I arrived in Leon around noon, but I'd booked at a different hostel than everyone else - theirs was full, and didn't appear to have any motorcycle parking anyway. The one I'd chosen was about a kilometer away, which at the time didn't seem so far.
By the time I showered and walked over to their hostel, they still hadn't really moved much. After arriving the night before and wandering around looking for space, they'd ended up with some of them sleeping in hammocks in the common area of the hostel, and then spent the night listening to loud firecrackers going off incessantly. When I arrived things had quieted down a little bit, but there were still plenty of firecrackers going off, and the trash in the streets was still in the process of being swept up from the huge festival the night before.
So I arrived at the hostel, and everyone was pretty well in the mood to do nothing. That ended up working out really well for me, because the hostel that they were staying in happened to have a guitar hanging on the wall. So while everyone else sat around and watched movies on their computers or read a book or sat on their phone, I pulled a guitar down and ran through... well, pretty much all the songs I know. I just sat and played, and played, and played.
I even gave a shot to playing a few songs that I'd never played on guitar before - namely, the raps that I'd learned for karaoke. I've got three or four raps that I spent a few weeks learning back in San Diego so that I could have fun at karaoke nights, and since then I also tend to run through them now and then inside the helmet when I'm bored on the motorcycle. Given how much time I've spent on the motorcycle recently, I've had a lot of time to practice them.
So much, in fact, that I can do them almost without thinking. So I looked up a few chords for each of them, and after running through them a few times, I was (mostly) able to pull each of them off. I'd tried before in San Diego and had a little bit too much trouble with them, so they'd been consigned to "karaoke only" instead of guitar. But with the extra practice on the rapping part, they finally got upgraded to "can jam them on guitar" too.
|Not a bad place to sit and play.|
|Took a sunset pic on one of the trips over to the hostel.|
|The festival from the night before was still going strong in the square when we walked through.|
So after a bus ride out, we each grabbed a wooden board and a backpack full of protective gear, and started hiking up the volcano.
|All loaded up and ready to head up.|
|Pretty good views.|
After admiring the views from the top for a while, we unstrapped our gear and started preparing for our descent. The tour provided us each with a heavy duty full-body suit, gloves, and goggles. A few of us added some extra protection as well.
|Getting dressed up.|
|David and I both did the shemagh head-wrap.|
|View from the top as someone went down.|
|One of the guides took one of our cameras halfway down the hill, and stood and snapped this awesome photo of me as I went by.|
|What it looked like from the bottom as someone went down.|
After we got back, we all showered and then I headed back over to La Tortuga Booluda, the hostel everyone else was staying at. And once again, we spent most of the night lounging, relaxing, playing pool, and drinking beers. It stayed hot well into the night, and it was hard to motivate ourselves to do much more.
|Do our clothing choices hint at the heat?|
|After finding some Camembert in the grocery store, I decided to put together a bread, cheese, and apples plate to share. Reminded me of hosting couchsurfers in San Diego.|
|This guy came to the gate while we were sitting around. One of the leftovers from the festivals the past few days.|
Finally the bus left, and after about an hour and a half on the bus (it would have been 40 minutes on the motorcycle) we ended up in La Paz Centro, where we found out we had to get off and wait for a different bus. Another half hour of waiting, and we were finally able to catch that bus another half hour or so down the road to where we would start our walk to the laguna. At this point we're all sweaty, hot, and kind of tired of traveling, but we were almost there.
We thought. We started walking down a road, and after half an hour of walking with no one around, asked a farmer where we needed to go to get to the laguna. He pointed down the road and said to turn after the second farm. Well we didn't see any turn there after another twenty minutes of walking, and the road came to an end at a field full of cows. We walked across the field, carefully avoiding cowpies, and asked the owners of that farm where we needed to go.
|Trekking. David with his stick to scare off stray dogs.|
|Didn't see any stray dogs, but we did have to wait while these guys headed down the road.|
So half an hour back the way we came, then down the correct turn this time, and another half hour of walking. We had now done around an hour and a half of walking since we got off the bus, but we were finally at the entrance to the laguna we'd been trying to find.
We thought. Apparently there was an entrance fee of $2, which we paid while talking to the guy about the lake. After we'd all paid (of course) he informed us that the last bus was at 4:00, and it was another 20 minute walk to the laguna. We looked at the time: 2:00. That meant once we finished walking, we had about 20 minutes at the laguna before we had to walk back to the road to catch the bus.
Well, no point in going back now. We hiked the last 20 minutes up one steep hill and down the other side, and finally made it to the crater after almost five hours of travel. It was very pretty there, and the water was nice, but it wasn't five hours of travel nice.
|The view from the top of the hill before heading down.|
|Down at the lake.|
|Took this shot out the window of the bus as we were heading back.|
But... it wasn't so bad. I mean, if I'd been alone, I would have been absolutely miserable and angry with how things were going (well, if I'd been alone I would have gone on the motorcycle and it would have gone a lot faster, but you see what I mean.) Instead, since we were all together, we took advantage of the time on the bus to talk, or the extra time walking to enjoy each other's company.
It made me think of a proverb, paraphrased: "Shared joy is double the joy; shared misery is half the misery." Traveling alone definitely has its benefits, but when I had a bad day of travel ending in a crappy town and a hotel with no internet, I had that all to myself - and it was miserable. When I did the Ruta de Flores the next day, it was amazing, but I didn't get to share those experiences with the others who did something different.
But getting to share volcano boarding with my travel partners, and sharing the misery of hot, sticky bus seats and hours of walking in the heat made both of those things so much better. It won't be too long before I'm traveling alone again, but for now I'm really enjoying having people to share this experience with.