All aboard for volcano boarding.

Posted: October 5, 2014 by Central America Overland Expeditions in Expedition/Travel
Tags: , , ,

By Bernard Barbour
Photos by Scott Woodhams

“There’s nothing like speed and the prospect of injury (or death) that can make you feel so alive.” I don’t know who said this originally, but on this day it became a profound mantra for me. It all started when all of us were challenged to pick “the one big thing” we would like to do as we made our trek across Central America from Belize to Panama. Just before departing Belize, Scott boasted that we would be going Volcano boarding. Okay I said, nonchalantly going along with whatever everyone else in the group wanted to do, I had no idea what I had just volunteered for.
I went online a few days later to do a little investigative research and this what it read ”
Hike the youngest volcano in Central America, last erupted 1999 and is the most active in Nicaragua.
Hike up the rocky side and surf down the sandy side.
This volcano is a wonder of nature a pure black cone.
Visit two activate craters, feel the heat, smell the gases and enjoy the views.”
Now I’ve done some adventurous stuff and this sounded easy enough! Well I was so wrong! I should have read more into the hike up and smell the gases. Or maybe the “feel the heat part” I skimmed over. Trust me when I tell you it was not fun sweating to death after climbing, choking on sulfuric gases and feeling additional heat from the ground on your feet from the volcano. What was I thinking? However I do digress, it wasn’t that bad and that one minute rush of adrenaline coming down, I’ll never forget. But let me get back to the details of this adventure..
Volcano boarding is an extreme sport performed on the slopes of a volcano using a thin plywood or metal board. Boarders hike up the volcano and then slide down either by standing, sitting or lying down on their bellies facing forward. Our activity was arranged by our guide through Tierra Tours,(www.tierratour.com).
Manny our guide and his driver came to pick us up from our hotel at 8 am sharp. It was cool getting to ride in an old diesel Land Cruiser, and we chatted about the truck a little on the ride. For only $30.00 USD this adventure included transportation to the Volcano, park entrance fees, snacks, bottled water, a board, goggles and a jump suit. Manny was very knowledgeable. He took the time to explain the geology of the volcano and waited for the straggler (me) on our hike up (45 mins). It was only the three of us so he took additional time to let us crawl down into a smoking sulfuric crater and play around before ascending all the way up to the boarding launch area.
The hike up was not an easy one, but doable. The searing sun was sapping the energy out of me, but with a nice constant breeze it was not too bad. Only when the wind died down for a few seconds did I really feel the heat. As we were carrying our boards across our backs, occasionally a nice strong wind would spin us around, push us forward or pull us back. The thought of what would Jesus do ran across my mind a few times as I felt like I was carrying a cross.
Climbing the Cerro Negro is not like any other volcano in Nicaragua. The volcano is only about 500 meters high (675 meters above sea level), but the ascent is steep and tough. There is no paved trail, just a natural path along a rim that leads to the top. The absence of trees provides fantastic scenery, and we had a great 360 degree view. You can view a volcanic chain including the Telica and San Cristóbal lined up one after another from the top.
Once we arrived to what I will refer to as the board staging area, Manny briefed us. To go as fast as you could, put both feet on the board and lean back. To steer left, right or brake use your feet. The faster you go, the more dangerous it becomes. About this time I was looking for the board that had a seat belt and airbags, no luck. Finally in my head, I convinced myself that this was going to be easy but inside I was petrified. Standing there looking down the volcano thinking what leg would I break first or maybe an arm, I somehow mustered up the courage and volunteered to go first.
Although, this thrilling descent takes less than a minute before reaching the bottom, we had a blast. Once we reached the bottom we had some refreshing fruit and plenty of water to stay hydrated. On a scale of 1-10 of fun, exciting and must do things in Central America, volcano boarding ranks tops on my list.
If you are going to attempt this here are a few tips. Do control the speed of your slide with your feet and bring a bandanna to wrap around your nose and mouth. You’ll thank me.

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