For a truly unique experience look no further than Leon, Nicaragua; the home of volcano boarding! There are several operations in town offering this unique tour. The best known companies are Quetzaltrekkers and Bigfoot. We opted to take the 14h tour with Bigfoot, partly because we didn’t shop around. Apparently Quetzaltrekkers offers 2 runs for the same price as Bigfoot, whereas Bigfoot only does 1 run. For US$30 each at Bigfoot, we got a buffet breakfast, the volcano boarding tour, a night in the dorm, a beer for the return trip from the volcano, and 2 mojitos when we got back to the hostel. Not a bad deal !
The tour started with a 1 hour bus ride from the hostel to the volcano (Cerro Negro). We stopped for beers just before going onto the unpaved road. A beer or 2 fell victim to the bumps in the road. After driving through the pristine Nicaraguan countryside we arrived at the entry gate to the volcano where we signed into the guestbook and paid US$5 for the park entry fee. The visitor centre has a small shop for refreshments and a toilet in the back. We drove another few minutes to the trailhead and were given our kit: wooden volcano boards, jumpsuits, goggles, and cloth sacs.
The hike to the top took about 45 min with several rest stops. There are no trees on the volcano and the sun is blazing so it’s important to bring water. Thankfully when we got to the east side of the volcano we got a bit of shade as the sun set in the west. The views along the way were amazing. Rolling hills to the east, volcanoes to the north, the Pacific to the west, and more volcanoes to the south.
Our guide took lots of photos of the group at each stop and provided some history about the Cerro Negro, which happens to be the most active volcano in Central America. At the summit we could see the two craters from the previous eruptions. The ground was very warm from the immense volcanic activity happening right under our feet. And considering that the volcano is due for an eruption sometime soon, it’s a bit unsettling.
Now it was time for the main event. We got our jumpsuits on, were given a quick tutorial on how to use the volcano boards, and walked over to the piste. Our guide walked down a bit to take photos of us and control the flow of riders. One by one we launched ourselves down the volcano.
It was a bit intimidating to look down the slope of the volcano and know that in just a few moments I too would be sliding down on a wooden board kitted out with a rope handle and slippery metal and formica underside. From the top, I could see the truck and the other boarders at the bottom, but couldn’t see the entire piste since it got quite steep near the bottom. I took it slow at first then let myself pick up some speed as I approached the steep 40 degree slope. My heart rate picked up as I gained speed but I never lost control of the board on the steep bit. It felt great to be safely on the bottom but I wished that I had gone faster. Unfortunately for us, someone stole Bigfoot’s radar gun a few days ago so we couldn’t be clocked. They’re working on getting a new one.
As we gathered our equipment and talked about the boarding we were greeted with a beautiful sunset over the distant Pacific Ocean. The banter ceased for a bit while we gazed at the setting sun. Then we had a celebratory beer on the bumpy ride back into town.
Have you volcano boarded? Or visited Leon? Let me know what you thought!