Volcano Boarding

Volcano boarding was as excellent as I imagined it would be!

About 25 of us pile into a shuttle truck and take the 45 minute drive over dusty, bumpy back roads to Cerro Negro. The volcano is one of Nicaragua’s youngest volcanoes and is still active, last erupting in 1999. It’s overdue to erupt again.

It’s 730 metres to the top and because of the various fitness levels and abilities of everyone on the tour, the climb took the better part of an hour over sometimes rocky terrain. We carried our boards and our bags, containing what can only be described as orange prison overalls, to the top.

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There’s a guy with a speed gun at the bottom clocking the times. The fastest time on record is 89km/h, which is VERY fast on what amounts to a toboggan.

The instructions are lean back, keep your legs out to the side, hold the toggle rope and whatever you do, DON’T put your hands down!! Also, don’t smile or yell whee as you speed to the bottom because you’ll get a mouthful of black rocks. It turns out it’s not black ash but tiny volcanic rocks.

And I’m off! Like grease lightening! I’m thinking I’m going to break the record…I can see the bottom…it’s amazing…and then I start to drift. And I try to get back on track, but I forget what he said about tapping which foot to get the board back to straight… and in my moment of glory I let the front of the board get low and it buries itself in the tiny rocks and I come to a dead stop. In the middle of the hill. Dreams of having bragging rights for the rest of the day totally destroyed.

The woman who started out next to me clocked a final speed of 70km/h. I, on the other hand, only managed 20 although I swear at the beginning I was FLYING. But not a total epic fail as at least I made it down with speed, which not everyone could say. And although she ended up with the fastest speed of the day, the woman beside me also came away with some major abrasions to her leg when she flew off her board at the bottom of the hill. Someone else took all the skin of her elbow. Except for having tiny rocks absolutely everywhere — hair, ears, nose — I was totally unscathed.

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But what a rush! The only bad thing is that you only go once. One shot at greatness and the adrenaline rush.

Everyone on the truck ride home was psyched. There was live music that night at my hostel so after showers all around, we all met up for dinner and a celebratory drink. A perfect end to the day.

Hiking the Gringo Trail

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday morning I was in a funk and a quandary. My surfing lessons had yet again been canceled, and I felt as though I´d done everything I wanted to do in Leon. However, when I contacted my hotel in Granada, they were all booked up so I couldn´t check in a day earlier (there´s a poetry festival going on and the cultural glitterati from all over Latin America are here in town). But, after some thought, I decided to wing it and leave Leon for the far more picturesque and less confrontational Granada. And so the journey of the taxi, bus to Managua, bus to Granada began. Bus stations here are, shall we say, a little frantic.

What I´m doing is called ¨hiking the gringo trail¨ because you keep running into the same people along the way. And it´s true, I keep seeing familiar faces heading in and out of the same places.

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Anyway, back to the hot and sweaty journey (but cheap!). Best roadside attraction on the way from Leon to Managua — a guy by the side of the road selling gigantic iguanas (tastes like chicken!). He´s holding them up by the tail — kind of like the Nicaraguan version of roadside corn or other seasonal produce. We didn´t stop, so I´ve no idea how much iguana costs by the pound. And they don´t seem to sell it in the La Union grocery store, which, by the way, is actually owned by Wal-Mart. There´s even a greeter. But no iguana.

So the bus drops us all off in Granada. In the middle of Central Square, which is totally bustling with musicians, people selling food, handicrafts, water, everything under the sun, kids playing, mothers yelling… I have NO IDEA where I am. And it seems like a bad idea to stand there with my rolly suitcase and pull out my map. So I ask another Gringa who speaks great Spanish just where the heck we are. She points it out on my little map and I´m like one block from Casa del Agua. So I roll my suitcase over there and get in for a cold drink and a quick sit. Gerry the owner gets me a $9 room across the street for the night because the Casa is full.

Ever wonder what a $9 a night room looks like? It looks just like what you´re thinking.

Double bed. Beside table. One fan. Ashtray.

Walls are paper thin, in fact I can see if someone turns the light on in the bathroom down the hall because the wall doesn’t quite reach the ceiling.

The disco bar, which was in full and glorious swing last night (hello! it´s Sunday people!! Does no one work tomorrow?), heavy on the bass and the patrons singing along, felt like it was right beneath me. The partying went full stop until midnight. As it turns out, the loudest guys from the bar then came into the hostel and had about two dozen beer between them (I stepped over the cans of beer this morning on my way out), talking over each other about their chicas (girls). Myself, I got a few hours sleep.

I also opted not to take a shower there this morning because I noticed beneath the shower head were two suspicious looking wires hanging down that once were held together with duct tape but now just hanging uselessly.

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Most excitingly, have set me up on a boat tour this afternoon of Las Isletas de Granada, a miniature archipelago of tiny tropical islands rife with birds, flowers, mansions (where the super-rich Nicas have their cottages), a Spanish fortress, a swimming area, and Monkey Island. I will not be getting too close to the monkeys, and I will hold on to my stuff because monkeys are generally thieves of the worst kind. But heck, how often do you get to go to a monkey island??

Tomorrow I´ll soar through the trees on a 17 platform canopy tour, and on Wednesday afternoon-evening, if a few more people sign up, I´ll be taking a walk into the heart of the earth via the Masaya volcano, getting to walk through lava tubes (whatever those are!!) while bats fly overhead. I think I´ll put my hair in a ponytail…

I doubt I´ll be signing a waiver for any of this. If I´m lucky there will be a helmet involved at some point…

So I´m happily doing the tourist thing again. But I STILL don´t have a tan.