Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua
Most normal people like to spend their mornings reading the paper with a nice cup of coffee. Maybe go for a quick run or squeeze in some pilates. As you are probably learning, I am not a normal person. So when I was asked if I’d like to spend my morning boarding down an active volcano on a flimsy wooden board, my answer was DUH!
Cerro Negro Volcano is about an hour drive from Leon and is covered in sparkling black ash. The dark volcano completely contrasts the gorgeous green surroundings of the area, making the sight an attraction of it’s own. Don’t let the beauty fool you- this volcano is an absolute beast to climb. My lazy-girl fantasies on how I could reach the top were endless. Escalator, sling-shot, canon, anti-gravity zipline, literally anything but walking would suffice. But the reality is, it’s about a 45 minute walk straight uphill with a board on your back, with no path and loose rubble sending you two steps back for every one you take. If that wasn’t enough, the heat of the black ash radiates upwards through your feet until you are tempted to just saw them off, 127 Hours style. My internal monologue for the entire hike consisted of: REALLY?? This right here is exactly why it’s so important to pick the right guide. Most travellers vouch to go with Bigfoot Hostels, but from what I saw their tours are packed with people and involved a lot of waiting for others to catch up. My group went with Mas Adventures and with less than ten of us, the guide had plenty of time to motivate me to the top and ensure that I didn’t surrender myself to the volcano’s opening.
Once you make it to the top, the real fun begins. You’ll feel fairly reimbursed for your trek when you check out your surroundings at the top. It really is a spectacular view, which is why some people actually choose to do this hike without the boarding payoff at the end. It’s all lovely and dandy until you peek over the edge and see what you’ve gotten yourself into. Even though you will hate yourself for adding the extra weight for your walk, I highly recommend packing a beer to shotgun at the top. Remember, it doesn’t count as a morning beer if you’re doing it for liquid courage.
Have you ever wanted to wear one of those plastic suits you see on Breaking Bad? Good, because that’s what you’re going to get. Whether you do your trip with Bigfoot or Mas Adventures, they’ll provide you with this stunner of an outfit. I definitely recommend picking up a bandana at one of the street stalls in the city to avoid eating dirt. Let me warn you that although these suits will stop you from getting pelted with ash, it will still somehow get into all of your crevasses. All. Of. Them.
As a Canadian, I like to consider myself a professional at tobogganing. I’ve sledded on snow, sand, and ice, and nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to do. I have kindly refrained from adding pictures of me during the boarding- they are haunting. Staying on the board is tricky, but once you gain momentum you absolutely fly. The first half of the ride was mostly consisted of me fearing for my life, but about halfway through my mindset shifted to I AM WONDER WOMAN! And then you reach the bottom. Panting, covered in ash, potentially delusional, and absolutely stoked.
Reading back, I can see how this could come off as more of a whine-fest than a thoughtful reflection on a fun experience. Yes, the hike is hard. Yes, you are going to look like a dirt ball after. Yes, safety is maybe not of the utmost priority. Trust me, none of that matters after having an experience like this. Volcano boarding is the adrenaline junkie’s ultimate dream and an experience that just seems so fitting to an adventure trip in Nicaragua. Even the average chicken like myself is bound to have a great time and it sure makes for one heck of a story.
- Check out Mas Adventures
- Morning beers are an asset
- I should own one of those jumpsuits at home
- Prepare for one of the most thrilling experiences of your life.