Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dancin, New bank card, Leon, Volcano Boarding

After the treehouse, I returned to Entre Amigos in Grenada, hoping that my letter and new bank cards had arrived. No such luck. I would need to spend another night.

I still hadn't been to the clubs down on Lake Nicaragua, a dangerous walk, or a cab ride 5km down the main drag to the lakefront. There were three of us guys hanging out in the hostel that night, Kevin (a French Canadian whom I had met and enjoyed hanging out with in the treehouse) and Stijn (pronounced something like "Stan", a dutch guy from the dorms). We cooked a meal of tilapia, and rice, and Bravah and put on our dancing shoes...erm volcano-destroyed sneakers...and took a 20c/pp cab (haggled down to 50c for 3!) down to the lake.

We asked the cab driver to take us to the most popular club and he did, but it seemed pretty empty for a Friday night, so we walked around to a few other bars. This was all along the lakefront. No beaches or docks, just grass or dirt up to the waters edge, and plastic table and chair resto-bars every 50feet. A heavy, cool wind blew off the water to the "zona tourista", an area designed to accommodate way more local (and international) fiesteras than seemed to be present.

We didn't find another club that was much more active, and the strip was rather deserted and felt unsafe, so we returned to "Chico Tripa 2", the first place we went to. There was a 50c entrance fee, but I talked the bouncer down to 100c for the three of us. We entered to find a decent crowd, though it looked tiny inside the giant resto-bar, composed entirely of Nicas, not one other gringo or chele (white guy) in the place.
At first, we felt pretty out of place. There was a 10 piece salsa band playing with awesome red cowboy costumes. The three lead singers seemed like brothers, the oldest in sheer black leather pants, the middle one with a cleft and a 10 gallon hat, and the youngest couldn't have been even 12 years old--reminiscent of a Latino MJ. We ordered a few Toñas and tried to chat over the blasting music until we had built up enough liquid courage to try our moves on the huge dance floor, packed with expert salsa-ers. I didn't really remember any steps from previous salsa lessons, but I followed the beat and rounded out my hips, throwing in a few bar-mitzvah moves when it felt right. The locals loved it...sure, maybe they were laughing at (not with) us, but we had fine none the less, taking turns with all the sisters and wives out on the floor.

The next morning, I got up to brush my teeth and found Cesar coming to get me from the dorms. He pulled me into the gift shop (still in just my boxer shorts) to find a postal worker waiting for me to sign a package. I straight up jumped with joy (possible treating the early morning shoppers to a bit more gringo than they expected) and tore the package open to find my new bank card, some batteries for my head-lamp that I cant find down here, and a note from mi mamá (thanks Ma!).

Immediately, I decided to take a detour to León. Volcano boarding was calling to me, and even though waiting for my cards had already made me a few days late in my arrival to the farm in León, I was worried that i wouldn't have a chance to return to the pacific side of the country and knew that boarding was a once in a lifetime kind of experience that I couldn't risk missing. Stijn (the Dutch guy that came out with Kevin (the Quebequis guy from the treehouse) and I last night) was heading that way so we left together, packing our bags, paying out, and grabbing the first bus to Managua. We switched to León and arrived at Bigfoot Hostel (founded by the same guy who supposedly invented volcano boarding).

Let me just take a detour here to define volcano boarding for those of my readers who aren't up to speed on the volcano-based-adventure-sport lingo. "Volcano boarding", or surfing, or sledding, is a less than a decade old sport (activity?) that requires two materials: a board of some kind, and an active young volcano. Cerro Negro, the just 150 year old volcano an hour outside León, Nicaragua is just this. In fact, unlike many of the volcanoes that I have climbed, this one really just seems like a huge pile of rubble--sharp, black, pumice. Mostly <1-2cm stones with bigger rocks and boulders mixed in throughout. The mountain is hot, painful to the touch at the rim of the crater, and smoking a sulfuric mist all over (not just in the crater). The wind rips at you all the way up the modest 728m climb. Hardly a trail due to the loose crumbly nature of the pile, climbing the sendero is an upward swim through hot black rock.

In the past decade, since gringos discovered and decided to bastardize Cerro Negro, folks have blasted down the side on all sorts of things. The most popular is the run-down, a 700m scree with the guaranteed prospect of a tumble and slide. People have tried skis, snowboards, sleds, refrigerators, and mountain bikes (that did not end well). Anyway, the improved board that most tour operators use (by most, i mean the like, 3 who run tours) is a home made 4x1foot, 3/4inch thick piece of plywood with an aluminum sheet tacked to the bottom. Its got a leash for a handle attached to the front and a slanted board on the back as a seat. We wore a thick canvas jumpsuit to protect our skin from the pumice on the inevitable spill and tumble, and goggles to see through the cloud of ash generated by the slide. No helmet. Stupid.

The goal of the slide is to go as fast as possible and I made third highest time coming in at 68km/hr! I came nowhere close to numbers one and two though; they had 85 and 90 km/h, insane! I think I'll try it again though. If I don't break with my feet, I think I can blast past 75 or 80. I'm not crazy enough to go any faster.

The problem is with balance. The board has no skeg, it just slides along the surface of the gravel so any change in weight distribution at that velocity results in a tailspin. The smallest tap of a foot on the gravel to the side of the board throws you off, so if you're gonna break, you've got to break evenly and keep your weight centeres. I think that the improved board should have a fin or two like a surfboard, so that it cuts into the gravel and maintains trajectory. That, or I just need to pick up the front and lean back, no breaks.

Well that's enough musing on ways to cut up your face...after boarding, we were rewarded back at Bigfoot with free mojitos and the Superbowl (go Ray Rice!).

Next time, on "The Days of My Lives"...
-Will Jake show up to the farm on time?
-Will Jake´s new bank card actually work?
-Will Jake ever find a traveling partner?
-Will we find out the real mother of Ernesto's evil twin?!
...tune in next time to find out!

I look like blade with my new look
That's Stijn
Volcan Cerro Negro, a pile of volcanic gravel
Suited up, ready to die
A crappy pic, but ehh
The sign says sitting route. the other sign is for screeing
Overlooking the crater, me in the shadow

Last chance to chicken out
Blurry pic, but those are the boards, stacked on the truck

68kph, i think i could have gone faster


  1. yay Ray Ray!!!--that game was cray cray (so was Beyonce)---(see what i did there??)

    just to keep you up to date with US news---Saturday mail will be ending in August

    can't wait to hear abt the farm...dun dun dun

  2. so basically you are trying to tell me that you argued them down from having to pay $2 each for a cover. coming back to nyc is going to hit you pretty hard when you remember the prices here.p.s. i wish i could have seen you guys dancing there. too good.

  3. ahhhh this looks like so much fun! have a great time - I'm going to keep following your blog, so the more photos the better!

    don't disappoint, I'm living vicariously!