When we first arrived in Nicaragua we had a total shit day at the border trying to get in. It took 7 hours and a lot of yelling (for the last 2 hours) on my part to finally get us in. It was getting dark and we still had a 2 hour drive to get to our hostel in León. We hadn’t eaten since the night before and were starving with no idea where to eat and just GPS showing us the way to the hostel, we thought we’d find something quick along the way. However, Nicaragua had different plans, and there was literally nothing but trees, highway and dirt road that went on for what seemed like forever.
I e-mailed the hostel, who said their restaurant would be open until 8:30 pm. I explained our shit day and Lieven, the owner of the hostel (Via Via León) sent me their menu, let me order and had our food ready for us when we arrived just short of 9 pm. He let us eat before checking in and just let us get settled and relax a bit before having to take care of the business side of things. It was exceptional service that I was definitely not expecting, but was very much appreciated!
As we were there during Covid lockdowns around the world, there wasn’t much going on at the hostel. We noted that there was a tour desk called “Volcano Day Tours” and we looked at what tours they offered, one of them being “Volcano Boarding” at Cerro Negro. We wanted to book it, but because of Covid, many of the tour operations had been cut until such time that they could hire the staff back to do the tours. We were bummed out, but made the most of it anyway. We spent a few nights there, toured the city of León and eventually made our way to San Juan Del Sur.
I never shook the desire to go volcano boarding. It was eating me up inside, like, everyday. We decided to jump in the car and make a week-long camping trip up to the north and explore Somoto Canyon and finally go volcano boarding.
We booked our stay at the same hostel and this time, everything was back to “normal.” Live music, hopping bar, tour desk open and super busy. Tourism had come back so strong, that the tour company now had an old military vehicle that they were able to shuttle people with on their tours. Amazing what happens in a year and a half. We booked our volcano day tour and asked if Roxy could come. Of course she could. This is Nicaragua, we’ve never really had to go anywhere without her, except for Volcan de Mombacho. She even went canyoning in Somoto a few days before, where we had to rappel her down the sides of cliffs to get her down into the water.
The tour has 2 different times, morning or afternoon. Of course we chose morning, one for the dog’s paws and two because it’s cooler for us to go then rather than in the searing heat of the afternoon.
By 8:15, everyone on the tour was loaded up and ready to go. We took the military truck on a 45 minute drive, stopped at the visitors center where we had to sign in (and was the only place that had a bathroom). We then started our ascent. It was a 45 minute hike up steep lava rock. I was worried about Roxy’s paws and kept checking them to see if she was getting cut up, somehow, she kept finding the soft sand to walk in, but even that made me nervous. I kept cleaning her paws off with water and checking every few minutes. She was fine. I didn’t need to worry, but, you never know.
We finally got to the top and walked around to the fumaroles. There were amazing views from the top. We were given instructions on how to go fast, slow down, what to do and not to do. As you probably guessed, most of those things DID NOT apply once you started your slide down the side of this very young and active volcano.
When you’re up at the top, it looks pretty even-sloped. It doesn’t look like people are going very fast and it seems totally manageable. Easy peasy. So, you get on your board and think, “I don’t want to go too slow, so I’ll keep the tip of the board up and my feet flat and lean back.” So you do. Then you slowly start your descent. UNTIL… you come to the part where the volcano face gets really steep. The part you didn’t see from the top. The part where you see all the people that went before you, disappear for a few seconds while seeing the dust trail they’re leaving behind only to pick them up nearing the bottom. Watching some of them eat shit and others pop right off, having to get up and walk the rest of the way to the truck. When you get to this part, you start picking up speed and it happens fast. You try digging your heels in to slow you down, you try leaning forward and putting the nose of the board down to dig and gather the sand and rock to slow you down… But no matter what you do, none of it works. So, either you panic and eat shit, or you try your best to ride it out until the end, where, there’s an unintentional, small launch pad from people wiping out. Nobody has ever died from doing it. If you start off slow, you’ll end slow. There was a woman (not on our tour) who, we were told, took 24 minutes to get to the bottom. The fastest time was 15 seconds (also not on our tour).
The few people who ate it on our tour walked away with bruised pride, but a memory of a lifetime. We all had a wonderful time and it was worthy of story sharing over beers with the rest of the tour crew. You can’t beat the price. They take the videos, pictures (and share them on google photos), drive you there and back, pay the entry to the site, give you a snack of fresh fruit when you finish boarding, and a drink when you get back to the hostel all for $30 USD.
It was an adrenaline packed day made better by meeting new people and making new friends.
Then to top it all off… The owner of the hostel remembered us. He remembered taking pictures in front of the Hostel, he remembered my name (though he called me Vanessa Williams, but whatever), he remembered our entire family and was amazed at how independent Kaden has gotten in a year and a half. He made a lasting impression on us, and we on him. We spent some time reminiscing of our first visit there and the kindness paid in turn, thankful for such an amazing experience.