There are a lot of volcanoes in Central America. Like a lot. I had no clue we would be seeing so many volcanoes! Ninety-four to be exact (according to Wikipedia). A lot of them are hike-able, many are still active, others contain lagoons inside, while some have hot springs. All of them are seriously cool to look at.
At the beginning of our trip Chris had a silly motto: “You’ve seen one volcano, you’ve seen them all!” This changed very quickly, and neither of us have tired of seeing these majestic pieces of land!
Prior to arriving in Nicaragua we had done our fair share of volcano hiking. In fact, one of the volcanoes we hiked in Guatemala actually had a small eruption 2 weeks after we hiked it. So we arrived in Leon ready to add a new element to our volcano hiking resumes: Volcano Boarding.
Volcano boarding is exactly what it sounds like. You hike a volcano then board down it!
The Cerrro Negro Volcano is famous for this. I had heard of it long before we arrived and was prepared to shell out some extra dough to take part in this activity. I mean, how many times can you say you went sledding down a volcano?
There were various tour agencies that offered the trip to the Cerro Negro Volcano. They all seemed to offer pretty much the same thing, so, naturally, we picked the cheapest one we found ($20 each). The tour left from Lazybones Hostel in Leon at 8 in the morning. We hopped in the air conditioned van (much appreciated) with five other people and hit the road on the hour long The drive to Cerro Negro took about an hour down a road that got conitinuously more narrow and bumpy the closer we got.
Once at Cerro Negro we were each given a bag with our “uniforms” and a 3 foot by 1 foot wooden sled. The hike up was not bad at all, even carrying the gear. It took about 45 minutes to ascend the 728 meters of loose, volcanic gravel. The hike takes you up the side of the volcano and across the rim, so it was pretty mellow and not super steep like other volcanoes we had hiked.
At the top our guide told us all about the volcano and the last eruption in 2003. He pointed out all of the surrounding volcanoes (8!). Went in search of holes that were leaking steam. And found rocks that were still very hot from the activity of the volcano.
After 15 minutes of marveling at the views, the time to sled had come. We all opened our bags to find very fashionable uniforms: Denim jumpsuits, orange hankerchiefs, goggles and gardening gloves. Once dressed, we grabbed our boards and walked to the edge. And by edge, I mean edge. Looking over it was seriously intimidating! I’m not so good at guessing distances or hill degrees, but I bet this was a 40 degree incline.
We all stared down the edge, sweating, and swatting the massive cicadas that came flying out of the volcanic ash. Our guide gave us the spiel on how to do it and it was time for someone to go! Despite being excited for the ride, I couldn’t help the nerves that came bubbling up. The tour guides boast that people hit 70kph (42 mph) if you do it right.
Chris stepped up to the plate and went first. He angled his board down the steep incline and….nothing.
We all watched and laughed as he started pushing with his feet to get some speed but kept turning to the right and falling off. As my thoughts began to race at this possibly being a bust of a trip, Chris finally got his footing and off he went! It is possible to watch for a certain amount of time, but once the sledder gets speed, they disappear over edge and you can only wait to see if they make it to the bottom. A German girl followed Chris, and then wanting to get away from the Cicadas, I was up.
I sat on the board, gave myself a few good pushes and was off!
Every second I picked up more and more speed. The faster I went, the more wobbly my little board became. Volcanic rock was flying all around and even though I had goggles on I had to squint to keep it out of my eyes. I really got going fast as I neared the bottom and my nerves got the best of me. I put my feet out to slow down a bit and felt like I was going to burn a hole in the soles of my sneakers!
I came to a stop at the bottom and and let out an exhilarated gasp.
That was sweet.
Chris said I was going just as fast as I felt like I was going, though in the scheme of the things niether of us probably hit more than 50kph.
We watched the rest of our group make their way down. Some really fast, others slow. One guy fell off and did some hard tumbling. Turns out volcanic rock is not as forgiving as snow in a sledding spill. Everyone made it, and despite a few scrapes and bruises, everyone was happy!
Sweaty and covered in black volcano dust we were ready to go back to town and clean up. Our adventures were not over yet though! As I mentioned before, the road is quite narrow and bumpy. It was also so dry that the ash was piled up like sand dunes. This was difficult for the heavy van to maneuver in and we got stuck! We all had to push for a little bit, only to realize shortly after that we had a flight tire! What a day of adventures!
I definitely recommend this adventure trip. It was way more exciting than scary, and in just a couple of hours you get great exercise, beautiful views, history of the volcano and an exciting ride! If you are in Leon, Nicaragua check out Volcano Boarding on the Cerro Negro Volcano!
Have you been Volcano Boarding? What did you think of it?