Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
284Trip End Ongoing
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It had been a while since I had done anything crazy so I was really looking forward to it. It was also going to be the first volcano I had climbed since being in Central America and it was long overdue! I was in such a rush to get to the truck that I had forgotten to put sun cream on and I knew I'd regret that later.
The journey to the volcano was along some really picturesque roads and little settlements and put me in a really good mood. Nicaragua was turning out to be my favourite Central American country and i had only been there 2 days. Couldn't wait to see what else it had to offer.
When we arrived at the volcano we were all a bit overwhelmed. It looked unbelievably steep and the prospect of sliding down it on a plank of wood suddenly seemed a little foolish but there was no way that I wasn't going to give it a go. Got all our stuff together and set off to start the climb.
To get to the top we had to follow a winding path so it wasn't really a difficult climb but I was still quickly out of breathe and had to take breaks often. Luckily everyone else was struggling as well. When we got to the lower edge of the crater we stopped and our guide from the hostel gave us a little speech about the volcano. Turns out it is one of the newest and most active volcanos and has erupted a couple of times in the last decade. If there was a sudden eruption we would only have 20 minutes to get to a safe distance! Quite a worrying scenario when you are looking down into a crater with sulphurous steam pouring out! I plan to go to a really active volcano in Costa Rica with jets of lava spewing so this is a bit tame really.
After the short talk we slowly made our way round to the highest point of the crater. It was so windy that staying upright was almost impossible which made it a very slow climb. Stashed our boards at the top and carried on walking to get a better view of the crater. A couple of people ran down into the centre but most of us just walked around and took a few pictures. If you dug a small hole in the sand with your hands it was boiling underneath! Far to hot to even sit on the ground.
When the people returned from the centre of the crater we walked back to the boards to get the fun underway. To say everyone was nervous was an understatement! We were perched about 400 metres up, sitting on a small plank of wood and had to go over the edge! It looked even steeper from the top but I had to do it. After a short test run we were all ready to go.
After the first person set off slowly from the top we were all a little more relieved and eager to go. The instructor singled me out to go down the "speed ramp" and I thought why not! Gave me a push start and I was soon hurtling down the volcano at nearly 30kmph! It was absolutely incredible! To go faster you had to lean back so I let it go as fast as possible. I was halfway down within about 15 seconds and had to grind to a halt. The board was getting buried in the sand and I started to veer sideways. Quickly unburied myself and was soon flying down the slope again trying to dodge the big rocks that were in my path.
All to soon it was over and I was sitting at the bottom waiting for the rest to have their turn. Everyone really enjoyed it apart from one girl who decided not to warn the guide that she was petrified of heights. We were all waiting wondering what was going on when she started walking down the volcano! She had a panic attack at the top and couldn't ride down. The guide was furious with her and I probably would have been in his situation too. Our guide had made a snowboard style board and was testing it for the first time today. A lot of people had been asking recently if it was possible and after this first test run I'd say it'll be on offer soon. Just a few steering teething problems to fix and I'm sure it'll be great.
I knew when we got to the top that the sun had got to me. I was sunburnt to hell and couldn't wait to get back for a lie down. They had told us to leave anything we didn't need in the truck but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else as Dave had his sandals stolen whilst we were climbing!
Our guide decided to give us another rush on the way back to the hostel by driving like a maniac along the dirt track road. I enjoyed it but I don't think many of the others in the back did as it wasn't exactly that comfortable. For the next few hours after all the excitement I had to have a siesta. I was burning up with sun burn and it was the hottest day so far in Central America. 37C is far too hot to enjoy sightseeing so everyone just crashed on their beds and waited until late afternoon to resurface. I've decided that the ideal temperature is 32C max/24C min, in other words Darwin in the dry. Hot enough to enjoy the heat and warm enough at night so that you can still walk around in shorts/t-shirt.
By 6pm the temperature had cooled down significantly (and my sunburn wasn't as bad) so I set off to wander around the town to see what it had to offer. Lots of nice cathedrals like all of the other colonial towns but I liked it. There was an unhurried atmosphere in the air that I liked but 2 days in Leon was more than enough and we'd be leaving for Granada tomorrow, yet another colonial town. If you're in Leon I'd definitely recommend the Big Foot hostel! Very laid back and much nicer than some of the hostels I've stayed.