The beginning of the rainy season hit just as we arrives in Leon, knocking a true volcano trek–what we essentially went there to do–off the table. But when life gives you lemons, go volcano boarding. Our hostel was BIG on promoting their volcano boarding tours (it’s the tagline in their name, the walls of the lobby are plastered with news outlet endorsements, was apparently a reward challenge for SURVIVOR: Nicaragua in 2010, and they give away free tshirts that are essentially ads) and it is definitely one of the “things to do” on the gringo trail. Almost everyone I know who has come to Nicaragua has a picture on facebook of them in a bright orange jumpsuit tobogganing down the side of a volcano. I aimed to get me one too.
The day we went the sky was overcast. We piled into the back of a truck and drove 45 minutes to the volcano. Cerro Negro is an active remarkably young volcano, something like only 150 years old. Apparently its eruption a few decades back sent a black cloud of debris that fell on Leon, causing much of the blackened coloring on the building you see today. It isn’t all that tall–just tall enough to board down for a minute!–and its face is mostly small volcanic sand. We hauled our boards and gear up a 30-minute path to the top.
|Up we go on the brief, most mountainous section of the hike. Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.|
Partway up it began to rain, just in time for team photos at the vista point.
|Even on a rainy day, we can still have fun on a volcano! Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.|
As we approached the crest, smoke and steam wafted up from below.
|Almost there. Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.|
We got to the top, donned our electric orange prison jumpsuits (yes, they are legit; some had prisoner numbers stenciled on the breast) and lined up. The wetness of the rain made the sand stick together and significantly slowed down the ride. Some people were able to overcome this by pushing off with their legs at the right time, but others got completely stuck in the pebbles. My run down went okay. Not the slowest in the group, but not the fastest.
|Grrr… yeah, that’s volcano grit in my teeth. Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.|