A big orange truck pulls up outside Bigfoot Hostel in Leon, Nicaragua and 25 people, including me, start piling up inside the ex-military vehicle. Some have to sit in the water cooler, because it is a bigger group than usual. I get the corner seat – good for snapping pictures. Soon, I realize, picture-taking in this bumpy ride will be hard task.
The road to Cerro Negro is a rough, uneven drive. The hike up will leave me painfully breathless. And the slide down will be completed on a wooden board at nearly 30 kilometers per hour.
The sand-surfing boards piled in the back of the truck could easily pass for wooden planks with a thick rope. In fact, the first time anyone sand-surfed they used a refrigerator door, so minimalist technology is required. What is needed, are orange overalls and laboratory glasses to prevent serious damage – small damages are intended. It’s part of the thrill.
I sling my orange bag across my shoulder – the thin strap is uncomfortable and pulls on my shoulders. The board is the same width as me and the wind is pushing us both all over the place. Heavy breathing and complaining begins. But as we get to the peak, I am not even thinking about my aching body parts – the view blows me away (quite literally actually).
Battling the strong wind, we manage to put our jumpsuits on. The glasses are covered with a thick film of sand – I can barely see anything. Marco, our tour guide, personally explains the process of sliding down this active volcano to everyone. I take off. I start speeding up. I forget some of the things Marco told me like bringing my legs to my side and balancing. When I do bring my legs out, I am a little too fast for my vertigo and tumble down this volcanic hill (Jack and Jill, anybody?) and get a chest-full of volcano rocks in my overalls.
There is a “aawhhh” from the top of the hill. More embarrassed than hurt, I get back on the board and try a round two – slower and more balanced this time.
It’s a tall hill and a steep slide that lasts almost a minute. Then I stand aside and watch in awe as people gracefully slide down without tripping, tumbling or falling.
I’d love to do it again, and do it correctly.