Rocketing down the side of the volcano at 90km/h, with volcanic rocks bouncing off my teeth like M&M's, I realized that there's a reason Volcano boarding doesn't happen in Canada, and it's not our lack of Volcanoes: This is INSANITY.
First we had to get there. A little by accident, we rode to Leon on the "old" highway. Potholed asphalt, which gave way intermittently to rough dirt, with the occasional cow. It was 40 kms of great fun. Jayne disliked it heartily.
- Asphalt randomly turns to dirt...
- ... dirt back to potholed asphalt
Leon is a popular tourist stop, and Volcano boarding
is certainly one of the main draws. There are several tour operators who provide the lunacy, but we went with Bigfoot
hostel. Bigfoot was the first to do volcano boarding, so naturally they must be the best. They are.
The first crazy person to try volcano boarding was an Australian (shockingly) and he started with a sand board. It disintegrated. The car door and ride down in a mini fridge also didn't go so well. Eventually he came up with this:
- A board just like this one.
Fast forward years later and tourists try to keep their skin as they fly down the volcano on these boards for 30$ a pop.
The experience is more than just a ride down the volcano though. First it's a ride in the back of a big truck down a dirt road.
- Jayne and Kelly waiting to duck more branches.
The branches from passing trees load on the truck roll cage, then catapult into the face of whoever ducks last. I'm one baaaaad ducker. You get to know other folks at the hostel on the bumpy ride, making new friends as backups in case your current friends don't make it on the ride down.
Once we arrive in the park, those who weren't beheaded on the truck ride are given boards and an orange goodie bag to carry up the Volcano.
- The girls practice riding style. orange bags not pictured.
Then we start the hike.
- The goats start marching, orange bags in hand!
- Happiness is not blowing off the Volcano on the way up.
- The board acts like a kite when it's windy...
Once up top, Rosco our fearless leader gave us some pointers about the volcano itself. Cerro Negro is the youngest volcano in the Americas, it's currently active, and produces lots of heat. Dig down just an inch, and the ground is almost too hot to touch.
- It's hot, damn hot, real hot!
Stand there too long, and your clothes might just burn off.
- Where'd they go?
- So hot right now
Then it was time to get serious and open our orange goodie bags. Inside was a pair of lightly scratched goggles and an orange canvas prison jump-suit.
- Pick a bag any bag
- Ready to go back to jail.
Everyone paid attention closely as Rosco gave us a lesson on how to go down safely. "Remember, dig in your heels if you need to slow down." He also made a few comments on how to make the board go as fast as possible. "Lean back, keep your feet up, keep it straight." I listened more intently to that part.
- Hold onto the handle to avoid losing the skin from your palms on the rocks.
After his demonstration, Rosco RUNS DOWN THE VOLCANO (run clocked at 43km/h), and leaves us to slide on his signals. This day was amazing. Away we go!
- Ready? set!...
- Jayne and Kelly reach the bottom, at 32km/h and 29km/h respectively.
One thing about "digging in your heels to slow down" is that it's only realistic if you keep those heels dug in from the start. Once you drop over the rise and you're flying down the 41 degree slope with more rough volcanic rocks flying in your face with every touch of your foot... you decide to stop putting your feet down. Then you go faster. And faster. It was insanity. And it was incredible. And I thought I might die. And it was incredible.
I hit 90km/h. The record was 91. Soooo close. The record fell anyways, as the second last run of the day broke it at 93km/h! Video above. Nice work Matt!
- New record holder!
- Feeling so alive right now!
- Kelly and Jayne, also still alive
If you are in Nicaragua, I highly recommend a stop in at the Bigfoot hostel. It's cheap (6$), and they run an amazing trip to slide down the Cerro Negro volcano. You might die, but you'll have had a blast on your way out. Oh, and ride to Leon on the old "highway". I recommend that too.
- Happy pile of convicts about to throw themselves down a hill.
- Happy pile of convicts about to throw themselves down an active volcano.
Post Leon, we rode to the coast to meet Max. Our parents had met Max months earlier while on a cruise. They left some wires with Max that I wanted to re-wire jugs.
- Thanks for holding those wires for months Max!
Max has stories. Amazing stories from his time being a sailboat captain doing the Panama-Colombia run. We sat and listened to his stories while sitting on the beach. He gave us good tips for the San Blas Islands. We're really looking forward to them now. We also met a British couple on a Honda Transalp, Oliver and Heather. We had to leave, but they're heading our way, so I'm sure we'll cross paths again.
From the coast we head right back to Managua, as Kellys flight left first thing in the morning. Nothing is that far away though. Many folks had warned us not to pass on a solid line in Nicaragua. When you're stuck behind slow trucks, you recognize that you are ignoring that advice, scan down the road and pass anyways.
- Best to also scan the road BEHIND you too.
Turns out the police had been following us since we had passed them on the side of the road. They pulled Jayne over, and she radioed for me to come back. They were very upset with me, yet laughing with Jayne. Smile with Jayne, turn his head and YELL at me. My reckless passing on a solid line was "dangerous and crazy". I had hurt his feelings. So he hurt mine back: "you should ride more like your sister!".
- "But officer, she rides so sloooooooow" was not a good defense.
Fortunately perfect-riding Jayne was able to convince him not to give us a ticket. Kelly sneakily took photo's of the ordeal after being explicitly told not to by the officers. We're going to miss Kelly!
In Managua we were again warmly welcomed by Reyna into her home. Muchas gracias un otro vez Reyna!! Great to have such a nice "home" base.
Kelly and I were up before sunrise to head to the airport. Very sad to see her go. She's hoping to rejoin me in August/September for a longer stint. Until then, I'll just laugh at defecation paintings with Jayne.
- Micro-Kelly looks on as Real-sized Kelly heads for security.
- To end on a happier note: These kinds of Paintings are all over the place in Nicaragua!