Apr 272014

After spending about a week in Leon I was constantly coming across thrill-seeking travellers that were here solely for some of the best volcano boarding in the world.  I resisted as long as I could but due to the ‘real’ surf not really happening at Playa Las Penitas, my rational was that I’d at least capture some beautiful scenery whilst I was there.

The imposing Cerro Negro Volcano

The imposing Cerro Negro Volcano

According to Wikipedia, Volcano surfing, also known as ash boarding or volcano boarding is a new sport, consisting of an erupted volcano and a thin Plywood or metal board.  Riders hike up the volcano and slide down, sitting or standing.

Volcano Surfing is considered an “extreme sport” with the danger of falling off and getting cut by the rough volcanic ash. Protective gear, like jump suits and goggles are used.

All suited-up for the 500 metre ride down at about 50mp/h

All suited-up for the 500 metre ride down at about 50 mp/h

I would have to agree that the Wikipedia description is indeed very accurate as I found out first-hand.  The Cerro Negro volcano has been one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, with its latest eruption occurring in 1999. Since its birth in 1850, it has erupted about 23 times.

Cerro Negro's largest crater.

Cerro Negro’s largest crater.

Central America has many volcanoes extending from Guatemala all the way down to Panama.  I guess I also felt somewhat guilty that I didn’t take time out to climb any volcanoes whilst in Guatemala or El Salvador so this was a good opportunity to cleanse myself of the guilt whilst boosting my adrenalin at the same time.

The 30-40 minute climb up to the peak of Cerro Negro.

The 30-40 minute climb up to the peak of Cerro Negro.

It was really impressive to experience the volcanic landscape.  I couldn’t believe how hot (and windy) it was at the peak.  You could literally cook a meal in the volcanic soil as it was too hot to touch for more than a few seconds.  The white magnesium that was also scattered across the black volcanic rock made for a picturesque contrast also.


After learning a little about the volcanoes history at the summit and taking in the views, it was time to get a safety briefing and instruction for the downward descent.  It all seemed very straight forward, use your feet to slow down and lean back to go faster.


I decided to take off last in our group.  The ride down lasts for about 45 seconds and starts with a 40-degree slope then progressing into a 45-degree slope for the second half.  Average speeds are 40-50 miles per hour.

The imposing view down from the take-off point.

The imposing view down from the take-off point.

When it was time for me to take off I started to get frustrated due to losing the tail of my board during the first 20-30 metres.  I guess I must have either been leaning to one side or using one foot more aggressively as a break than the other.  Somehow I managed to get it together and started to gain a great deal of speed, probably more than I wished for.

Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro moments before I lost control...

Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro moments before I lost control…

I could hardly see out of my goggles and the sound of the board grating along the volcanic ash at top speed was very daunting.  I knew I was going too fast and it was too late to start to use my feet for breaking but I had no option.


About 3/4 of the way down I lost control and did a few cartwheels before uncontrollably rolling down the rest of the volcano.  It was a surreal feeling and it felt like everything was going in slow motion.  I remember getting up at the bottom and checking myself out and to my surprise didn’t feel any major pain.

The rest of the crew told me not to move as they obviously had a better view of my wipeout than I did and probably feared I had hurt myself.  Fortunately apart from a small cut to my head and a mouthful of volcanic ash as I was okay.  The next few days I have felt a little sore but nothing a few ibuprofen couldn’t fix.

At this time I would like to formally announce my retirement from extreme sports.   Despite only having a short career, I have exhausted any luck I may have had and will spare myself any further pain or ego-bruising.

I’ll definitely stick with my 2 main passions of surfing and fishing from now on.

And on that note, today is sadly my last day in Nicaragua with a gruelling 30+ hour bus ride tomorrow all the way to Panama City.

If you are ever in Leon, I highly recommend staying at Latina Hostel, where the amazing host Paul will take care of your every need from organising Volcano Boarding to beach trips to cock-fighting and many parties and pub crawls.

Thank you so much Paul for being part of my soloworldtour

Oh what a feeling!

Oh what a feeling!

Apr 182014

It’s 9:00pm on Good Friday coming to you live and direct from Hostel Latina in Leon.  I’ve been here just over 24 hours and I’m ashamed to say I’ve made the executive decision to skip tonight’s beach party due to returning home at 5:00am this morning following last nights festivities.

One day in Leon has eclipsed seven days in Granada where I was literally bored out of my mind.  The novelty of the nicely painted churches and buildings wore off in about one hour and then I quickly found myself starting to go crazy surrounded by American retirees and older “tourists’ with very little in the way of nightlife or social scene.

Parque Central Granada

View from Parque Central (Grenada) looking at the main cathedral

Leon is definitely not as ‘pretty’ as Granada however I think that adds to its character.  It’s definitely got a younger feel here probably due to the large university campuses nearby.  There are a few good options for nightlife, some great street food around the Mercado and decent cafes and restaurants.

Catedral de León

Cathedral of León

Anyway I wanted to write a short post about my first experience spending a main public holiday outside Australia.  Apart from Christmas/New Years Eve, the Easter period is the holiday Australia shares with christian countries around the world.

For me personally, Good Friday has to be one of the most boring days of the year.  Due to not being an active follower of any religion I found the public holiday frustrating due to practically everything being closed.  There are not many people on the streets around town as most people obviously spend time with their loved ones at home or go away somewhere.

Sawdust carpet are layers of colored sawdust laid on the ground as decoration, traditionally to greet a religious procession which walks over it.

Sawdust carpet are layers of colored sawdust laid on the ground as decoration, traditionally to greet a religious procession which walks over it.

Nicaragua (and in particular Leon) is an entirely different kettle of fish.  Sure the country has a large christian community and like Australia many locals use the holiday to get away and enjoy themselves.  However that’s where the similarities probably end as I was pleasantly surprised today to find nearly all cafes and street vendors open business as usual.  Apart from banks and supermarkets being closed, you really wouldn’t think Good Friday was different to any other working day.


The streets were chock full of colour and activity today.  There were people everywhere from street vendors to families to people creating the customary sawdust carpets.  The Spanish bought this tradition to Central America and today I learnt these beautiful works of art are made of sawdust and other materials to greet the religious processions which march over the carpets later in the day.


In Central America the week leading up to Easter is known as Semana Santa.  Whilst the religious holiday is very important to many of the locals I really enjoy that the religious aspect is not ‘in your face’ as it is in many other places around the world.  As a non-follower of any religion it allows for one to appreciate the cultural aspect at their own pace.

For me today had a strong community and social feel to the day than any religious significance (even though visually it was very much visible).  It was such a great experience to see how other parts of the world celebrate holidays of special significance and definitely is a big bonus for any travel plans that coincide.


And on that note it’s time for me to get some much-needed sleep! Wishing all my friends around the world a happy holiday period and for my christian friends a Happy Easter.