As far as we know, Leon in Nicaragua is the only place in the world you can slide down an active volcano on a piece of wood. It sounded great.
There is no shortage of tour companies and hostels offering volcano boarding in Leon. But for us there was only one choice, even before we arrived in Leon – Quetzaltrekkers. All their profits go to help local projects for kids, they are one of the cheapest outfits and as far as I know they are the only one to offer 2 attempts at the boarding.
On the morning of our trip we made our way over to Quetzaltrekkers where we were given our protective suit and water, and transported to the volcano. Don’t underestimate the trip – it’s only an hour but it’s very boring and uncomfortable in trucks with wooden benches so don’t expect any sleep.
Once there we signed in at the rangers station and drove on in. We were given a board and were shown how to carry it to avoid being swept off the volcano by the wind.
The trek was fairly tough almost straight away. Loose volcanic rocks and steep slopes, coupled with the awkward board made it extremely tiring. We also found out the instructors hadn’t been kidding about the wind – it was ferocious, and you certainly could be knocked over if you weren’t careful.
After around 45 minutes of trekking we reached the top, and put down our stuff to go and look into the volcano crater. Cerro Negro is active (last eruption 1999) but isn’t bubbling hot like the one we hiked in Guatemala – probably a good thing when you’re sliding down it on a piece of wood!
We changed into our protective gear and were shown the right technique on how to slide down.
Which I promptly forgot as soon as I began, putting my feet in the wrong place and not sliding at all. After a reminder by one of the instructors though I was away – except now I couldn’t keep balanced! I’d get up to a good speed and then career off sideways. It was frustrating but still quite fun.
Katy on the other hand took to it like a duck to water, I watched as she sped down the slope like a rocket. Unfortunately I was still trying to get out of my suit so only managed to get a few photos.
And that was it…if we’d gone with any other company. But as I mentioned, Quetzaltrekkers offered a free second run, which after my disaster I was well up for. Katy however, having mastered it first time, went back to the rangers station to chill in a hammock for a while, along with most of the rest of the group.
My excitement turned to dismay when I realised to do the second run we’d have to do the ENTIRE hike again – I had assumed you could go back up the slope, or there would be a shortcut. Nope.
So although I was shattered I had little choice but to do it. It was at least a bit quicker as we knew the route. I also got to chat to one of the English (volunteer) guides, who had recently been to see some of the charity projects in the area and experienced first hand how our money was helping.
And guess what? On the second attempt I nailed it! I didn’t stop or fall off once, and got a really decent speed going. Sadly our increasingly unreliable GoPro decided not to record it, so you’ll have to take my word for it! I’m not even sure Katy believes me.
We got back tired and with volcano dust EVERYWHERE. Seriously, we were still finding it in our ears days later. But it was worth it.
As mentioned, we booked with Quetzaltrekkers, and paid $30 US per person. This included the suit, board, water, transport and lunch – which was veggie burritos made al fresco, quite tasty.
We left the office at 8am, and returned back to Leon around 3.30/4pm.
Watch out for some operators claiming to be cheaper – one of the well known hostels in Leon is cheaper, until you have to pay the volcano entrance fee on top, which is included with Quetzaltrekkers.
Also we were told that some of the hostels concentrate on getting you to go as fast as possible which can be dangerous – with Quetzaltrekkers you could go as fast or as slow as you liked.
We went volcano boarding in Leon in March 2015.