Volcano Sledding

Volcano SleddingHow cruel it must be for a child living in a tropical country like Nicaragua with perfect year-round weather and epic mountains—only to have no snow to sled down any of them.

Unless those mountains are active volcanoes covered with soft, black volcanic ash instead of soft, white snow. Then you grab a board, climb for 60 minutes, then race down the most active volcano in Central America at 90 km/hr.

After 60 glorious seconds of volcano sledding, you become one with Cerro Negro mountain—literally, if you wipe out leaving bits of scraped skin and blood behind on the rocks, even while wearing an oversized miner’s onesie as makeshift body armor.Volcano Sledding

If after camping you check yourself for ticks, after volcano boarding you check your anus for rocks and internal bleeding. If only there was a bouncy castle at the bottom of the mountain to catch volcano boarders instead of a speed bump made of volcanic rocks.

When I first heard about sledding down Cerro Negro—a 30-minute drive away from civilization where you’re given what looks like an old prison suit to wear for padding—I thought it had to be a trap to get me to willingly agree to be a foreign prisoner then held hostage miles away in an evil villain’s secret volcano lair with no cell phone reception. But then I walk into Bigfoot Hostel, where more people speak English than Spanish and a wall is plastered with affirmations that Lonely Planet recommends this activity: Well if Lonely Planet says it’s ok…

The ride from hostel to volcano on the open bed of a 1950s farm truck is half prayer group half party group. The guy on my right has his head down to pray for the stupid mistake he’s gotten himself into. The girl on my left has her head up shotgunning a beer. Along the way, the truck stops for beer as often as it stops for cows crossing the dirt-country road.

At the bottom of the volcano, you’re given what looks like a junked window pane as a sled. You’ll think that’s dangerous, but when you hear the history of volcano boarding and how the first test-model volcano sleds were mini fridges and old mattresses, it starts sounding a little more high tech.

And then you climb. On the way up, the tour guide gives crash-course instructions on volcano sledding: “Um, sit down and go fast. If the volcano erupts, go even faster. Try not to die. If you die, you can’t sue us. If you live, you can’t sue us either.”

Looking out at sunset over the Nicaraguan country side from 2,388 feet up you think, “This really isn’t a bad place to die.”cerro negro volcano sledding

But then you don’t. And you realize you’ve been acting like a sissy for nothing. Some people will grandma their way down, tapping on the brakes every couple seconds in which case you can walk down the mountain faster. But if you go, don’t. Fly.

Quetzaltrekkers offers this side trek out of Bigfoot Hostel in the town of Leon, Nicaragua, a 50-minute 50-cordoba ($2) side trip from the capital, Managua.

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