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El Salvador - Honduras - Nicaragua

Volcano Boarding

sunny 30 °C

After Erie left me in Santa Ana, I wasn’t too sure what to do with myself. I had already decided that I was going to fly back to Billy in the Dominican Republic but I could not afford to do so from Guatemala or El Salvador. The prices of the tickets were nearly the same as a flight to New Zealand! I searched as many options as I could and saw that there were cheap flights from Costa Rica to Santo Domingo. Despite the distance of 2 countries between myself and where my flight would depart from – I decided to take a couple of weeks to explore some more of Central America before flying back to the Caribbean. I spent a couple of extra days in Santa Ana; making the most of the Wi-Fi to skype everyone I hadn’t spoken to in forever. I made my way to San Salvador and got totally lost. Thankfully I found a lovely group of ladies in a floristry shop (I figured I could trust people who work with flowers, Katy logic) who I chatted to for a while before they called me a taxi which got me cheaply and safely to my hostel in San Salvador (a city well known as being a super dangerous gang city). It was from there that I caught a bus at 5am the following morning (after being delivered safely by the same taxi as the day before); south through El Salvador and through (murder capital of the world) Honduras with the final destination of Leon, Nicaragua. There was no other way to get there that I could afford, so I did what had been recommended – travel on the more expensive bus, travel only by day, and do border crossings with the group rather than alone. And thankfully, everything worked out to be absolutely fine!
The border crossings were ridiculous, it seemed as though there wasn’t even a border – or a procedure! We seemed to be led through some very dodgy looking warehouses where security (I presume) would half-heartedly search our belongings before pointing us down dingy corridors towards little ticket booths that would either scan our passports, take money from us, or point us on somewhere else after asking a weird question. Everywhere were people begging for money or trying to sell whatever they could, people offering to exchange money, kids grabbing at my backpack hoping to be my bellboy, all surrounded by massive trucks that were loading and unloading goods – one 18 wheeler was stuffed completely with air conditioning/ heat pump units and another with nothing but toilet paper!

The drive through Honduras took about 4 hours and I literally saw nothing but grass and fields. I took merely a few steps on Honduras land, yet was awarded the stamps that I didn’t get (despite spending 6 nights) in El Salvador. It seemed as if the bus trip wasn’t as long as I had expected, it was mid-afternoon when the driver yelled out “Kiwi, you are here in Leon!” as I had earlier explained to him I was not a gringa and instead a Kiwi.
Leon itself was a lovely city, I believe the second biggest in Nicaragua after Managua. Everything seems to just appear suddenly out of nowhere as the city is surrounded by farms and in the distance the line of volcanos.
One of those volcanos, Cerro Negro, was the reason I had come to Leon – VOLCANO BOARDING!
After hearing about volcano boarding when I had first gone to Casa Elemento in July 2014, I finally made it to Big Foot Hostel in Leon where I could do it myself in June 2015. Not bad, it took just 11 months to get there! The hostel itself was set in a really cool old building and there was beer pong happening at 3pm when I arrived. I soon joined the fun and managed to convince everyone to play beerpong and just have me as their “special guest shot” so that I didn’t have to drink all the beer (because I am terrible at both beer pong and drinking beer). However, it didn’t last for long and it was soon decided that I must play rum pong since I don’t drink beer…
I shall skip straight to the next morning because that is exactly what happened – I lost the game of rum pong (although, I must ask how drinking 10 cups of rum can be considered losing) and then woke up at 8am in my bed only to down some food and get shoved onto a giant tank shaped, bright orange bus with a whole lot of other adrenaline junkies like myself.
We drove for about an hour out of Leon and through the surrounding countryside. When we finally got to the foot of the volcano I was in shock at the size of it – a reoccurring theme for my time in central America; continuously shocked at the size of the volcano about to be climbed.
First of all, we had to pay our volcano entrance fee and sign our life away. Then we were each given a bag that contained our overalls and a pair of goggles to protect our eyes when going down the volcano. Then we were given our boards to carry – but there was no way I was going to make it to the top alive if I had to carry that - so the local man was thrilled when I gave him a couple of dollars to carry mine up for me!
We stopped multiple times on the way up to catch our breath
And to look out over the amazing countryside of Nicaragua
The walk up to the top was hot, and windy, and quite strenuous in parts – I felt for the others carrying their boards and was really glad I didn’t have mine as I was still suffering from rumpong!
At the top, we all posed for some pictures together and alone if we wanted to, the guide was really cool and took as many pictures as we wanted. It meant we could leave our cameras behind and not worry about having them damaged.
We got dressed into our delightful orange jumpsuits
Finally, it was time to go down the mountain. We had been told that this was the place of where some bike rider had first tried to break the land speed record and broken every bone in his body when he came off. We were also told how the owners of BigFoot had first tried riding down on surfboards and fridge doors before finally creating what we were to use today. We were told how to ride it, some of the others were sad they couldn’t stand up and go down (clearly snow boarders) but I was nervous enough as it was with the seated position!
One of the guys went first, and I knew there was no way I was going to be left up the top. So when he asked which girl wanted to go first – down I went. And man, I could not stop laughing! Maybe nerves, or just the sheer amount of fun, it was so cool to be sliding my way down an active volcano.
At one point I was going quite fast – or at least it felt that way. The dust and ash was shooting past me and after breaking my foot sand duning many years ago, I was too afraid to try and slow myself down
Finally, the track started to slow me down and I realised I was already at the bottom. What had taken an hour to climb took just seconds to descend. The guy who clocked my speed told me that I reached 25mph. I was gutted – the highest female score is 95mph. But in fairness – everyone who boarded that day agreed that the guy didn’t clock our speed until way after we reached the point where we all slowed down. We waited at the bottom for everyone to make their way down, cheering each other on as they slid and crashed their way down to the bottom. There were a few tumbles but mostly everyone made it down in one smooth ride.
We piled back into the truck, some of us were completely covered in ash and soot and rocks. The guides handed us beer and cookies for the trip back. Once we got back to the hostel it was free mojito time while watching the photos on the big screen.
I must say, Big Foot did such a great job of organising everything – getting us there, taking the photos, giving us our teeshirts, organising the boards and the overalls, and then of course the beer, cookies, and mojitos on the way back. They uploaded the photos to facebook for us all to have them straight away and didn’t charge us a cent for the pics. I was so impressed and so happy with myself to have ticked off such an AWESOME thing from my travel bucket list.

Posted by chasingsummer 10:08 Archived in Nicaragua

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