If you live where the white stuff falls, you’ve no doubt gone snow sledding. For a whole new take on sledding, you simply must try barreling down the side of a volcano. The best place for it is in Leon, Nicaragua. There are several tour groups that will take you to Cerro Negro to ride a board down a volcano, but we think we found the best one! Quetzeltrekkers! They are a nonprofit that organizes tours in Guatemala and Leon, Nicaragua. As an added bonus, the money from the tours goes directly into programs to help children in Guatemala and Nicaragua.
One of the programs they fund was started in Leon by local women who recognized the problem of the increasing number of “street children.” The women who sell goods in the market began to offer activities to the kids such as organized games. Little by little the kids began to come off the streets, away from the lure of drugs and other negative influences. The mighty effort from these women grew from a small space in the market to a building with educational and fun activities. As a result, the number of children aimlessly and dangerously (to them) roaming the streets has gone down significantly. Taking the volcano boarding tour on Cerro Negro with Quetzeltrekkers helps support this fantastic community effort. And the bonus is it’s the same price ($30) as going with a for-profit outfit such as Big Dogs. AND! Quetzeltrekkers provides water, lunch, pays the $5 admission to the volcano (Big dogs tour price is $25 but you have to pay the $5 yourself and they do not provide water or lunch!), and you can go down the volcano twice because they group size is generally smaller (we had 4 in our group) compared to the 25 or more people signed up with the big dog). Anyway, enough said…go with Queteltrekkers I loved them!
The tour starts by riding in the back of a tarp covered pick up truck (with cushy bench seats) to the base of the volcano. There is a lot to see on the way!
When you get there you look up and immediately regret signing up to go volcano boarding. It’s like looking up at a giant snow mountain, seeing the highest ski slope and saying….No way! That is crazy high and steep! (In the pic below you can just barely make out the boarding trail just left of center) I am taking the picture from where we start the trek up the volcano to get to the top. It’s about an hour hike up. And up. And up…
But then the guide (all volunteers) hands you a board and a bag with a special suit to reduce road rash in the event you crash, googles and gloves (like gardening gloves) and you just start walking…and walking….and walking.
Eventually you come across the one side of the volcano and the wind really picks up. Hurricane like winds! It’s tricky to carry your board, not get blown off the side, and hold onto rocks, etc. as you pick your way up the barely visible trail. The guide offered to carry someone’s board for the last (most windy) third, and without shame I shoved that board right into his hands! I had 20 years on everyone else in the group so I took old lady rights to assistance. lol
We made it to the top and could look into the crater. Cerro Negro is an active volcano with the last erruption in 1999. (I think). You don’t see lava, but if you dig a mere inch (with gloves or your shoe) into the rock ash you can feel the extreme heat and see steam coming through.
No more stalling, it’s time to put on the fancy suit and zip down a volcano on a four foot by one foot piece of wood.
You ride it like a tobogan. The bottom back (under where you sit) has a piece of formicaa across it . This is what slides on the volcanic rock. If you pull up on the front of the sled and lean back, you go fast…really really fast. It can take less than 30 seconds to ride down! I went about medium and I think it took about a minute and a half. Rhi, who is from Tennessee, and never went snow sledding before, got the instructions reversed and leaned forward and pushed down on the front of the sled. It took her about 5 minutes to get down mostly by using her hands and feet to push herself along. Determined to do it right, she hiked all the way back up with the guide (who, fortunately, carried her board) and this time rode down like a pro! The rest of us were too pooped to hike back up, so we lounged around on the hammocks.
When Rhi was done the guide popped open a cooler and presented a fantastic lunch. Tortillas, beans, crushed dorito like chips, and a fresh veggie combo of cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, carrots and onion. It was delicious! So delicious that we adopted it as our own and made it several more times on our adventure through Central America.
Audrey and Rhiannon – Thrill seeking Independence Day travelers!