This is going back a few years but Ian over at eager existence wrote a post about having a birthday aboard. I thought I would share my own experience of having my 28th birthday while in Nicaragua.
It was Sunday morning and I didn’t feel any older. I had no plans for the day but was energized to make the most of a situation that would not repeat itself. I was celebrating my 28th birthday in Managua Nicaragua and I wanted one thing. Adventure.
I called my coworker to see if his day was free. “Totally clear” he replied and he still had the van rented from earlier this week. Already things started coming together. I grabbed a bunch of brochures from the hotel lobby and began scanning. I’m intercepted by an ad from a town called Leon. A little north-west of Managua. Leon is not known for much except for it’s colonial buildings, small market, and excursions in to the surrounding area. This ad also shows that you can go sand-boarding down an active volcano just 20 minutes from Leon. SOLD! The hotel concierge called and they said they had two spots left if we wanted them but had to be there in two hours or else they were leaving.
We wrote the number down just in case we needed to get a hold of them. Luckily my coworker spoke fluent Spanish so communication for the day would be a breeze. We receive directions to the new highway and heave ourselves out of the hotel doors.
Life lesson to myself. When you rush, you make mistakes. Armed with a phone number and the small written map from the hotel. Our goal is to beat a small race against time and meet up in Leon with the sand-boarding tour company. My coworker and I quickly fall in to conversion about travel and how he learned to speak Spanish so well. Mid-sentence, the breaks are slammed! Everything shifts to the left as we avoid the biggest pot hole I’ve ever seen. Flashes of the sarlacc pit from star wars flew threw my mind. Jagged concrete teeth, this menacing mouth threatened to swallow the entire front half of our van. A wide, crazy eyed exchange, made us realize this does not look like the “new” highway. This was the norm for most of the ride. Stranded in the back country of a developing nation is not how I pictured my birthday. We move on with a renewed sense of awareness. In some cases, they are filled with sand and easier to drive over. But right next to the filled in hole is a little Nicaraguan child with it’s hand out. We give a few Cordoba to the first child. But so realize that there are a dozen more all with chiildern standing next. We have to keep driving in order to make it on time yet still avoid a dozen or so more of these pits along the way (sorry no pictures, was too busy watching the road)
As we finally arrive to Leon we find the travel company but they have already left with a small group of sand-boarders. They are kind enough to call and because they had only just left. They decide to turn around a pick us up. Woohoo! We pile in to their van and are notified we need to pick up the sandboards from the person who builds them.
I get my first look at these boards and being a snowboarder, maybe my expectations were too high. This was nothing more than a flat plank of wood with some nylon straps for your feet. They look fairly well used so I assume they are functional so I reserve my doubts until I see the kind of terrain I’ll be sliding down.
Arriving at the volcano I’m glued to the van window. It is a huge pile of black rock. The volcano is called Cerro Negro. (Wiki for Cerro Negro: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerro_Negro) It is the youngest volcano in Latin America and made headlines years earlier.
While I didn’t know it at the time. Cerro Negro was already internationally famous due to an extreme French mountain biker named Eric Barone. His story is best given by this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4_xlFtcPLk&noredirect=1 (Even if I had known this at the time, I would have still done it)
It would later be completed and Eric’s record beaten by Markus Stöckl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH9NX9R8c8k&feature=related
Everyone packs up their boards and we begin the long hike up the volcano. This was a pretty rough climb and everyone was feeling it until you get to the top and take in the view.
From where we walked up the volcano you have to walk through the crater to get to the side you board down. They said we could go stand on top of some of the vents. Had to get a photo.
Here is a close up of the sulphur fuzz that forms on top of these vents.
We get strapped in and I’m ready to go.
There are videos of me sandboarding on the main page and on youtube.