Cerro Negro volcano boarding!
Another crazy fun activity coming up... I honestly didn't know what to expect of today, so it was a case of going with it and seeing what happened. I did know a little about the activity, having included it in one of my own tours in my previous life at Explore. We risk assessed it and eventually took it out of the itinerary. Even G Adventures don't make a big song and dance about it in their tour literature. I realised sledding down an active volcano with no helmet and just a piece of plywood was going to be interesting, but YOLO right! And yes, they make you sign a waiver so, if you get injured, it's on you to sort out. I don't think any of our insurance policies covered us though.
We woke up at 4am to leave the hotel by 5am, driving via the capital Managua and on to Leon arriving at Bigfoot Hostel and Volcano Boarding around 7:30am. The craziness wasn't beginning until 9am so we chilled out in the lobby eating and drinking and catching up on sleep!
Ok, 3 reasons why you have to try this experience:
1) You get an free awesome volcano boarding vest
2) Your guide takes all the pics for you so you don't have to carry a camera - and then they load them onto Facebook and you can download for free
3) It's an incredible adrenaline rush and great for dinner party conversation once you return home!
It's quite a build up to the main event. We had a briefing at the hostel before an hour's truck ride to the volcano - Cerro Negro, the world's most active cinder cone apparently. Then it was another trek up the volcano (which was the last thing I wanted to do, believe me) in the heat of the day carrying our free litre bottle of water in a back pack they give you and you also have to carry your board. I paid a porter 5 dollars to carry mine. It was hard enough dragging myself up the 800m in 45 minutes - loose rocks underfoot, strong winds - I'm getting deja vu! Another briefing later about technique and we were sporting our orange jumpsuits and green googles. Yes, that's the only equipment you get. Oh, and you shove your backpack and water bottle down your jumpsuit. The board has a thin layer of metal on the underside and at one end, there's a piece of formica plastic glued on to the metal giving you extra speed - should you want it. The plastic gets replaced daily as it burns right off. We had a massive group of people with us so it took ages for everybody to take turns. That added to the excitement and uncertainty. By the time it was my go, I was a bag of pent up "let's do this!" I wasn't out to break any records (95kms - you must be kidding); my priority was, first and foremost to enjoy the ride and, to do that, I was going to stay on. I was determined to stay on! We were just over halfway through the tour. We still had El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to discover. I didn't want to break anything and jeopardise that! So I grabbed my rope handle and 37km it was. They speed trap you on the last 100m, that's how I know. The 800m descent was over in a flash BUT I stayed on and no injuries other than being covered top to toe in volcanic ash and having pebbles in my pants! About two thirds of the way down, you start to speed up, despite digging my heels in - and that was hairy. I suddenly saw bigger stones and, hitting one, nicely "spot on" I'd like to add, I took off a little on the board and flew just a teeny bit. Talk about an adrenaline rush. My board tended to veer to the right and there was nothing I could do about it. That's when I thought I might tip. Kind of a welcome distraction - to keep on course and upright. I put it down to being all part of the experience! Try it, if you dare. Only 25 dollars. Bargain.
And lastly, a shout out for our guide Emily, who was brilliant. Loved it when she ran down the volcano at the end, never missing a step. How on earth?!!!
Photos courtesy of Bigfoot Hostel and Volcano Boarding.
Because our group had been so large, we didn't get back to the hostel until gone 3pm. Mojitos awaited us (good times) and we'd already had beers on the truck ride back. Still heady from the adrenaline and alcohol, we jumped in our van which took us down to the small harbour, where we caught a 10 minute boat ride across the water. It should have taken minutes, but they have to navigate the sand banks. From there we had to walk about 15 minutes to our next stop, the Surfing Turtle in Poneloya. I hadn't clocked it was a hostel and we were all sharing one big dorm. I'd envisaged cute little beach huts. Ok... it was fun, but thank goodness only for two nights. Communal showers and bathrooms too. Can you tell this was my first hostel type experience... Aside from the "all bunking in together" shock, the staff were lovely and friendly, the food - big portions and delicious and the drink plentiful. They didn't know what a Gin and Tonic was, but hey, it didn't matter.
At the Surfing Turtle, we had the big dorm room above the Reception and bar area and then there were about 4 or 5 beach huts on either side of us. There's a campsite on the other side. Just about got WiFi in the dorm, but much better signal downstairs and on the beach. Lots of charging points dotted around, even in the bathrooms. The showers and bathrooms are in good condition and kept clean and tidy. The place runs on solar power so no electricity from 10pm until 6am. Make sure you have a torch for any night time toilet trips because it is pitch black. The waves from the Pacific criss cross so you have to be careful you don't get dragged. You'll fall asleep to them crashing in. The volley ball tournament was a lot of fun and they're very conscientious of keeping the beach clean. Turtles nest there during the season Nov to Mar, but sadly we just missed out.
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Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.