Hola de Guatemala, November 2007

So I am alive and currently in the Highlands of Guatemala.  I left the USA last Saturday and I couldn’t have felt more like Dorothy clicking her red shoes together – wake up in Cleveland Ohio and then suddenly in picturesque Guatemala by lunchtime!  I was transported to the city of Antigua – a quintessentially charming colonial town nestled between three volcanoes in the Guatemalan highlands.  Colourfully painted buildings sit astride cobblestone streets, all decorated with wrought-iron window frames, heavy carved wooden doors and terracotta tiled roofs. The picture is completed by gas lamplights on street corners and purple bougainvilleas clambering over walls that hide secret courtyards.  I probably don’t need to mention the white-washed cathedral and the plaza mayor and fountain in the centre of town… This place is stunning!

I gave myself a day and a half to relax away the stresses of packing and moving and then Monday took on Pacaya Volcano outside of Antigua. I joined a group of 4 Canadian guys for the hike and overnight camp on the volcano. It’s not a particularly challenging climb (400m vertical ascent in 1and half hours) and it’s not the first volcano I’ve climbed either but this hike rates 5 stars in KP’s trekking directory!  We arrived at a ridge to the east of the volcano summit just before sunset, and as we crested the hill there was an eerie red glow in the sky in the distance. The burnt oranges of the setting sun were competing with rivers of molten lava running down the slope of Volcan Pacaya! What a show – the earth and the sky were both on fire.  Pacaya is, needless to say, a very active volcano that constantly belches and oozes magma with extrusions breaking out from different points along the slopes and summit of the volcano on a weekly to monthly basis.  We camped near the ridge overlooking the volcano and were up early again at 5am to trek onto the lavafield for the sunrise.  Apart from being a treacherous obstacle course, the lavafield was surprisingly cool to touch.  We walked past areas of white ash which surrounds small crevices in the lavabed – tell-tale signs of vents for the river of molten lava sill flowing underneath us!  Quite incredibly we were able to walk right up to the advancing superficial rivulets of lava. With our locally made walking sticks ($1 each) we poked at the fiery liquid rock, our sticks disappearing into its 1200 degree interior like marshmallow as it oozed forwards.  There’s not really words to describe the experience of poking at a sleeping dragon!

So I have now moved on to San Pedro La Laguna a little town on the shores of a crater lake in the Highlands.  I am slowing the pace again – taking Spanish school for the next few mornings ($3 per hour is in the budget!) and spending my afternoons exploring the lake.

This entry was posted in Guatemala and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *