Last week, we had one of the quintessential Nicaraguan experiences: volcano boarding. We hiked up Cerro Negro, a 728m active volcano about 45 minutes out of Leon. From the top, we enjoyed views and then sledded down to the bottom. It was so much fun; nervewracking and exhilarating all at the same time. When we got back to town, Kyle announced that he wanted to write about it for the blog. So I’m happy to welcome my husby as he shares his experiences boarding down a volcano. ~Kat
We got picked up a little before 8am at our hostel by our tour company’s four wheel drive. They loaded us into the back, commando style, and we headed out of town on the 45 minute trip to the ranger’s station. Along the way, we got our first look at Cerro Negro (Black Hill), a large coal black conical volcano that looked very steep as we approached it.
At the ranger station we had to sign the guest book. This is as close to signing a waiver as you will get in Nica. Then it was a quick five minute drive to the base of the volcano at which point we could see the tracks we would be boarding down.
With our backpack of protective gear slung onto our backs, and our volcano boards horizontally shoved between pack and back, we headed out. Our hike to the top would take about 45-60 minutes with a few rest/photo stops. If you have ever climbed a trail of scree then you know how terrible the footing can be.
Once we started to climb, the views of the surrounding countryside took over. The other nearby volcanoes, some with their lush vegetation and others with rocky slopes, dominate in every direction.
As we continued to gain altitude we came to our first of three craters. This lowest crater is the result of the most recent eruption and still shows small signs of venting.
We spent several minutes taking photos, listening to Mani talk about the history of the surroundings and enjoying the amazing vistas. At this point we had to alter how we needed to carry our boards. Because of the increased winds we were going to encounter, we had to carry the boards on our hips parallel to the ground. As it was already hot and humid, the winds were quite refreshing. After another 20 minutes, two more craters, and a pass by the outhouse, we finally reached the top.
Having dropped our boards and packs, Mani led us around the edge for more spectacular views.
Next up, putting on the fashion forward protective gear. Knee pads, check. Elbow pads, check. Bright green and yellow jump suit, check. And lastly, goggles.
Once everyone was suited up it was time to get our sleds and slide. Mani’s plan was to take our cameras and head halfway down the slope to get pics of our runs. The lineup was determined by our cameras, so I got to go first. When I first looked down the slope, there was a moment of hesitation. This was indeed a VERY steep hillside. My plan had been to record myself with our shockproof camera on the extension pole. Off I go. The run was going great, that is until I tried to stop next to Mani. I did manage it but not very gracefully.
After righting myself, I set up to record Kathy’s run. Kathy had a great run although she got bogged down by gravel build up on the sled a couple of times. After Kathy got her board cleaned off, I headed to the adjacent track to continue my run.
This track was a bit faster. Realizing this, I decided to go for it. With a little more speed, the control actually seemed a bit easier. The only down side to more speed is more little chunks of rock hitting you in the face. It stung a bit, but by that point you are almost at the bottom. Stopping at the bottom is easy, as the base of the run is similar to a sand pit. After standing, I realized just how much sand I had accumulated on my face, but not as much as was in my shoes. It felt as though half the volcanic sand had taken up residence in my shoes. Looking back up the volcano, I got my first real sense of the scale of Cerro Negro. Standing where I was, I couldn’t see the others on top. I could barely make out Mani at the halfway point. This was an amazing ride, one that I would recommend to anyone. I did have my moments of hesitation and fear but that is part of what made it so exhilarating.