Volcano Boarding, Finally!

When I first was planning to come down to Nicaragua, one of the things I saw on the Internet and really wanted to do was Volcano Boarding. And recently, I finally had the opportunity to do it!

Now, what comes to your mind when you hear the words "Volcano boarding"? What you imagine is, unfortunately, probably a lot more awesome than it really is. No, I was not riding down a glowing red lava river on a snowboard. That would be neat though. Actually, volcano boarding is riding a wooden sled down the slope of an active volcano, but not on lava. It has to be the type of volcano that spews ash. When you have this kind of volcano, on the down-wind side the soft black ash collects and reaches a near snow-like consistency, allowing one to slide down the slope as if tobogganing.

To do the trip we left Jinotepe in the morning, a long with a group friends and family including Jean's younger brother and his girlfriend visiting from Australia. We took the bus to Managua, and then another to Leon. From Leon we met up in the office of the tour business, which also offered tours of the rum factory near by in Chinandega... That may have to be on our next trip. They took us by bus down a dusty road, which eventually became completely black as we got closer to the volcano. The ash from the same Cerro Negro volcano had blanketed the entire landscape in soft, black ash.

We got to another small office at the base of the volcano, and were able to see on the horizon a string of active volcanoes that reach from the northern parts of Nicaragua, all the way to Ometepe Island. They told us that all of these volcanoes are active and are connected to each other. Cerro Negro stands out because it is completely black, covered from top to bottom by ash and stands about 600 meters high.

We were each given a bag, containing a denim jump suit for protection, a pair of gloves, and a pair of safety goggles. We were also given a board. What I didn't know, is that we had to carry all that all the way up to the top of the 600 meter high volcano. And there was no "path", we had to hike it over the rocks at a 45 degree angle, some times steeper. The hike was completely exhausting. You cannot do this tour if you are not in very good shape. If you have heart problems or asthma or any kind of disability, don't do this. I'm 26 and felt like I would die by the time I got to the top.

That being said, the view was worth it. At the top you are walking along the ridge of the crater of an active volcano, on your left is a steep drop to the bottom of a huge mountain, and on the right a smoldering pit of steam and sulfur. (Insert obligatory ash-hole joke) Its so high up that you can see the ocean on one side, and the rest of the country on the other side. This is a moment few people get to experience in their life, so its totally worth it, even if you can't work up the nerve to slide down. When you're on the down-wind side of the crater you can smell the volcano, which smells quite similar to spent matches. Inside the crater there are many different colors of rock, mostly black, red, and yellow. There is also a rather ominous bulge in the center, but hopefully some volcanologists are on top of that already.





Volcanic Ridge

The Crater

Before we slid down we walked around to a secondary crater, where we could see steam coming out of the ground, and if we dug a small hole with our shoes in the gravel, we could put our hands on the ground and feel the warmth and moisture coming through. The deeper one dug the hotter it would get, to the point that the moisture would boil and create steam, just from digging a few inches.

The Rim
Then came the time to slide down. I was really scared actually. The further up you go, the less you want to slide down, but there's no turning back as the side you climb up is too rocky and treacherous to try and climb back down. The only safe way to get back down is to slide. We got to the "track" where we were supposed to slide and I thought "this has to be a joke" the angle is easily more than 45 degrees and back in Canada no sane person would sled down a hill like that. I also thought that you only slide part way, but no. You slide from the top to the VERY BOTTOM OF THE ENTIRE MOUNTAIN.

Well, despite extreme terror and seriously regretting coming this far I slid down. And actually, it wasn't as bad as I thought. There is a lot more friction than there is when sliding on snow so you don't actually go that fast, and you do have control because you dig your feet into the ash to steer and control your speed. I was actually overly cautious and went a bit slower than necessary. I'll definitely be doing this again but next time I won't brake so much so that I can get some speed.





Comments

  1. Anthony! No wonder he didn't answer our emails 😁

    My son is dying to do this. Never been in snow to compare though. Thanks for posting ur experience.

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