91. León, Nicaragua - Volcano Surfing

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September 26, 2007

Not until we had hiked for 30 minutes to reach the summit, did the guide from Bigfoot Adventures tell us that Volcano Cerro Negro had historically erupted on a seven year cycle, had last erupted in 1999, and was thus now more than a year overdue.

Volcano Cerro Negro, or Black Mountain Volcano, is about a 45-minute drive from León, one of Nicaragua’s famed colonial cities.

Bigfoot Adventure, which is owned by an Aussie who also operates Bigfoot Hostel in the centre of León, touts themselves as the only "volcano surfing" (or "volcano boarding") operation in the world.

For $20 a person, Bigfoot's volcano adventure tour includes transportation to the base of the volcano, use of a custom made wooden toboggan (they have two employees working 40 hours a week building and re-building the boards), an orange prison-garb jumpsuit, a pair of safety goggles and some thick gloves.

As we ascended up the mountain with our gear, we had stopped to take a look at the backside of a crater that had been blown out the last time the volcano erupted. The sulfur gas steaming from the vents was so strong that we could hardly breathe.

At the top of the black volcano, a barren moonscape, we had far reaching views of the nearby volcanoes that were surrounded by endless green fields, and even a sliver of the Pacific Ocean.

It was also only at the top that the guide divulged that on average one out of every 10 “surfers/boarders” is bleeding by the time they reach they bottom.

(She also said that just the week before, another guide had had her cell-phone hit by lightning while on top of the volcano.)

With this information racing through our heads, we mounted our boards and prepared for the ride: a 400 metre drop, at a 40-degree angle, down the side of the volcano on fine black sand.

In order to get the optimum ride, we were advised to mimic the stance of a bull-rider - one hand on the rope, the other in front of our face. Easier said then done when you are speeding down the side of a volcano for the first time.

Adrienne managed to follow the instructions and her ride (on video below) drew rave reviews from the guide. Adrienne now wishes she went faster, though.

Mine? Let’s just say I made it to the bottom without drawing blood.

Key Facts & Figures:

-Volcano Boarding, Bigfoot Adventures: $20/person
-Volcano entrance fee: $2/person