the journal


Day 17 – Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua

Filed Under international travel

Leon, Nicaragua – December 13th, 2008

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Those of you getting SPOT updates might have noticed the strange OK message sent last night around 1030pm. I had joined a group of 14 to become the first to fly down the side of Cerro Negro volcano on a piece of wood using just the light of a full moon. But it wasn´t as crazy as it sounds.

Well, actually, yes. It was as crazy as it sounds. There´s a lot more dangerous things to do in Nicaragua (re: last email on Managua) but it ranks pretty high in ways to get an adrenaline rush.

Volcano boarding was made popular in Nicaragua by the previous owner of Bigfoot Hostel, Darin, an Aussie who started the sport on a bar bet. He and some friends were curious on what would happen if they took a couch to the top of the active volcano and rode down it. Crazy hijinks is what happened. Many rides and design modifications later, guests of the hostel can pay $20 to take a guided tour to the top of the volcano and ride down it on a 5 foot long board. Although this adventurous sport happens a few times a week, this was the first time they organized a full moon expedition.

The fourteen of us and staff headed out in 4×4 vehicles to the volcano, a 45 minute ride down a dirt road east of Leon. Once there, we were issued our boards, safety goggles, and bright orange jump suits and proceeded to climb the volcano. Cerro Negro means Black Mountain in Spanish, named when the volcano formed about 150 years ago. Local farmers spotted the black volcanic rock sprouting from their corn fields. Not sure what it was, they named it a black mountain. Since that day, there has been 24 eruptions, each adding to the height of the youngest volcano in Nicaragua. It stands today at an impressive 2,388 feet.

I appreciated the differences I experienced from the first time I boarded on this volcano two years ago, when we hiked it during the day. At night, it is a mild 70 to 80 degrees with a strong wind coming from the east. It was nice not having to deal with the sun, which always makes for a grueling hike up the loose scree. Going down is a bit easier as well, not being able to see just how far you are going or the incredible 47 degree angle. Yes, 47 degrees.

Everyone made it down without more than a few scratches. A few shot down the volcano soon after starting. Although the staff didn´t bring them this time, they do frequently bring radar guns. The top speed of a volcano boarder was 48 miles per hour. I´m way too big for this sport and so my top speed was the equivalent of what my 15 month old niece can reach on her tricycle on a good day. But everyone had fun and we ended the evening around a campfire at the base of the volcano, sharing stories of their 3 minute ride as well as laughs, and beers.

Today I´ll be going to the beach for most of the day with the two Colorado girls I met in San Juan del Sur. I´ll be watching my final Nicaraguan sunset from the Pacific coast before heading back to Leon for my final night´s sleep at Bigfoot Hostel. I start my Sunday at 5am, where I´ll be taking a mini bus 80 miles to Managua (for $2) and then a 10 minute taxi ride to the airport ($5).

See you guys in less than 48 hours!

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    though it looks dangerous to established a house in that area,it still feels like a very relaxing place to live at.