Antigua Travel Blog› entry 10 of 20 › view all entries
As promised, Rusty and I were up at the crack of dawn (5.30am!) to get ready for our day trip to Volcan Pacaya. The volcano is still active, and is around 30km south of Antigua, so we had to take a minibus to get there. We sat outside our youth hostel to wait and everytime one of the little tourist buses stopped, we went up to it to see if it was the right one, but kept getting told 'another bus another bus' when they looked at our tickets. Finally, at around 6.20am (we were told to be there at 5.50am) our bus arrived and we got in. The journey was about an hour, so wasn't that bad.
When we arrived at the entrance to the national park for the volcano, and opened the door to our minibus, we were instantly met by our friendly tour guide ´Raul, who told us to stick together like a family, and that we would be the ´Tigres´group.
Now with our sticks, we were ready for our ascent! We set off on the journey, which we were informed was 4km (2km there and 2 back) with a total vertical ascent of 600m. Even from the beginning, the paths were a lot steeper than I thought they´d be, and I was soon out of breath! These tours are seriously not to be undertaken lightly, as I´ve discovered, much to the detriment of my view of my own fitness! I was soon clamouring to be carried up the rest of the trek by horse, but decided to plough on in the end. If only I´d known how far there was to go, I would have had no problems in taking the ´lazy´horseback route.
The first bit of the climb was no different to walking in a park (apart from the obvious incline in the landscape) - the pathway was through trees, which provided a thankful respite from the sun´s heat. We were very glad that we´d booked the early tour (as it was only about 9am by this point), the thought of climbing in the 2pm sunshine was not a happy one. It probably took us about an hour to the top of the first half of the ascent, and the sticks were already providing very useful.
The path then opened out, and we were exposed to fantastic views over the valley between the 3 other volcanoes of the area (Agua, Fuerte and another one which I´ve forgotten the name of).
But oh no, they weren´t. So off we set onto the crumbly black rocks. The first bit was quite fun as we got to run down a slope of molten rock pieces.
It was worth every minute though, when we actually got to the top. The rocks opened up, and we were suddenly hit with a dry Mediterrean-style heat that I described as ´getting off the plane in Zakynthos´. Our guide led us over to where we could see lava (yes, real molten lava) flowing out of a vent(?) of the volcano. And this was no British health-and-safety regulated tour. We were allowed to, and infact incouraged to go up to the lava and poke it with our sticks.. which we did. Rusty, enjoying himself so much that he had to keep going back for more. The heat as you stood close was incredible, when Rusty and I posed for the photo of both of us next to the lava flow, we could literally only stay there while it was being taken as the heat was so intense.
Once we´d marvelled for our allotted time, we began our descent. Although this was definitely not as tiring as the way up, it was probably more difficult. Negotiating your way through loose rocks on a steep slope proved really difficult, even with our sticks, and we both fell over (Rusty considerably more than me I´d like to add). I managed to slice the skin off my finger on one of the offending rocks on one of my falls, which looked rather more dramatic than it actually was, but managed to cause Rusty to carry our rucksack all the way down!
We got back in our bus at about 12midday and started our journey back to Antigua. Sitting in probably the most comfortable seat in the minibus, I managed to sleep all the way back which was lovely.
Rusty and I both greatly enjoying talking to you all at home, and will keep you updated on our future plans (at present, a Coffee tour tomorrow afternoon and perhaps venturing into Honduras to the Bay Islands on Sunday).