The first time I heard about volcano boarding the Cerro Negro Volcano in Nicaragua, I thought immediately of my husband, Scott, and how much he would love it. We looked it up on YouTube and watched videos of people boarding down. Scott said we needed to fit it into our trip to Nicaragua.
After much thought and a conversation with my friend, Heather, I decided that despite my fear and nerves, I would do it too. Not being the adventurous type when it comes to speed or heights, this was a big decision for me. Heather said, “Of course you will do it, how can you go there and not volcano board?”
Scott and I had seen some great videos of people wearing their GoPro as they flew down the volcano. We took our newly purchased GoPro, which we had only practiced with once, with the intention that Scott would wear it on his chest as he went down. We thought we could use it for paddle boarding and snorkeling as well.
In the colonial city of Leon, we met with our small tour group and guide and jumped into an old, rugged Land Cruiser for the 45 minute trip to the base of Cerro Negro. There were six people in our group and we were all excited and nervous. Since you must be with a tour company to volcano board, we specifically choose a small group instead of the larger groups of 30+ people. This way we wouldn’t be waiting hours as people went down one at a time.
We arrived at the starting point for our hike, and our guide gave us a canvas backpack with gloves, goggles and a jumpsuit inside. He also gave us each a wooden board, about three feet long with a rope handle.
We started our ascent with me following from behind as the only female and not quite as fast. I was suffering from some serious nerves as well. The hike took about 45 minutes and was fairly steep. There were a lot of volcanic rock and boulders to get past before it smoothed out to a nice trail. It was really hot (June in Nicaragua) and windy, but other than that a gorgeous day. The wind made it a serious challenge for me to carry the board and not fall over or fall off of a cliff! I think Scott was a little bit nervous for me since this was so outside my comfort zone. Our guide showed me the proper way to carry my board so it didn’t catch as much wind. That helped!
Once we arrived at the top of Cerro Negro we took in the amazing views. There were other volcanoes in the distance and ranch land. We were able to see the black lava flow from the last eruption in 1999. Our guide explained the Cerro Negro was the newest volcano in Central America and was born in 1850. It had been very active over the years with 23 eruptions. I was really glad to be experiencing this because who knows when it would erupt again, and there may not be volcano boarding after that!
On top of the volcano we were able to feel the heat on the ground from the volcanic activity below. It is said that people have boiled eggs right there.
Next, we got into our yellow and green jumpsuits, goggles and gloves to prepare for our adventure. We took group photos and Scott harnessed up the GoPro. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be working and we weren’t sure what was wrong. We asked a woman with a GoPro near us to take a look at it and she said the battery was dead! I had charged it at home before we left, and didn’t bring the charger with us on the trip. Our lack of GoPro experience and bad tech skills really bummed us out. We would be our only witnesses to this crazy adventure!
As we stood at the top our guide said it was time to go down. Scott volunteered to go first from our group. He was instructed to keep his feet out and to dig only his heels into the ground to slow down. Our guide also said to use our hands as well, to help control the speed. I didn’t plan to use my hands, I had heard stories of people getting road rash on their arms after getting out of control!
As Scott went over the edge we couldn’t see him for a long time. All we could see was a faint trail of ash flying through the air when he got to the bottom. It was really disconcerting to not be able to see the path we needed to follow. He went so fast, it made the rest of us even more nervous. The next three guys went, and then it was my turn.
Our guide was really sweet and he went part way down so he could watch me and make sure I was going down all right. I did fine and dug my heels in really well. He stopped me at another ledge and then let me go again. It was a struggle for me to keep my mouth closed and not smile and scream (a couple of times I did and ended up with a mouth full of black grit). Riding down the volcano was actually a lot more exciting than I thought it would be, and only at one point did I think I was out of control.
As our group stood and watched other people come down, we all wished we hadn’t been afraid and had gone a little bit faster. Just a little bit. J
Since Scott wasn’t able to use the GoPro, he did take some videos of us coming down with his phone. My video was so funny because a big man from another group was going past me so fast that he left me in his dust, literally. Our guide said the heavier people go faster.
We walked to our Land Cruiser and then drove to the park entrance to clean up. We all had black faces from the volcanic ash. I found black grit in my hair for days!
What an exciting experience volcano boarding was. Scott and I try to do things when we travel that aren’t available at home, and we sure can’t volcano board in California.
Have you volcano boarded before? Do you have questions about Cerro Negro?