I was nervous about proving myself to everyone that I hadn’t just lugged my bike up here in vain and I could actually ride this trail on it. Fortunately, unloading my bike and suiting up gave me some leeway as the group marched on ahead. I eventually found my groove and rode most of the trail back down. I was cursed with 3 pinch flats, and then my fork just stopped working. It wouldn’t rebound and I figured, the leaky seals I never replaced had now let out enough oil that it wouldn’t bounce back. Back in Santa Fe I bought new seals, but had yet to install them. Needless to say with my mechanicals, the group arrived soon after I did. We lazed on the dock scavenging every coconut in sight and counting the hours until the 8$ buffet dinner at 7PM. Because the treehouse hostel was advertising a full moon party for Wednesday, we figure that’s when the full moon was. It wasn’t until we started asking where the party was that night that we realized the full moon was Tuesday. Treehouse strikes again. I think we were all too tired to celebrate the fullness of the moon anyway. The next day we packed our bags to find another place to stay. When the party hostel, Little Morgan’s, was full, I parked and got lunch as the others hostel shopped. That afternoon we checked out the springs on the island. Again they were cool and refreshing, thank god. Although it was pretty touristy with a swimming pool structure and beach chairs around the perimeter, it was still great to cool off in. That night we got ourselves banned for life from LMs trying to make chocolate sauce pizzas after the kitchen had closed. Friday, I crossed back to the mainland on my own to meet up with Cat on the coast near Popoyo beach, where she had rented a casita for a week. I didn’t find her that day, so slept in the Mag Rock parking lot, using their wifi and outdoor shower. The heat on that coast is something mental. I couldn’t operate outdoors between 10 and 4. So the next day when I met Cat and we got the van stuck in the sand I was in a world of pain. We had just been shopping and had a bunch of raw meet in the car and I was worried about running out of fuel, so I opted for the beach route to Garden Grove instead of following the janky map she had drawn up. When we got stuck my world collapsed a little. We were a ten minute walk from Cat’s place, with all of my stuff here and my van now blocking the road for everyone else. We hiked the groceries to her place and decided to attack the situation later. After a snack, we got shovels and boards and help from a local and headed back into the heat to retrieve my stranded baby. We had my tires dug out and boards raid down ready to reverse out of there when this skinny American hero showed up on the scene. He insisted he could tow me forward, up the incline, into deeper sand with a rope and his little truck. I immediately had a slimey impression of the guy and doubted his idea would work. When he had his rope connected around a sharp piece of metal under my van and we were ready to proceed he said, “You know, the last time I did this the rope broke and the guys gave me ten dollars for a new rope.” Obviously the rope is going to break again. His little truck pulled me deeper into the sand instead of over it and then the rope snapped in true form. All the while people were showing up and recommending we reverse out of this situation but homeboy was persistent. Finally Mark from Canada arrived and dismissed the slinky cheap rope guy. He said he’d grab his monster and be back in a minute. This truck was large. He had a proper tow strap. In minutes, we were up over the sand hill and out of the situation. That night we thanked Mark by attending his party at Magrock with pizza making and live music. The next few days I got sick, and surfing took a back seat to strep throat town as a train of pain drove over my head and down my throat. Taking all of the herbal and homeopathic remedies I had and all of the garlic I could chew, I spent days in bed wondering if I could beat this thing w/o medical assistance. Finally my throat cleared up but my head was still a groggy mess. Cat dragged me out to the ocean and we surfed for a bit. But I became exhausted immediately and needed to be back in bed. I felt terrible being here in this sickly state, ruining Cat’s vacation. It was amazing of her to let me rest and recover in her casita because it surely would have been impossible in that heat, in my van. And then that’s what I ended up doing anyway. I felt good enough to go and had overstayed my welcome so I figured out how to travel on my own again and took off South. I drove to the next closest surf spot, just North of San Juan, called Playa Maderas.