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Volcano boarding in Nicaragua
Volcano boarding in Nicaragua was actually never something on my bucketlist, and it wasn’t until everyone on my group tour were so up for it that I got dragged into the madness. This day gave me one of my more random experiences in Central America, perhaps even in life, but is definitely something anyone in Nicaragua should try – Volcano boarding on the active volcano, the Cerro Negro! This post will cover what to expect from this bizarre experience and how to prepare yourself for the event!
Where to go!
Volcano boarding in Nicaragua occurs on the active volcano, Cerro Negro, which is near the beautiful city of Leon. It is the youngest volcano in Central America, and also one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, although the last time Cerro Negro last time erupted in 1999, so many say it is over due!
And of course what makes this black, dark volcano stand out even more is that you can volcano board down it! In fact CNN has placed volcano boarding on Cerro Negro at number 2 their list of 50 Crazy things you must do before you die.
History of volcano boarding on Cerro Negro
Volcano boarding was the idea of Darryn Webb, an Australian who climbed the 2,400-foot high Cerro Negro in 2006 but was looking for a quicker way to get down. And, so the practice of sliding down the volcanic ash on a wooden board came into being.
How to get there
There is no public transport to Cerro Negro, so you either need to hire a car or book onto a tour. From the town of Leon, which ever way you choose to travel, it takes about an hour. You can of course visit without taking the thrill of boarding down just to enjoy the view. But really, why miss out?
There are a couple of companies that provide these tours. But perhaps the most famous, and the one that I went with is Bigfoot hostel. Arriving very early in the morning, they were serving the the most delicious breakfast, which was enjoyed, while they sorted out organising the boarding itself.
As part of the price of the tour we were supplied with Bigfoot volcano boarding vests, to really mark the occasion! After breakfast the group boards an infamous Central American Chicken bus (old USA school buses, now used as a main source of transport in Nicaragua) and drives the, rather bumpy, hour towards the Cerro Negro volcano.
What to wear for volcano boarding
Everything you wear, will become full of ash. Seriously, you will be finding in your shoes and socks for days to come.
You will be supplied with a prison-esque jumpsuit to protect your clothes, so wear something light and comfortable underneath. It will be hot hiking up the volcano, so bare this in mind. I wore a vest and gym leggings. Make sure you wear sturdy hiking boots or trainers for your shoes, as you will be using your feet as brakes. Finally, it is a good idea to have a scarf or the like to cover you mouth so it doesn’t get full of ash! You will also be giving some googles to protect your eyes.
Entry and costs
The tour from Bigfoot Hostel to go volcano boarding in Nicaragua costs $25, which includes the bus ride to the volcano and the use of the clothes. You will also need $5 for the entry fee for the park. And finally there is the option of hiring a sherpa to carry your board to the top of the volcano for you. Best $5 I have ever spent! It was exhausting enough without having to carry a massive lump of wood as well.
Hiking up Cerro Negro
If you want to board now the volcano, you are going to have to climb up it.
Even early in the morning it is a hot and sweaty climb. It takes about 45 minutes to complete the climb and while it is tiring, it isn’t the most strenuous climb. A moderately fit person (which is possibly not even what I am) could achieve it. I decided to keep myself at the front of the group climbing. That way when we stopped for a rest, I got maximum time before starting again!
Reminder that you can pay for a sherpa to carry your board for you. Which not only means you don’t have to, but also supports the locals! You are also supplied with a bag, which you can carry your jumpsuit and googles in.
The hike is so worth it though, even just for the view. Taking these in on the climb is pretty special. Plus the feeling of sliding, touch and climbing on the surface of a hot, smoking, active volcano is something else!
Perhaps not what you would expect, as the boards for volcano boarding in Nicaragua are fairly simple in design! It is a simple rectangular board with a thin metal layer on the bottom which is responsible for the speed. There is also a small place for you to sit at the back of the board and a rope in front for your hands which you need to hold all the way down tightly. You then use your feet for braking!
The volcano boarding in Nicaragua!
It is now time for the boarding! This is the point in which to put on your orange jumpsuit and googles. At this point, I was feeling quite nervous. However, there was really no need to be.
The guide gives you instructions on how to control the board, but to remember there are no brakes! To gain speed you lean back, lifting the front of the board up and with your legs stretched off the ground. It is hard to maintain balance though! Alternatively, board with your feet flat on the ground, sit up and don’t lean back. In this position, in theory, the board won’t move faster than you want. If you feel good about the speed and want to go a bit faster, lean your body back, but still hold the rope tightly and keep feet flat on the ground.
I don’t think I fully got the knack of leaning back and pulling the board up as I never hit record speeds. Some of our group got the records for that day. It was great fun and totally surreal experience to be pelting down volcanic ash on a thin bit of board and I would highly recommend!
Is it safe to volcano board in Nicaragua?
If you follow the instructions from you guide, volcano boarding is generally safe! You are easily in control and change how fast you want to go if you feel it is getting a bit too much! If you want to go hell for leather, then there is always the chance you might fall of, get scratched and damaged. But this is very much down to your personal thrill level!
What do you think? Would you go volcano boarding in Nicaragua?
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