Friday, March 4, 2016

Puerto Momotombo - Leon Viejo

Old Leon. or Leon Viejo

The Myth: Leon Viejo was destroyed by a volcano Momotombo in 1610. I guess it sounds more romantic to the tourists so this is what they are told giving them visions of Vesuvius.

The Facts: June 15, 1524. The area suffered frequent volcanic activity, culminating in the earthquakes of 1594 and 1610.
The city was not destroyed by the 1610 quake, however due to the damage caused to the infrastructure and the seismic activity, the settlers held a referendum and decided to relocate the city to its present location, about 20 miles to the west to what is now called Sutiava where labor was cheap and the enslavement of the local native peoples possible. Nevertheless, the old city was gradually buried by the continuous expulsions of ash and volcanic stone coming from Momotombo, and by lake sediments.
-- Wikipedia

The city was built close to Lake Managua (Xolotlán) and the Momotombo volcano. When the Momotombo erupted in 1610 the inhabitants rapidly left the city in fear of the volcano. A new León was built some 30 kilometers to the west, where it still is today. The old León, or León Viejo as it is locally called, was never actually destroyed by the volcano and preserved beneath the surface.

Dusty street view of Pueto Momotombo
All what looks like dirt is actually volcanic ash that make up the streets

Side street leading to Lake Managua and Momotombo

I had the day off and wanted to get out of town for a while. Leon Viejo was the perfect spot. First because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and second the town of Puerto Momotombo sits at the foot of what has become the very active Momotombo. I figured visit the ruins, wander the town and then sit at the lake and have lunch with the nasty old gal. She would not disappoint.

Getting here is easy. From the busy, smelly and hectic bus station in Leon find the bus to La Paz Centro. The cost was 14 Cordobas or 67 Canadian cents for the 30 minute chicken bus ride. This particular bus was old and beat up but the driver was safe and steady. Not to be confused with the dumbfu** driving me back to Leon, but more on that later. At La Paz you changed bused to the Puerto Momotombo bus. A 20 minute wait, another 17 Cordobas and 20 minutes later you pick your drop off spot in Puerto Momotombo. I chose the Ruins as a place to start the day.

 I love that these ruins are almost 500 years old. The fact they were only discovered in the late 1967 because they were buried under 500 years of volcanic ash and hurricane debris. Then three times covered again because of three monstrous hurricanes. Mitch in 1998 (Mitch was bastard in much of Nicaragua), Alleta in 1992 and Joan in 1988. I understand the significance of this early settlement and how it was the fore bearer to modern Leon. As for a historical site..Meh

My personal observation is this is obviously a poor country. There is no extra money for archaeological digs and restoration and it shows. If a concerted effort was put into place through international efforts (you hearing this UNESCO) Leon Viejo could be spectacular, historically and economically for Puerto Momotombo. As it is now you can see the effort is there. There are a couple of small museums plus good signage with detailed information. Small steps to be sure. With Momotombo in the background and touristy Leon so close, Leon Viejo could have a very bright future.  A historical site with a bright future. What a funny thing to say.

Thar she blows! Momotombo
Ultimately this day belongs to Momotombo. After 100 years of silence she has been exploding regularly, sometimes 2 times a day, sometimes violently. (As of writing this she has exploded again today and we are watching the plume of smoke from the garden). I wanted to pack a lunch, sit on the beach and visit with her (I do not know why I am referring to it as her but I am), and that is what I did. The day was perfect. It was sunny as it is every day this time of year and it was about 39 degrees Celsius again as it is every day. However there was a nice breeze coming off the lake and I settled in for a visit.

I had my camera and took a few random photos. I have pictures of Momotombo from various angles, heights and locations. Today was new so a few were in order. After that the camera went away and I just tried to "be in the moment". It is difficult to have these moments with our obsession with pictures (guilty here) and social media (innocent here) but I am getting much better at it. I was enjoying just eating my lunch, listening to the birds, the wind and a group of kids swimming down the beach. You want to reduce your stress, lower you blood pressure and sleep better at night. Get outside and spend some quiet time in a natural setting with NO electronics.

Lava residue burning at the bottom of Momotombo
I just sat and stared at the volcano and well truth be told, we were having a conversation as you do when you spend to much time alone under the hot sun. Oddly I had a feeling she was going to erupt right before my eyes. I checked my watch and it was just after 1:00. My bus back was 1:30 or I could wait until the 2:30 bus which would have been fine. I had a plan to try and meet up with the group coming off the El Hoyo hike and it is usually the 1:30 bus that arrives at their pickup around 1:50. It would have been a fun surprise but the 130 bus it was.

Around 1:25 I could hear the shrill horn of the bus. They announce they are coming by laying on their train like horn which I really like, or am just used to. I packed myself up, walked the 5 minutes to the road just in time for the bus to pick me up. "The fare collector hanging out the door screaming "La Paz, La Paz' so that was that. All aboard bound for Lap Paz

At 1:34 Momotomobo exploded. How do I know? I freaking saw it from the bus ad not from my beautiful vantage pain on the lake. I found the explosion time on the Volcano Discover Website. Momotombo had teased me into submission then when I was not looking exploded in all her glory. I was oddly upset for a minute then realized I was exactly one block from the beach watching the eruption from the bus. The driver had stopped for everyone to take pictures. Oddly, I kept my camera in my bag and just enjoyed the show. Thank you Momotombo you tricky old gal. Another example of ego (mine) being upset because I missed the perfect situation when in reality I was having a great "moment". Locals who have been seeing this for 4 month still crazy excited to the point public transit stopped. Yes, ego gone, moment achieved.

Another lesson learned.

I dig the stature of the brave Indian Warrior. Do not understand the dog biting his ankles

Guyaba fruit. It grows attached to the tree bark. It is bitter but good for you


Carson Coronado said...

That cathedral is beautiful. I love the architecture of it. The Iglesia La Recoleccion is very ancient looking and probably has a ton of history. It is really cool that you travel around and take pictures of these churches. People who love architecture will enjoy really your blog. I have been to Mexico once and loved all the beautiful stone buildings.

Ken Weiss said...

Thanks Carson. I appreciate the feedback. Everywhere in Latin America the stonework is breath taking if you stand back and really look at it.

I am in China now and the historical buildings here take architecture in a completely, yet still beautiful direction.

Thanks for reading my blog