I signed up with two ladies that I met in Granada for a hike in Leon on February 7th. It was called the Full Moon Hike. Run through a group called Quetzal Trekkers, a nonprofit group that gives all of its money to impoverished youth, we would hike Telica under the full moon to take a gander at some live lava and watch the sunrise over Nicaraguan volcanoes. Beyond the animal cruelty I found myself engaged in, hiking this volcano was my only plan for Leon. That, and volcano boarding.
The newest volcano in Central America is Cerro Negro, formed in 1850. It’s since been one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, and its last explosion was in 1999. Some cunning mind thought up the idea of convincing a bunch of dumb tourists to climb this smoking volcano and slide down it on wooden boards covered in formica. Thus was the birth of volcano boarding. Having met oodles of folks traveling from north to south brandishing some gnarly volcano boarding scars, this was on the top of my to-do list in Nicaragua. Also, on CNN’s list of things to do before you die, boarding Cerro Negro is #2, so who am I to deny Anderson Cooper, that silver fox?
The issue was timing. Quetzal Trekkers, who take you up the volcano twice, only offered volcano boarding on Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday was the same day as the full moon hike, and I didn’t want to stay so long in Leon because I wanted to go to a food festival in El Salvador. I could have gone with Bigfoot on Monday, but they’re bro-y and you only go down the volcano once and the beer and mojitos at the end didn’t justify the cost ($28) and I had an iguana to murder. So, not listening to the advice of anyone at Quetzal Trekkers, I signed up to volcano board the same day as the full moon hike, which meant hiking up three volcanoes in twenty-four hours. Scrotum to the totem is the way to be.
For some reason, even after popping NyQuil and melatonin twice, I could not sleep at all the night before volcano day. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it was the ghost of the iguana plaguing me. I have no idea. Point is, I rolled around in bed to the probable chagrin of the Canadian girl on bottom bunk for about eight hours and then went to climb this volcano twice, delirious as fuck.
A few people told me that you don’t go very fast on the volcano board, but climbing Cerro Negro was worth it in and of itself because it’s like walking into Mordor. Very true. It’s an incredible landscape with the black ash against the green grass and the blue skies. It looked like a barren cancer on the land, one that we’re going to pummel down on boards.
The hike itself wasn’t particularly difficult at all. Not very steep, the terrain was easy, and it took maybe 45 minutes to get up there. The issue is the wind. It is very windy standing that high up on the ridge of a mountain. It’s particularly hard when you also have a big slab of wood with you acting as completely unnecessary wings. Our group made it up in good time, nevertheless.
No action shots, but here’s one of me in my neon Ghostbusters jumpsuit and SNAZZY GOGGLES.
The reviews were true – you don’t go particularly fast. At first, I was speeding down, ash and volcanic crap flying everywhere. Then I realized that I wasn’t wearing my goggles, which were falling apart already and extremely scraped up and dirty. Putting them on resulted in a lot of blindness and tipping over and getting stuck in volcanic ash towards the end. There might be some technique to volcano boarding, but frankly, I didn’t think that I could go much faster than I did. The next time we went up, I opted to run down the volcano instead because (a) I wouldn’t have to carry that fucking board up, and (b) I can say I ran down the side of an active volcano. I ran without a jumpsuit or goggles, and I really wish I had a video because everyone looks incredibly silly running down since you sink into the ash and also cannot stop since it’s so steep.
My shoes are really not the best for hiking anything. They’re called the Minimalists, which is to say they’re glorified socks. Volcanic bits got in everywhere, and my socks are still coming out black almost a month later. Here are my feet post-running and boarding:
Quetzal Trekkers provides you with transportation, a snack after the first run and lunch after the second. A really upstanding group that I highly recommend. We made it back to Leon before 3PM, and after a very much needed shower, I attempted to powernap before we had to meet at 9:30 for the full moon hike. It was a failed attempt.