The safety briefing sounded strangely familiar:
“When you are ready, you use your heels to stop.” “Can we pull this to help stop?” Grabbing the rope tied to the tip of the board. “No, if you pull on that you will go faster. If you go faster, you may tip over and fall very badly, so you want to keep a moderate pace. So who wants to go first?”
It had taken just over an hour to hike to the top of the active Cerro Negro volcano, just outside of Leon. As I stood at the crater’s edge, the wind howled and whipped the shoddily constructed wooden board in my hands. At one point I thought it may slip from my grip and make its way down the mountainside without me, which surely must have happened to at least one weak soul in the past. I peered down the side after our “safety briefing,” and couldn’t help but remember my experience on the sand dunes in Huacachina, Peru a few years back, where we received a one-sentence warning in Spanish before sliding down a hill face-first. At least this time they had provided elbow and knee pads and had told us how to stop. Hey, this was Nicaragua’s most active volcano, after all; advanced precautions necessary. Nicaragua’s 19 volcanoes are part of the Ring of Fire, a seismically active region containing 75% of the planet’s volcanoes and where 90% of all earthquakes originate. As Terra put it, not only do we technically live along the Ring of Fire, but we continuously choose to vacation along it as well. Hey, it sure makes for spectacular scenery. And there was no way that I had come all this way to not hike a volcano and careen down its face. This girl knows how to have a good time.
And so I stepped up to the edge, sat down on my board and awkwardly began digging my heels into the black rocks in an attempt to scoot away. It took a few seconds to get some momentum and then I was gone, cruising down the 2,388 ft. volcano face, with rocks flying up my pant legs and into my face. I made the mistake of letting out a “Woo!” and immediately realized that keeping my mouth shut was essential. About half way down I slowed almost to a complete stop, soaking in the view. But there was no time for prolonged hesitation as the next gringo would soon be behind me, risking their bones for the one minute thrill as well.
At the bottom I had a mouth full of grit, was covered in thick black dirt, but was otherwise unscathed. As I glanced back up the mountain, Terra came careening down at a much quicker clip (no surprise there) before also coming to a stop without issue. We had done it—conquered a volcano in Nicaragua. And a shower couldn’t come fast enough. Photos from Leon and the Cerro Negro volcano can be found via the PHOTOS tab above. You can also follow my adventures on Instagram @off_she_goes.
WANT TO HAVE A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE? HERE ARE THE IMPORTANT DETAILS:
Tour Company: We booked through Tierra Tours, which can be found in several cities throughout Nicaragua. They have two tours that depart daily from Leon, one at 8am and another a 2pm. The outing takes approximately 5 hours in total. Other companies offer volcano boarding, just be sure to ask about the type of vehicle they use to get out there, as it takes over an hour and the safety equipment provided.
What to Wear: It’s hot on the way up, so shorts and a lightweight top work well. The tour company should provide a ridiculous jumpsuit that you wear over your clothes along with elbow and knee pads and goggles.
What to Bring: Sunscreen, sunglasses, water bottle, tennis shoes, a snack for the way back (I got hangry), and maybe your iPod for the car.
Cost: We paid $30 each.