Thursday, February 19, 2015

Volcano Boarding on Cerro Negro (Outside Leon, Nicaragua)

Volcano boarding, in all likelihood, is something you probably only do once in your life. But I've done it, and it was, more or less, just as exciting, random, and dangerous as it sounds.

I had left Pearl Lagoon after spending about a month there teaching (as well as a little teaching in Orinoco), and headed up on my own towards the beautiful, ever intriguing Granada. After spending a bit of time there, which I loved, I caught a bus to Leon, which is just about the hottest place I've ever been. I didn't know I was capable of sweating that much - it was, at times, just plain ridiculous. Though, I had a very pleasant time there, and met up with a friend I had met from the Peace Corps while in Pearl Lagoon named Chelsea. We actually ended up watching a bit of playoff hockey back at my hostel one night, so she passed the litmus test for effectively befriending a Canadian. Perhaps I can post a bit about Leon another time, but for now I want to return my attention to Volcano boarding.

Far, but not too far away from Leon lies Cerro Negro, which is actually the youngest volcano in Central America (formed around 1850). The roads to get there were nice and bumpy, something not unusual at all in Nicaragua. I took what was essentially a pick-up truck with a bench in the back with a few others to get to the volcano, then held on tightly while simultaneously putting on aggressive amounts of sunscreen.

When we arrived I thought to myself, "Yes...this is easily as dangerous as I thought it would be," which explained why I had to essentially sign my life away on a waiver before participating. 

The ground near the volcano was ashen black, which is appropriate considering it has erupted nearly 25 times in its recorded history, the latest back in 1999.

There were six of us in all. I got along especially well with Marie, due in no small part to the fact that she was Norwegian and I have a profound love for Norway seeing as I lived there in 2010.  Anyway, you're given a makeshift backpack and a flimsy wooden board, then you tie up your running shoes and set sail.

Naturally, as we trekked higher and higher, the views became more profound and the reality of what I was about to partake in became more pronounced. I'll tell you though, these views and moments are still crystal clear in my mind. The scenery was downright divine, and, interestingly, the ground became hotter and hotter as we rose.

At the top, I unpacked my backpack to find some googles, gardening gloves, old skateboarding pads, and a fashionable yellow and green jumpsuit. Once I was locked and loaded I looked down at my long wooden board with a metal sheet on the bottom, which, in Canada, I would likely classify as a toboggan. But, make no mistake, these sleds can really move. You can rip down the side of the volcano with serious momentum. Top speeds have been clocked northward of 80km an hour. You drag your shoes in the dirt to break, so the former fact shouldn't really turn too many heads.

I arrived at the bottom dirty but not dejected. Plus, as a bonus, I was alive.

It's funny, looking back on this now I'm thinking, "Jesus...I did this?" And, that's a good thing. I started off the post by writing about how this would likely be the one and only foray for me into volcano boarding, but the important thing is that I did at least try it once. I hadn't heard of it before, and I'm not sure if you can do this anywhere else, so here's to just putting faith in an experience and throwing the dice every once and while. And, to be frank, this was an truly one hell of a time.

Adios until next time.

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