Volcanos, Kayaks and Fuel strikes...oh my!

Published: May 10th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Holey Moley...the adventure never ends!

We begin our time in Guatamala by arriving in the strangely clean and comfortable city of Antigua. This is in stark contrast to the raw and difficult landscape that lays outside of the city. Cobble stone streets, brightly painted buildings, interesting decaying churches and large fountain filled town squares will be our jumping off point to several nearby attractions. Our first choice is the Pacaya Volcano. While climbing a volcano does sound instantly intriguing, we were all a bit skeptical. Most of us had experienced volcano hikes in the past that resulted in a hohum viewing of thick clouds around the top of a distant mountain. Not exactly the thrill we had in mind. But for only 7 bucks, we were willing to give it another shot.

On the drive out to the volcano, we noticed the highway was lined with large semitrucks and fuel tankers. Hordes of people were wandering this LA-ish traffic jam as if it were a sidewalk. It appeared that Guatamalen truck drivers were on strike. I hope we have enough fuel to get back! We arrive at the start of the trail and are immediately swarmed by kids holding handfuls of walking sticks. They are yelling spanglish phrases of ¨stick, stick....es necessario¨,¨taki taki, es manza!¨, ¨3 sticks for 5Q¨. They followed us for a good 10 minutes until I finally bought one. I tried to descretely pull a Quetzal coin out of my wallet but they all mobbed me and one even grabbed for my wallet. In my haste, I gave the coin to the nearest boy but took my stick from a different boy with better sticks. My blunder even further increased the havok. I can only hope they shared my meager offering rather than smack each other with their sticks. I guess these are the perils of the walking stick industry.

Just as the 1st sales squad faded away, we couldn´t help but notice the calvary of teenager mounted horses trotting close behind us. They wanted to be our ¨taxi¨up the mountain. We politely said No Gracias fo the first 15 minutes. But when they continued asking for the next hour as we clamboured up the volcano, our responses grew more and more sarcastic. Although their sales technique is annoying, I presume it is not all that flawed. I can imagine a knackered hiker finally giving up after climbing up the steep trail for an hour. It was actually pretty amusing and they did cash in on a few rides.

We arrive at the first vista and see the smoldering volcano in the distance. This was already cooler than our past volcano hikes. Snap a few photos and Hurray! But then we come across some solidified lava piles. That is cool too! But THEN we arrive at a vista where we can see actual hot oozing lava at the base of this behemouth rock mass. This could only be cooler if they let us walk right up to the lava....and he set us loose! Walking around the lava flows was quite a neat experience. First of all, it was freaking hot! We were quickly covered in sweat within minutes of our arrival. It was also quite surreal to watch the oozing lava take a few sudden flaming glops from above. I hope it doesn´t do a flaming glop on my head! Even the ground itself provided a thrill. In the cracks of the dark black rock peered more lava. It was directly beneath our feet. In certain areas, I think it began melting my boots Each step sounded like we were walking on a thin lake of ice. Except when this ice breaks, you fall into a lake of fire! Not to worry though, as tourists do this all the time. I got some really nice recordings of lava bubbles steaming and exploding that I will eventually share with you all. It has proven difficult to upload audio properly at these internet cafes. The hike back gave us a bonus treat of a beautiful sunset. 7 bucks well spent!

The next day we planned on taking a morning shuttle to Lake Atitlan. Not too surprisingly our driver stopped at a gas station to fuel up for the journey. There was a long line and signs that said ¨No Hay¨. We went to the next station...it had cardboard wrapped around the pumps with the same sign. We repeated this process for awhile until the driver stopped and made a few calls. He returned with the sad result that there is no diesel fuel near Antigua. Doh! He drove us back and we had to begin our scavenger hunt for someone who could get us to Lake Atitlan. We visit tourist offices, car rental offices, random dudes with vans and ease drop on other gringos trying to solve the same problem. Strangely enough, there was another scavenger hunt happening simultaneously as ours...but this one was with teenage girls in school uniforms with cameras who were earning ¨extra credit¨by taking photos with us. We must have been approached by at least 10 groups of giggling girls who asked for this impromtu snapshot. I couldn´t help but feel like a celebrity. I finally got my 15 minutes of fame.

We finally scrounge up a ride to the Lake and arrive during the night. It is a small lake community that has only 1 real section of street with any activity. We poke our heads into an establishment called FREEDOM Bar. We can hear the stomping bass and squelching synthisizers from a full block away. The club is almost completely empty except for a girl fire hula hoop dancing by herself. Chalk up yet another bizarre contrast for Latin America! The next day we spring up early enough to acquire some Kayaks to paddle around this spectacular lake. It is surrounded by 3 volcanos, lonely beaches and forgotten villages. Upon getting a bit lost in this massive lake, we ask a local fisherman in an old wooden kayak for directions to Los Marcos beach. His tip helps us to arrive to this unassuming stretch of sand. The sparse cast of characters include a bohemian guitar playing man in short shorts playing iponema style jazz, women selling fruit on their heads and a mini squad of mini kids wanting to playing some mini frisbee with us. We work up quite a flurry of excitement until we had to rip ourselves away from them. To show our appreciation for their incredible disc skills, we give them the bright green disc as a ¨regalo¨. They are happy. We are happy.


Tomorrow we are off to the water caves!

Additional photos below
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16th May 2008

hoa, lava marshmellows!
Wow how cool was that! Look like such amazing time :)

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