We are lost. (How many of our blog posts begin this way?) Its getting close to dusk…we are in the middle of nowhere. There are days we are very well-researched; plans complete with camping site and a dinner blueprint. Other days, we just go and hope to figure things out along the way. These are usually the best days - but they always come with a small sense of risk.
What if we don’t find a place to camp? What if the area doesn’t feel safe? What if the car breaks down? The what-ifs. They still creep in. They are demons that have fought their way through exorcism after exorcism. The heaviest baggage we carry is our bag of “what-ifs.”
We were driving from Somoto to León. As usual, Karin and I are slow-verlanders. We spent the morning sipping our coffee and playing with Gracie; as if we didn’t have a 5 hour drive ahead of us. As the day grew long, I started looking at camping and airbnb options in León. It was slim-pickings for anything in our price range that was pet-friendly. There were no camping options at all. I opened the ioverlander app on my phone to look for suggestions.
Camp on the side of an active volcano? Yes, please. Volcano boarding? HELL YES. We drove the long dirt road towards the volcano, unsure of what to expect or exactly where we were. Where we were was a tropical desert in the middle of nowhere.
We pulled in front of a makeshift gate with a sign that said, in both Spanish and English, “Cerro Negro: The youngest active volcano in the world.”
We asked the guard if we could camp for the night and he directed us to an area outside the gate under some trees. The first thing we noticed when we got out of the car was that our air conditioning had dramatically masked the scorching, hell is cooler, heat. Hotter than we had experienced up to this point. The second thing that occurred to us was that, in our failed planning, we had not stopped to fill up the water tank. We had just enough for Gracie but not enough for us. And did I mention it was unbearably hot?
We started to look again at options in León, which was about an hour away. Just as we decided to just go to Leon and figure it out when we got there, we noticed that we had a completely flat tire. It was 5:00. I guess we were camping after all.
Karin pulled out the ARB tire repair kit, turned on the air compressor and got to work. A few minutes later, a lanky young man with dreds came up to us and offered to help. He was wearing a tank-top that said “Today is Going to be a Volcano Day.” His name was Yelman.
The tire was finally repaired but at this hour, we were going nowhere. We set up camp and spoke with the worker in the office about renting gear to go volcano boarding in the morning.
Yelman showed up again and told us about the company he worked for, Volcano Day, based in Leon. The price was close to what it would cost us just to rent the gear and enter the park ourselves and also came with a t-shirt, a beer and what turned out to be much-needed assistance carrying the 14-pound board up the side of the volcano. (its harder than you think – a steep climb, on jet black volcano gravel, with steam shooting out of rocks all around you). Sold!
We made arrangements to meet the company the next morning, made some dinner, enjoyed the sunset and went to bed.
The Volcano Day van pulled up next to our truck the next morning right on schedule. There were about 20 people in our boarding group and several guides. We were the oldest two people in the group, by at least 15 years. Whatever. We were handed a small carry bag containing our gear – a gravel and heat-resistant body suit, goggles and gloves and our volcano-board. A long, narrow, heavy (did I mention heavy) board, that we would carry up the volcano and ride down.
We hiked to the top of the volcano and I have to admit, I struggled. I love to hike but I’m not great at it and in a group of people can usually be counted on to come in last. This was a short but difficult hike. The Volcano Day guides couldn’t have been any nicer or more patient. When we finally made it to the top, I felt an indescribable sense of accomplishment that subsided only with the reality that now, we had to go back down. Faster. Much faster.
We got into our gear, had a quick demonstration and off we each went. It was exhilarating!! I learned immediately that the only way to go fast and to really have fun, was to just let go and let the board do the work. Just. Let. Go. Of everything – of fear, of the what-ifs, of everything. This is a once in a lifetime experience. What good is a once in a lifetime experience if you don’t EXPERIENCE it? I’ve been thinking about that a lot, lately – the difference between experiencing the world and controlling it…another topic, another day. This was VOLCANO DAY!!
IT WAS SO AWESOME!
We ended the day by following the Volcano Day van back to Leon and joining our new friends for beers at a local bar. As with any great accomplishment, we were both filthy, covered in black volcano ash from head to toe, sweaty, stinky and as proud and happy as you can imagine.
Thanks for reading and as always, if you feel like buying us a beer or gas to support our trip and help us continue on, you can click the link on our About Us Page.