Up at 6:00 after a chilly night. Get dressed and down to a breakfast of fruit and papaya. The hotel clerk gives us a coupe extra waters and off we go to the hotel we were at last night which is to be the pickup for the day.
We were supposed to meet at 8:00 and no one showed, so we wandered around to several tour places asking if they were the ones – but no luck. We took a walk and visited a local Catholic Church where mass was being said, but only stayed a minute or two. At about 8:45 the truck shows up! About 20 people on the open truck – mostly young women and Kitty and I were the oldest by far!
We drove for about an hour out of the city and into some very poor village areas. Then on dusty black dirt roads, then on a very narrow track where the bushes on the side or the road scraped the side of the truck. We saw a smoking volcano off in the distance – one of a line of volcanoes that have been erupting on and off since the Europeans have settled here – and probably before. We got to the base of Cerro Negro (the Black Volcano) and were issues our gear – goggles, a cover suit, heavy gloves, an a volcano board.
There were six or seven other groups there – both before and after us. Our equipment was a bit bedraggled (ripped coveralls, gloves with fingers missing, pitted goggles, scratched boards) but some groups were dressed to the max! Bright colored jumpsuits (with elastic closers on ankles and wrists) that matched their freshly painted boards, clear goggles, and helmets! Of well, the joys of a cheap tour.
We got our packs and loaded the boards behind us – then got our first briefing. The volcano last erupted in 1999 and before had done so every 15 years or so, In the early 1990s a French guy set a record by riding a bike down the slope at 176 kph – and broke about half his bones in doing so. But others got the idea and volcano boarding was born! I guess there was a pause during the eruption, but not sure.
The volcano is about 450 meters up from where we were. We could see the various groups in their colorful outfits following the trail to the top. Kitty and I realized we were in trouble when we saw we were the only ones in sandals – and there were many many small rocks… We tucked the boards behind our backs held up by the packs with our gear so we looked a bit like Buzz Lightyear! After a group picture off we went!
The first part wasn’t too bad – well laid path with large rocks – some apparently brought in as they didn’t seem volcanic – but it was quite up… Made it to the first break without too much trouble, but it started getting quite windy b- and the boards were like sails. The oath got less defined and more volcanic – with tiny bits of pumice that got between your foot and sandal. Since my feet are quite tender it was quite painful so I kept kicking against rocks to dislodge as many of the pebbles as I could.
By the time we hit the second break spot I was quite winded – not enough time on the treadmill! Kitty was doing better than me but was having some trouble as well. I tried to keep going but finally had to lighten my load – and one of the guides took my board for me. That helped a lot but I was still struggling.
But both of us kept going and when we reached the top the rest of the group was wandering around looking at the sights – a long range of volcanos. We did a bit then got dressed in out jumpsuits and looked down the slope – about a half mile at over a 70+ percent slope. Kitty was a bit worried but when we saw some folks going down very slowly was reassured, The fastest time down the slope was 26 seconds. The slowest was 28 minutes!
We headed off with our group and went down to the start point – but there were a lot of groups there. Some folks going down very slowly, others zipping along. One guy tried to snowboard and fell, Several folks tumbled just with the normal run. It then was our groups turn and one of the guides would signal when the run was clear. We headed down one by one and all were OK. Kitty headed off before me and did her best to go as fast as she could – and was quite good! My turn came and I went fairly fast but went off the track which slowed me down quite a bit. It was quite interesting to steer with your feet and lean back to go faster. Bits of pumice were thrown up and the dust was quite thick. Seemed like I was going 25 miles and hour! And I didn’t flip over. It took over an hour to get to the top but only about 45 seconds to go down. Quite a rush!
Then back to the truck and some fruit snacks, then a very dusty ride back to town. Kitty and I looked a bit like coal miners with grime everywhere. Our feet were quite black! We were taken to a local bar where we all had a beer – my first alcohol in four months! Then we walked back to the hotel – only about six blocks.
Back at the hotel we had hot (well, warm) water! Shower felt really good – and the water running off was quite black. I had bits of pumice in my hair, ears, and nose. Clothes were also quite full. But we got cleaned up and took a short break, then headed out to look for an ATM.
Down the street the hotel was on through the market – still going strong. We couldn’t find the ATM we were looking for but circling around the block we found another. We got out 800 colones – or about $25. Then we went to a restaurant next to the central park for a traditional Nicaraguan dinner – chicken, rice, beans, and salad. While there the Cathedral bells would chime every 15 minutes for about two minutes at a time!
Wandered around the park for a bit and saw many murals about the Sandinista revolution – Leon was a center. Stopped in a bakery for some cake and chocolate, then, as it was getting late, we headed back to the hotel.
A very busy and interesting day!