Day 8: Volcán Paricutín

Angahuan Travel Blog

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Volcán Paricutín in the distance
 

Damn it was cold at night. Unbelievable. I had been warned that it could be somewhat cold in this mountain village, so you'd imagine hotel owners take that into account and the put blankets on the bed which keep you warm enough at night. Well, not quite so, despite the two blankets I had been freezing cold and I woke up with a sore throat and feeling as if I had a flu.


I took some paracetamol and vitamins to suppress the feeling and then quickly got dressed in extra warm clothes and took a local bus to the village of Angahuan. From here it was the plan to climb the Paricutín volcano.


This is a very special volcano because it is only sixty years old.

setting out on horseback
Legend tells of a local farmer named Dionisio Pulido who was working on his corn field on a sunny afternoon, 20 February 1943. And all of a sudden the ground started shaking steam started to vent from the ground. Unlike the normal eruption of a volcano this one started really slowly. Hundreds of scientists were able to see the volcano grow up to 410 metres in a year's time, while lava flows destroyed two nearby villages. Nobody got hurt because everything went so slowly. The volcano continued to grow and spit out lava until it blew its last puff in 1952.


These days the volcano stands as a steep cone in the middle of a landscape of black lava, with a total height of nearly 2800 metres.



The volcano is relatively easy to climb, but this is Macho-Mexico, and walking is for pussies, so everything here is done on horseback.

Volcán Paricutín

When I got out of the bus there were several guys standing with horses, offering trips to the volcano.


I had met a French couple on the bus, and we had decided to do this trip together, in order to share the cost of a guide. Basically you pay per horse, and as the guide rides a horse as well, we shared the cost of four horses with the three of us.


OK, I'll admit one little secret. I am deeply ashamed, but in hindsight I can laugh about it. I have to get used a bit to travelling again. I am used to doing things without really thinking about it. Just following my instincts. And for some reason that hasn't been going so well so far... I mean, I knew I'd be riding a horse for a few hours today, but *still* I put on zip-off pants in the morning, which is the worst you can do when riding horse, as the zipper is exactly at that part of your leg which makes the most contact with the saddle.

Volcán Paricutín
In other words, the imprint of the zipper was still visible in my leg three weeks later.


Also I thought my daypack was way too heavy. I didn't want to climb a volcano with a heavy backpack (despite my daypack not being any heavier than when I climbed volcanoes or mountains in Chile, New Zealand or Bali) so I threw out as much as I could. Camera bag, spare batteries, lenses, CD player, none of that crap was needed on a day trip.

And I also threw out those unnecessary useless items like sun lotion and my hat. I mean, what do you need those for? When you wake up in the morning with flu, and it is cold outside, you don't expect the sun to be shining at the top of a free standing volcano where no trees or anything grows in the vincinity. When I got back home at night I was seriously sunburnt.

Volcán Paricutín
My bald head was fiery red and I had blisters of second-degree burns on my nose. Uhm, yeah...


Anyway, the volcano. I feared the horse I was riding wouldn't make it, five or six hours with ol' heavy me on top. And all the time trotting and galloping - the latter was something the beast did less and less willingly. It was so tired I thought it would collapse underneath me.


After three hours we arrived at the foot of the volcano, where we left the horses to climb the last 700 steep metres to the top. My fitness is not what it once used to be. I'm afraid working as a salesman or in an office isn't really beneficial to the health of the human being. But fortunately I was here with two chain-smoking French people, so compared to them it looked as if I was walking up the mountain with all the ease in the world.

Volcán Paricutín


The view from the top of the crater was wonderful. Everywhere you looked you could see where the lava had flowed, up to and including the two villages that were flooded by the lava flows.

The only thing that bothered me was the amount of thrash everywhere. Mexicans seem to have a collective goal of turning their country into the largest refuse-dump in the world. So the nature park around Volcán Paricutín was littered with plastic bags, empty soda bottles and beer cans, and the crater itself really resembled a refuse-dump, as it was completely filled with rubbish.

Our guide told me how he and his colleagues did a clean-up every week, clearing all the rubbish that Mexican day trippers leave here in the weekends.


We arrived around the same time as a Mexican school class of teenagers and their teachers.

Templo San Juan
They demonstrated just how much rubbish one can produce during lunch. Our guide explained that there were two accompanying teachers, and it was their duty to teach the kids some responsibility, but he doubted they would, so he walked over to have a chat with them. At first the teachers refused. I heard them say “where else are we going to leave the rubbish?” but in the end they ordered the kids to collect the rubbish and carry it out with them. See? It isn't so hard.

In that aspect Mexico still has a long way to go. I still have hopes to find one kilometre free of litter in this country, but I'm afraid it is in vain.


On the way back we made a stop at the Templo San Juan Paragaricutiro, the only visible remains of the two villages that were destroyed by the lava flows. Part of the church front and one of the towers is still standing.

Templo San Juan
It's a very surreal image, half a church embedded in the black rock.

However, following good Catholic tradition, the remains of the church are still considered sacred, so people still pass by the ruins to lay flowers and say a little prayer. Most of the Mexican tourists visiting the area don't even venture further than this ruin. They can't be bothered about the whole volcano.

A bit weird really, considering that this country is packed with ruins of century old temples which have been destroyed by the very same Catholics....


By the time we were back in Angahuan I was completely wated. Six hours on an old Mexican horse is not for the faint hearted, and I just couldn't walk anymore.

When I got back inUruapan I went straight to bed. I was clever enough to use my sleeping bag this time, so that I wouldn't get cold at night, and I was asleep within minutes.


In hindsight that might not have been the best of ideas...

Koralifix says:
Quite entertaining story :)
Posted on: Mar 13, 2009
Biedjee says:
Wot? Who? Me?!? Nah, I always manage to hide the fact that I am pretty stupid, though I am not ashamed to admit at times either. It is usually the combination of luck and stubbornness that keeps me going, nothing to do with smartness. :)
Posted on: Feb 16, 2009
pms70 says:
All I want to know is why you didn't get out the sleeping bag the first night when it turned out to be so cold? And I must admit I thought you were a smart traveller but starting to wonder now with all the silly things you did... :-P
Posted on: Feb 16, 2009
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Volcán Paricutín in the distance
Volcán Paricutín in the distance
setting out on horseback
setting out on horseback
Volcán Paricutín
Volcán Paricutín
Volcán Paricutín
Volcán Paricutín
Volcán Paricutín
Volcán Paricutín
Volcán Paricutín
Volcán Paricutín
Templo San Juan
Templo San Juan
Templo San Juan
Templo San Juan
Angahuan
photo by: Biedjee