The Cerro Negro volcano just outside of Leon, Nicaragua is the country’s youngest and most active volcano. It erupts, on average, once every 12 years. The last time it blew a new crater in its top was in 1999.
For those of you doing the math, it’s overdue for another eruption.
So, naturally, I hiked to the top of the blistering hot mound, passing steam vents of sulphur as I climbed, then rounded the largely hollowed out middle (from the eruption in 1992). On my back, I carried a plank of wood and a backpack with a onesie in it.
Once at the top, I put on my jean onesie in the 100-degree heat, and then sat on the back of that wooden plank. I held onto the attached rope and leaned back, holding on for dear life as I flew down the mountain like a sled on snow, but without snow.
Despite the bluebird day, I also had to do this blind, since the goggles I wore did little to fend off the volcanic pebbles that flung back in my face and hair and well, everywhere, as I descended at a pace I seemingly had no control over.
Since I couldn’t get my feet to work as brakes, and the plank is impossible to steer, I tumbled. I rolled four times down the mountain, succumbing to gravity, before I finally stopped, stood up, pulled some pebbles out of my face, laughed at the absurdity of this whole thing, and then collected my board to finish the ride.
Nicaragua is currently the only country where one can partake in such a crazy thing. There’s sand boarding in Peru and of course surfing and snowboarding the world over, but volcano boarding in Nicaragua was developed right here on Cerro Negro. For those of you wondering why one would do such a thing: it has become something of a rite of passage for those passing through Leon. And, also, because we can.
While it’s rumored that an Australian man from Bigfoot Hostel created the sport in a sheer determination that began with mattresses and doors before, finally, a uniquely designed (though nothing special) wooden board with fiberglass on the bottom, I chose to do the tour with Quetzal Trekkers instead of Bigfoot (which turns the whole event into a party with shots and all).
Quetzal Trekkers is a nonprofit run entirely by volunteers. The company donates its profits to projects for children in Leon. They’ve recently funded a new school in an area that was lacking, and refurbished a soccer field, among many other projects. Not only were the guides (shout out to Halle and Ken!) knowledgeable and friendly, but I felt good about giving my money to such a great organization.
In addition to being a standup group, Quetzal Trekkers is also the only tour company that allows you to board TWICE down Cerro Negro. That being said, I found that once was enough. If the temperatures were about 30 degrees cooler, I might have considered a second run, but I found the sport to be a fun, one-time thrill, even though it left me with little desire to do it again. For now, I think I’ll stick to snowboards and surfboards, at least until I make it to Peru.
Would you sled down an active volcano? Have you? Have you done sand boarding in Peru? Tell me about it!
Volcano Boarding Nicaragua
Disclaimer: In no way did Quetzal Trekkers sponsor this post. All opinions are my own. They did, however, give me a $3 discount on a $5 t-shirt, as they do for everyone, for liking them on Facebook. If you’re headed to Nicaragua and want to do some volcano boarding and/or hiking (they’re also the only company that does 2 and 3-night treks!), definitely check them out. They’re also helping children through hiking in Guatemala.