Volcano boarding. Two words we never knew could go together. Well, in Nicaragua, they do. And we did it.
Today we woke up early and explored León. We saw the Catedral de León, got smoothies, and made scrambled eggs with tomato and zucchini at the hostel just in time for the 9 am volcano boarding call.
Forty of us–ranging between 9-70 years old–sat in the back of two trucks which took us to Cerro Negro, the youngest volcano in Central America. Its last eruption was in 1995, and it lasted from November 19th to December 4th. Not that long ago for a volcano.
Though it may be young, it certainly is big for a cinder cone volcano. At 728m (2,388 feet) high, we looked up in awe with a flash of terror. We were going to hike to the top, and then board – well, sled – down it. Commence our favorite “phrases,” woah…dude…look. At the bottom of the mountain, we looked up and asked ourselves how we came to be so lucky to find ourselves here today. We never found the answer, but regardless we’re grateful.
The views alone made the trip worthwhile as we ascended the volcano. Upon reaching the top, we looked out over the crater and felt the hot ash surrounding it. We breathed it all in. Not the sulfur, of course; but the volcanic ash drop off, the lush greenery surrounding the volcano, and the clear, blue skies we felt closer to.
The feeling of utter appreciation is unmatched. And so is the feeling of exhilaration. Our guide taught us the positions of volcano boarding. Position one: Sit up straight and hover your feet to go slow. Position two: Lean back without shredding your backside on the rocks to go faster. Position three: Lean back with it and stretch your legs out straight, still hovering, and gun it.
Fun fact: volcano boarding Cerro Negro is number TWO on CNN’s “Thrill Seeker’s Bucket List,” second only to co-piloting a fighter jet in Russia for $70,000. Yeah. We consider ourselves plenty blessed.
We put on our orange jumpsuits–we’re pretty sure they get them from detention facilities AKA jail–and masked our shirts around our faces for protection. We felt ready. So ready, in fact, that we jumped up to the front of the “line” to make sure we’d see a few fellow riders go first so that we could sled down before our nerves got the best of us.
Looking down the volcano at the track we stood before, we couldn’t see the bottom of the mountain. It was like being at the top of a roller coaster, just before the drop, with no way of knowing what was ahead…or below. “For those of you who are nervous,” our guide said. “Please try your hardest not to be. You only get one chance to do this, and it’s FUN. Enjoy yourself.”
Christine went first. There was nothing else to feel but adrenaline and hope to make it to the bottom in one piece. It went by in what felt like one or two minutes. She fell (only!) twice and clocked a speed of 38 km/h and joined the five other brave souls at the bottom of the volcano.
Kerianne followed and fell a total of zero times (#nailedit). She was smiling wide and feeling the rush the entire time. And when she reached the bottom, she looked up behind her and her eyes widened: “We just boarded down that volcano.”
We sat in the sun sharing stories with fellow travelers and watched the rest of our thrill-seeking compadres fly down the mountain. We swapped questions, answers, travel advice, recommendations, and dream destinations. There is a certain bond and camaraderie between young world wanderers that is hard to explain. We share this sense of excitement and true interest in each other’s adventures, and this overwhelming craving to cover the world in our footprints. These are connections that we can find only on the road. And with the brief crossing of our paths, we carry on, without a doubt that maybe they will cross again.
“The only danger is never leaving.”
Once everyone made it to the bottom, there were cold beers waiting for us. We stood as a team, cracked them open together, and screamed “salud” to having just crossed off the second most thrill-seeking adventure, well, according to CNN.
With wonder and wander,
KB and codea