Nicaragua: Volcano Boarding 

Three of the four people in our room wake up at 8am to be ready to go volcano boarding. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Boarding down a volcano. Though, honestly, it’s a little more like tobogganing. The fourth guy is too hungover to make it; meanwhile I am feeling better than ever about my decision to stick to water last night. We pay $31 American Dollars for the trip. It may seem a little pricey, but I’d heard $150 before I even arrived in Nicaragua, so now it sounds free by comparison.

We decide to grab a quick breakfast. I order a fruit parfait. It comes with honey on the side. There are flies in it. No, gracias.

The shuttle bus to the volcano picks us up at 9am, with about 40 other people from the hostel. It takes us over rural and bumpy roads, skimming the under brush of trees as it goes. Some of which drop small branches, spiders, ants, and other mystery bugs into the torn, open-roofed vehicle. I’m lucky and nothing giant falls on me, so I’m chillin’.

When we make it to the park, we pay another $5USD (or 140 Cordobas) for entry. We are handed boards, orange jumpsuits, and goggles from our bus, I apply 100SPF sunscreen twice, and shortly after we begin our trek to the top. The path is relatively rugged, covered in volcanic rocks and slippery black sand. The hike itself is not so hard, but carrying a wooden board and having to stay steady against the increasingly heavy winds makes for a bit of a challenge. Somehow I end up at the very front of the group for the majority of the hike, and am among the first 5 to the top. I attribute this to my sobriety and heavy hydration.

At the summit we take in the incredible view. Other volcanoes (some active, some dormant) surround us. Cerro Negro, where we stand, has not erupted since 1995, but I am told another volcano within our sight erupted two weeks ago. There is still some steam visibly floating off the top. Pretty. Damn. Cool.

 After taking some time to relax after the hike, we get ready to board. We envelop ourselves in these ridiculously large orange jumpsuits. Mine has a giant hole in the crotch, and many have mended patches sewn to them. They’ve been well used. After buttoning up our suits, tying our bandanas around our necks and faces, and securing our goggles, we take cautious steps towards the face of the volcano. Here, the stones are more fine and more similar to sand. I can feel the hot earth through the rubber of my shoes, heated by both the sun and the internal temperature of the volcano. It looks a lot steeper from up here than it did at the bottom. I may die.

Our guide goes skipping, literally skipping, midway down the mountain so he can snap some pics. I struggle to walk a foot without feeling like I may fall.

My turn comes and I start off slowly down the side. I’ve seen some people fall and lose their boards completely, which doesn’t look fun, because you have to go back for them. No, gracias. 

Using my feet as the only form of speed control, Volcanic dust kicks up around me as go down the hill at what feels like 100km hour, but is probably like 50, because the record is only 95.

Turns out my speed was clocked at 20km/h, HOWEVER, in my defence, the guy who measures your speed stands at the very bottom, and you definitely lose speed by this point. I promise I went faster than 20km down this volcano!! I am not the only one who felt their speed was illegit.

All 40-something of us are covered in black dust. I’m terrified that I’m burnt. I feel like I’m actually cooking, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. I need shade, and a shower. Pronto.

But instead, when we get back, there are mojitos waiting for us at the bar, and we’ve got about 20 minutes to finish them before hopping on the only shuttle bus of the day that goes to Las Penitas.

A 20 minute ride away, Las Penitas is a lazy coastal beach town. There’s another BigFoot, a sister hostel to the one we’ve just come from, and it has a big party scene, but Ilona, myself, and Tanner, another Canadian we met here, decide to walk down the street and stay at a more relaxed style of accommodation. It’s actually a pretty far walk. 20 minutes or so, but my backpack is light and the sun isn’t as hot so I’m not too bothered. We end up at Barca De Corsa and get a solar powered cabana for 870 Cordobas a night, so about $10USD each. It’s made of bamboo and you can see through the cracks of the walls and the floor. So what I’m trying to say is that it’s charming as hell and very affordable.

I still haven’t quite adjusted to Central American prices. Nicaragua is one of the cheapest countries down here, yet I am still expecting to pay $6 a night for a hostel and $0.50 for a beer. Realistically, beers are like $1.25 and $10 a night isn’t bad. It’s still a steal, but not Asia prices. Nothing will ever be Asia prices, and I need to accept this.

Dinner is mediocre. Nicaraguan cuisine is nothing to write home about. Kinda non-existent. Most menus cater to tourists and offer burgers. Ilona and Tanner each get some kind of mystery steak with a side of fries and rice, and I get a brutal sandwich. Their steak is superior… you win some you lose some.

Our plan to shower and get our lives in order doesn’t work out like we had hoped. The sun took a lot out of us today, (Ilona is actually burnt, I seem to have been spared) so we hang out in hammocks and chat most of the night with some casual beers. TOMORROW I’ll actually go out at night.

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