In Central America, a little way south of the border between Honduras and Nicaragua lies the university town of León. What is there to do in León? One of the most bizarre extreme sports I've ever come across - volcano boarding.
- Step 1: Hike for one hour up the side of the active Cerro Negro volcano carrying a wooden board.
- Step 2: Reach the 2388 ft high summit and peer over the edge.
- Step 3: Question life for a second, and why you would ever agree to fling yourself down the side of an active volcano, let alone pay for the experience.
- Step 4: Don a Guantanamo orange jumpsuit and ski-style goggles.
- Step 5: Position your board on the ash and rocks, sit down, and cling on to the tiny rope handle. Ready?
- Step 6: Push off. Remember, try not to open your mouth unless you want a mouthful of rocks and ash!
Volcano boarding didn't come about by accident. In 2005, an Australian tour guide moved to Nicaragua and saw an opportunity. Back home, he grew up sand boarding and wondered if the same technique could be applied to a volcano. He trialled everything from mattresses to fridges to front doors. Nothing accumulated speed quickly enough, so he decided to create his own volcano board. Not dissimilar to a snowboard or skateboard in style, this board is wooden with a metal and formica base to increase speed when in contact with the volcano's surface.
There is no track down the volcano, just a small groove in the ash from that day's previous volcano boarders. The rest is up to you to control! Speed is increased by lying back as flat as possible. Steering is done by placing your left or right foot out and digging in gently to the rocks. The goggles protect you from some of the rocks flying at your face, but you can still expect to be pretty grubby by the end!
So what does it feel like? It's a massive adrenaline rush, particularly if you're not into extreme sports. It requires control and concentration, but that makes it more of an achievement when you make it to the finish line. As you pick up speed, you can't help but think what a crazy thing you are doing! How many people do you know who have volcano boarded?
Towards the base of the volcano two guys wait with a speed gun ready to record your speed. By that point I had fallen off four times, filled my board up with rocks, and almost ground to a halt. Well, if 24 kph is grinding to a halt! The record speed that day was 65 kph. I left relieved I had survived and wearing the t-shirt to prove my bravery. At only $30 USD it wasn't a huge price to pay for an experience very few people will have in their lives.
It's a must do activity if you're in the area, and I'm glad I did it, but I can't say I'll be getting back into an orange jumpsuit anytime soon!
Find out more about Volcano Boarding in León here.
Chloe blogs at Wanderlust Chloe.