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Cerro Negro

up and down into the Cerro Negro volcano
On the horizon just NE of León, Nicaragua, you can make out the giant black mound of Cerro Negro--Central America's youngest volcano. Until 1850, there was NOTHING here! Since then it's erupted dozens of times--coating the surrounding countryside and towns with ash and sand...So, from 'nothing' to 728 m (2,388 ft) high in just a few generations. And, perhaps foolishly, many visitors hike up and down into the crater. I went too. ("Look--everyone else is doing it!") One popular activity is to climb up with a beater surfboard, and then to SURF DOWN the loose pumice slope! Just don't fall...Scientists monitor the volcano carefully, but there's no barrier (other than common sense) to keep you from entering the sulfurous crater...for now.

"Picasso" depicts volcano-surfing
León, in the hot NW of Nicaragua, is known for its colonial architecture and murals from the Sandinista era. This, however, is a decidedly apolitical wall-painting.

Not partisan, but definitely of dubious recommendability.

The nearby Cerro Negro volcano has become a somewhat popular place for thrill-seekers in Central America; you hike up the black sand volcano (which is active, by the way) with a beater board and then surf down the hot slope.

One of the city's main advertising/painting businesses proudly displays its name on the wall of this hostel: Picasso. No cubism here--just hot good times.

Boarding Down Central America's Youngest Volcano
We thought we were just going for a hike through a rain forest to the top of a volcano. It turns out that our pre-arranged tour took us to the top of Central America's youngest volcano located in Nicaragua: Cerro Negro. The active Cerro Negro volcano initially formed in 1850 and last erupted in 1999.
The hike up was hot, sweaty, and completely exposed to the sun. However, the view at the top was worthwhile. We took photos of the steam vents, smelled sulfur, and could dig into the damp volcanic ash to feel the volcanic heat still radiating on the summit. I worried that the soles of my shoes might melt!
To get down, we had to volcano board. Each group member carried a snowboard-shaped wooden board with a sheet of metal adhered to the back. Most folks used their board as a sled; but a few opted to try the activity standing up.
The hike up was about 1.5 hours while the trip down took less than five minutes of sliding on the fine black volcanic gravel. While the tour outfitter provided protective clothing, gloves, and safety glasses, everyone was filthy and black with ash at the bottom!
This was not quite the pleasant rainforest hike we anticipated, but we would certainly recommend the Cerro Negro volcano boarding tour to anyone else who visits Nicaragua!

Hike Up An Active Volcano
A 45-minute winding and windy hike leads you to the eerily peaceful summit of the "black hill". I loved the signs reminding folks of the way to evacuate should the young active volcano decide to act up. Although, the quicker escape is probably to take the volcano board and clock the fastest time possible down the other side!

Boarding down an active volcano
Boarding down Cerro Negro - an active volcano - in Nicaragua was one of the most fun and scariest things I've ever done. It only costs $30, so if you're in the area you should definitely try it out. Read all about it on my blog: