Nicaragua had been on my travel wish list for quite a while. And I really wanted to climb volcano Cerro Negro, close to León. I love rough, colorful volcano landscapes and sandboarding of an active volcano seemed like a cool thing to do. Well…the scenery was gorgeous. But our climb of Cerro Negro was definitely not our finest moment.
I didn’t think this through. I jump out of the jeep and look up at the black, rocky, steep slopes of Cerro Negro. This is not going to be an easy hike. I take a look at the members of my tour group and my heart sinks. Everybody is under twenty (Nicaragua is firmly on the gap year map) and looks very fit. I, on the other hand, am not the fittest of people, and although I always manage (hell, I walked the W in Torre del Paine!), I need to take my time while climbing up. “People, take your sandboards!”, shouts our guide. Wait. Take our sandboards? I definitely did not think this through. Do we have to carry them ourselves? Well, how else did I expect the sandboards to reach the top? By escalator? I reluctantly take my huge, heavy board and start to climb the rocky path to the top of Cerro Negro.
Ten minutes later
Big, huge mistake. It’s windy, steep, hot and that stupid wooden board is not only heavy, but also unmanageable. We have to be careful, since the board catches a lot of wind. Sometimes the wind sweeps so fiercely over the ridge, I can see myself being blown off it. Our group apparently consists of professional athletes without any desire to photograph the spectacular scenery and panoramic views of the surrounding chain of volcanoes, so everybody is miles ahead of us. We take some time to take photos and try to ignore the feeling that we have to hurry, hurry! Every time we finally catch up with the group, the guide shouts: “OK, here we go!” and everybody speeds ahead again. It doesn’t take long before I’m all teary and very angry. Do we have to set some world record for fastest climb or something?
Thirty minutes later
I shamefully have to admit, that I’m the only one who’s not carrying her own board anymore. The guide finally took it. And I’m happy he did. The climb is hard enough as it is. In the distance, we see a small group climbing up the crater of Cerro Negro. That should be an amazing view! Then I look at my own group (far ahead) and see them taking a left turn at the end of the rim. They are not going to the crater, they’re going straight to the steep slope of Cerro Negro to prepare their sand boards. Dammit. I would have liked to see that crater. The scenery is so wild and colorful. If I could only stop for a few minutes to enjoy the view…But no, there’s more speedy climbing ahead of us!
Finally at the top
When we finally reach the top, half of our group has already sandboarded down. And suddenly I’m scared. I don’t want to rush anymore, I want to catch my breath and take my time going down that – very steep!- mountain. But since our guide is already shouting: “Hurry, hurry”, I decide to quit. I walk down Cerro Negro (which turns out to be way more scary than descend sitting down on a wooden board) and in minutes, I’m at the foot of the volcano. The black lava sand and pebbles are everywhere (including between my teeth), my legs and feet are totally black and I’m very cranky. “You know, I saw they also offered hiking tours to Cerro Negro, without the sandboarding”, says my boyfriend, equally cranky. “Then we could have seen the active craters.” Yes, well, that’s too late now. Our guide rushes us back into the jeep and we speed back to León. Where we resolve to taking long showers to remove all the black gravel and nursing our bruised egos back to health. Like I said: not our finest moment.