I said I wouldn’t do it. In fact I had decided I wouldn’t do it. I had heard the stories from other travellers, and had seen the unsightly scars that went with them. I was not going to get on a sled and scoot down the side of a volcano.
Well after speaking to a tour guide – who went to great lengths to reassure me that I could go as slowly as I wanted to – I changed my mind. After all, when would I ever get another chance to get on a sled and scoot down the side of a volcano?
So the next day I found myself scaling Cerro Negro, a volcano just on the outskirts of Leon. It is still active, and when it last erupted in 1999 it coverd itself, and most of Leon, in a layer of black ash and fine gravel. The ash is the reason you’re able to slide down, though there are enough rocks to make it very uncomfortable if you come off.
The boards we were given weren’t exactly high-tech pieces of sporting equipment with advanced steering and brakes. The boards were just a plank of wood with a piece of polished metal nailed to the underside. Steering was by leaning left or right, the brakes were our feet. Easy enough.
The hike up to the start point took 45 minutes, which wasn’t exactly an easy stroll with wooden planks strapped to our backs. Huffing and puffing we reached the top where, after a few snaps of the view, it was time to suit up in our dashing protective gear. Then we were ready to go.
I watched as two others set off before me, sliding at what seemed a surprisingly sedate pace. A and I were up next. I settled on my board, held on to the rope grip, pushed off…pushed off again…and again…and finally the board began to move and pick up speed.
With tiny pieces of gravel flicking past me, it felt like I was tearing down the slope. But I’m under no illusions that I was any kind of speed demon. To be honest on the first run down, my one and only concern was staying on the board. I even tore up part of my trainers, so firmly were my heels dug into the ground. No matter, it was brilliant fun to fly down a volcano , spraying ash and dust in my wake. (And no, that isn’t me in the picture, but you get the idea…)
At the bottom of the slope we were then invited up again for a second run. Forty-five minutes later and we were there. This time I was determined to go faster (but not too much faster) so I made a conscious effort to keep my heels up, and even dared to lean forward every so slightly. A decided to take it one step further, standing up on his board and literally surfing it down the slope. Show off.
Despite having to wash my hair twice (under a cold shower) to get all the gravel and dust out, volcano boarding was a blast. It was absolutely worth the 45 minute hike – twice – for the exhilerating 45 second ride. And even better, when people ask me what I’ve been up to, I get to say: “Oh you know, volcano boarding…. You?”