Turns out trekking up to the top of a volcano and racing back down at 78 KPH on a piece of wood is... a ton of fun. Yes, I ate shit at the bottom and skinned half my leg off, but it was a completely unforgettable experience that I'd recommend to anyone!
Cerro Negro is an active volcano in Nicaragua just outside of Leon. It is one of the newest volcanoes in the region, and its ashy eruptions actually allow you to ride or surf down the cone's grainy volcanic rock surface for your own twisted enjoyment.
Who Do I Board With?
There are a number of touring companies around Leon that offer volcano boarding excursions. Some of them involve charities. Some involve overnight hikes. And some involve free alcohol and a cookie. Naturally, my friends and I chose the latter.
Volcano Boarding With Bigfoot Hostel
The hostel itself is for those who don't mind a party vibe late into the night and are able to cope with noise and huge dorms. But, for $31, Bigfoot Hostel provides transportation to the boarding site in the back of this crazy open monster truck, "safety equipment," (HA!) a board, your speed clocked by a radar gun, a beer and cookie at the bottom of the volcano and another beer arriving back at the hostel. Oh! And a free tank top that I completely forgot to pick up. I'm still bitter about it...
What to Bring/Wear
Bring as little as possible. Whatever you bring has to board down the volcano with you. That means if you eat shit, you don't want to be crushing anything of value or have your Nalgene jabbing into your rib cage. ALSO, the "protective" jumpsuits they give you are old, and not all of them cinch very tight around your ankles and wrists. If I every went again, I'd wear thick leggings or long pants that could have prevented my injury *keep reading*, and a bandana to cover my mouth while going down the volcano. Rocks and dirt get all up in there. And make sure you wake up early and get a chance to eat before your go!
- Close toes shoes
- Long protective pants
- $5 for park entry
- A crush-able water bottle
- Phone or small camera for pictures
The Hike up Cerro Negro
The hike up the volcano isn't too bad. The terrain isn't very steep, but it is fairly rocky and easy to lose your footing. You have to carry your gear and board up to the top as well, which honestly only makes you feel more accomplished when you reach the peak. The higher you trek, the windier it becomes, which actually feels really nice. Just be careful not to get swept away when your trying to shoot those "on the edge of the world" shots.
Our tour guide was a super groovy dude. During each tour he buries some seasoned potatoes into the earth of the volcano for the next days group to enjoy. The ground even just beneath the surface is hot to the touch, and it cooked the potatoes all the way through! I must say, our volcano baked potatoes were quite delicious.
Get Your Gear On
Volcano boarding safety gear equals; one old-ass shitty brightly colored jumpsuit, one pair of very foggy goggles that you can hardly see out of. Don't worry, it's all part of the experience. Once you have your jumpsuits on, for some reason you instantly feel like everyone around you is part of your crew and/or squad. So you'll definitely want to take some pictures of that.
Volcano Boarding 101
So there are couple ways to do this. This first way is to try and ride your board down like a snowboard. I don't recommend doing this if you want to go fast or have any sort of control whatsoever. The second method is to sit down and ride your board like a sled. But don't be fooled. We are not gliding down melty smooth snow here. These are tiny sharp rocks and you WILL be bumping all over the place.
- Try not to be too intimidated. Once you're at the top, everything starts to look way steeper. YOU CAN DO IT!
- Get low. The lower you go, the faster you'll go.
- Close your mouth! Don't even smile. Don't make any expression at all. You will end up eating and snorting volcano for the rest of the day. Hopefully you brought that bandana I was talking about.
- Ride it out. If you start to loose control, don't try to stop abruptly. That's when people eat shit.
78 KPH to Zero
So it's finally my turn. I sit down on my board, grab the handle bar, and wiggle my way into the starting position. First, I start out slow with my feet dragging on the ground. Then I slowly lean back to pick up speed. Now I'm flying! Rocks and dirt fly up into my face, but I can't seem to control my opened mouth screaming to deflect the incoming debris. I'm going even faster now. Tiny rocks are finding their way through my googles and obstructing my vision. Now I'm going too fast for comfort.
I somehow see the man with the speed gun at the bottom and try to maintain speed, but I must have hit a bump, and my board starts to bounce over and over again. I feel myself loosing control. I quickly try to sit up to slow my board down which plunges my legs into the ground, bringing my body to an instant halt. The result?
This super gnarly leg wound. My jumpsuit pant legs slid up and left my bare legs to the fend for themselves.
I just sat for a while on my board with my body slumped forward over my legs. Some people raced over to me expressing their amazement that I didn't get thrown from my board. When I finally got up, and pulled up my pant legs, we could all see the bloody dirt filled state my legs were in.
The first-aid consisted of pouring some water over the wound and trying to clean it out with some vagina wipes some girls had. The beer also helped a little.
When we got back to the hostel, I tried to wash the wound out in the shower, but the pain was too extreme to handle. There was also a shuttle leaving for the beach soon, so naturally I ignored the wound, went to the beach, got raging drunk, and cleaned it in the ocean.
I had to tend to the wound the rest of my trip which was definitely a hassle, and I was terrified that it was going to get infected, but it didn't! ...AND NOW I HAVE A REALLY COOL SCAR!