Lisa versus the volcano
Antigua Travel Blog› entry 8 of 13 › view all entries
November 13th, 2007 – by: ltrye
It is 10:30 am here and I just finished breakfast - feeling lazy so thought I'd post about my volcano experience yesterday. So I have done tours in both Costa Rica and Belize and they were pretty disneyfied - everything felt pretty safe and organized. But this is Guatemala and things are different here.....
I signed up for a hiking tour up volcano pacaya, about an hour and a half's drive from antigua. My buddy Chris came along and as soon as we were picked up I knew that this tour would be different. The "guide" came to the hostal, but she only spoke spanish, so we just kind of blindly followed her to the central park - yes, there is a central park here - where we boarded a rickety bus.
Anyway, the road up to the trailhead for the hike turned from concrete to dirt, and the bus strained as it made it's climb higher into the moutains.
And thus began the hike! Let me just say first that at no point in this "tour" were we asked to give our names or sign waivers. They just did this half hearted head count - I guess if you lose a tourist or two ít's not a big deal! So this hike immediately became completely vertical - which was tougher than I thought for this sea level girl. They did follow us with a herd of horses for the gringos who couldn't make it the whole way - including a couple colts who just kind of followed along.
Well, long story short, this ended up being the most amazing, crazy, and dangerous thing I have ever done! We made it to the summit in a shroud of mist - you had about maybe 6 feet of trail with sheer drop offs on either side, all obscured by this fog. I have to say I was glad I couldn't see exactly how far up we were at this point! And then we descended into this valley of the newest lava flow..... Oh man - it was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. We walked over dried lava flows that were still somewhat warm in spots from steam vents below over to stand next to real, honest to god, red hot magma! It actually got really hot, like you were standing next to a huge bonfire - which is I guess kind of what we were doing, but on a grander scale.
And the hike back? Little scary - most of the group took off and it was just me, Chris, this french guy, and this older british lady who was having a hard time making it from the dried lava flow to the hiking trail.
We finally caught up to the rest of the group, got the brit lady on a horse, and hiked the 1 and a half hours down in the dark. Yep, this was a sunset hike and the way down was well into nightfall. Some of us had flashlights, but Chris' one crapped out on us early on, so we paired up with some Swedes who just kind of swung their lights in sweeping motions back and forth so we all got precious seconds of actually seeing the trail. Nothing like hiking down a volcano, through cloud forest, in pitch black.
When we got back to the base where we started we bought a couple of cervesas to bring on the bus.
Oh, and probably the most notable difference from this tour with others I have done elsewhere in Central america was that for the whole hike we had an armed escort the whole way - the guy had this huge rifle.
All in all, the most incredible and exhilarating experience of my life so far. If you ever find yourself in Guatemala, hiking up Volcano Pacaya is a must.
Buenos dias! Don't know where I'm headed next. Word on the street is that one of the original Buena Vista Social Club players is performing at a bar tonight, so not sure if I'm going to stay in antigua or move on......
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