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Volcano Pacaya

toasting marshmallows over lava

semi-overcast -50 °C

We woke up super early - which was about to become the theme for the rest of our time together in Guatemala, regardless of the time we went to bed – and got ready to meet the shuttle that would drive us to the other side of El Fuego and to the base of Pacaya. On the way, Erie had her first experience of latino driving, when our bus nearly collided head on with another. Luckily our driver was wonderful, and managed to save us from a very nasty accident by sacrificing only his wing mirror. The fault was of the men signalling which lane got to drive due to the roadworks, miscommunication or any other equally useless excuse. However, we arrived safely at the base of the volcano, signed our life away, and began the trek up to the peak.
The going was not as bad as I had imagined, but we were stopping every ten minutes or so – both to look out at the view, and to get out breathe back.

There was an option to take a horse, and the horses followed behind us as we made our way up which was a little tempting. However, the entire group was pretty determined we were going to make it up without a horse so they ended up sending the horses back down to try their luck with the next lot of hikers. The view out towards El Fuego and Acastenango were just incredible.
We could even see them sending out their puffs of steam and smoke into the sky where it would then mingle with the clouds.
I felt like I was going to die at one point as I was struggling more with the cold than the exercise. After a year in the Caribbean, cold is not a feeling my body understands too well these days. I dosed up on a few puffs of the old Ventolin and soon found my second wind. Erie and I were soon racing our way up to the top with new found energy, and finally we got to the part where there is the most volcanic activity.

Suddenly the landscape changed to one of volcanic ash and rock, and the trees and greenery instantly disappeared. The earth felt hot under our feet and we couldn’t tell if it was from the sun hitting the dark gravel or if it was geothermic activity.
The view out across the other mountains was unbelievable and we all stopped for a few pictures at the top of the trail. The hike doesn't actually lead to the summit of the volcano - due to safety reasons, but we were close enough that being higher wouldn't have changed anything.
Erie and I tried our best to make it look as if we were on top of the entire world.
The hike over and across the volcanic rock was quite slippery but lots of fun to slide across. I could see how it would be possible to do volcano boarding in Nicaragua – the main destination of mine after Erie leaves.
We laughed as we approached a ‘lava store’ on the side of the volcano – always a gift shop huh?
But the coolest part of the entire adventure was being able to actually SEE lava, and then toast marshmallows over it! We were so excited it was ridiculous.
The lava itself wasn’t red which surprised us. It had a very dark and sticky appearance, looked like melted tar from the road. But wow was it hot! There was no way we could touch it, and it melted our marshmallows to a perfect consistency without burning the outsides at all. Now we just need to have some lava at every s’mores party!
The hike from the lava pit up to meet the trail to head back down was the toughest thing I have ever climbed in my entire life. Thankfully it only stretched for about 100 – 150 metres because it felt like at least 2 kilometres. We were stopping to catch our breath every 4 or 5 steps because it was so tough. I swear the only thing that got me up was the promise we had made to eat another burrito when we got back to Antigua!
We joined back up with the jungle part of the trek we had hiked up on and passed many people who were walking up to start their volcano hike. We felt really bad for them as the clouds had come in and there was no way they would have seen what we saw. We made it back to our hostel without any further driving dramas and returned to Cactus Taco to eat the same delicious prawn burrito that had motivated us to boost it off the volcano!

Posted by chasingsummer 11:05 Archived in Guatemala

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