Nicaragua: the denim onesie.

The alarm vibrated underneath my pillow. I’d purposely set it that way so as not to wake up my one other bunkmate whom I’d grown quite accustomed to even in the one short evening that I’d spent listening to her story.

To me, it seemed like there wasn’t a single soul stirring in the entire hostel.

I shuffled to the shower, hoping the lack of hot water would shock me out of that creeping feeling of a tequila/Toña hangover waking to greet me.

The boys weren’t even awake. They’d made me promise to be up and waiting at 7:30 am.

I quickly dressed and made a mad dash for the free coffee station before we’d have to pile into the tour van.

Central America taught me a lot about travel, about being solo, about what I was looking for and who I could find when I wasn’t looking at all. But maybe one of the most important things that Central America taught me were the basic comforts of being a traveller: free water, free coffee, and free WiFi. If payment is not required for these three things, you will forever go down in the history of people and places that have immensely helped a backpacker get through.

I stood on the red cement in the common courtyard of the hostel, staring longingly into my coffee cup as I waited or it to be cool enough to drink in the sweltering Nicaraguan morning. I was already sweating in spite of my cold shower.

I heard the shuffle of Will’s runners, which caused me to look up from the vortex of my coffee cup. He looked at me from across the courtyard.

Put some shoes on. 

I had really only known Will and Mike for two or three days, but it was just one of those things. We just got each other, so his look of disapproval was met with my usual sass, well-known by those closest to me.

I was confused. For one of the first times on my entire trip, I actually had shoes on. I raised my eyebrows in question.

I do have shoes. 

Real shoes…

Oh, right. We weren’t very well going to climb a volcano in rubber thongs were we. Silly girl.

I swapped my favourite jean shorts with the embroidered flowers {more on those later} for my yoga leggings, and my thongs for my faithful old blue runners. How many volcanos hikes, dirt hills, beach runs and sidewalk races those babies have carried me through.

We piled into the van and we were off.

Luiz, our guide, was one of the most enthusiastic people I’d ever met. As he trekked at record speed up a rocky, dusty, steep incline in a soaring 30 degrees wearing not-quite-skintight jeans, I admired him very much.

Cerra Negra - Leon, Nicaragua - Central America

We finally reached the top of that windy, dusty volcano, Cerro Negro, we hung over the crater catching ourselves against the wind gusts.

Luiz explained the history of the volcano and pointed out the tell-tale pathways of hardened lava and volcanic rock from the 1995 eruption which travelled 14 km, just shy of the edges of the nearest town.

After nearly being blown into the crater, Luiz instructed us it was time to unpack our bags. Before we’d begun our ascent up the hill, we’d each been gifted a flimsy denim backpack and a very questionable volcano board. The boards resembled toboggans, roughly hacked together out of of bits of wood and fiberglass.


As we excitedly pulled the contents of our backpacks onto the dusty ground, we were all pleasantly excited – as only ironic Gen Yers can be – by the fashion miracle that was being unraveled. Each of us were gifted a full denim onsie; grimy from hundreds of journeys down that volcano’s face, to protect us from the inevitable damage we were capable of inflicting on ourselves at elevated speeds on a rocky surface.

A few of the boys were lucky enough to receive bits of clothing sewn-together to make something large enough to suit the Western frame; patchwork at its finest.

Luiz hopped over the edge of the cliff face and disappeared in a series of hops down the side of the mountain.

This looked steep. We looked around nervously, suddenly unsure about our enthusiasm to participate.

Bandanas over our noses to keep the dust from our throats and safety goggles in place, we looked more like extras on the set of Breaking Badi than a bunch of young backpackers.


Mike and I agreed to go together, and to be second in line. First watching as the Canadian couple flew down unscathed. When Luiz waved his arms for us to start we scooted off cautiously. Mike started picking up momentum while I moved only inches at a time. Then and there I knew I needed to let go of my fear of speed and injury. I picked up my feet, gaining speed as Luiz came into full view and the Canadian couple dismounted their boards at the bottom of the slope. I flew down, feet lifted just above the surface to come into a skidding stop halfway across the flat surface at the base of the volcano.

All that hiking, the wind, the laughter, for a few seconds of speed down the face of an old, inactive volcano. It was so worth it.

Cerra Negra - Leon, Nicaragua - Central America