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Published: September 22nd 2007
A princess and a few gentlemen.
I left Lake Atitlan with far less personal baggage and much more soul. But not really heaps of energy, it was like id just been released from hospital where the aftercare was just as important as the op.
We decide to hike up another mountain. This was not just any old mountain but a very live hot flowing fully erupting lava volcano, the most famous and active in Guatemala PACAYA, (which is not to be confused with the vibrant hot purple looking Pitaya cactus fruits that are also known as the ‘fire breathing’ Dragon fruits grown around these parts and now available in Tescos UK) This wondrous hike is 8,371 ft of 'complex' volcano which means over the last 26000 years it changes its eruptive characteristics to suit itself when it blows nobody knows from lava and pyroclastic flows to just plain old explosive eruptions. In 2000 this volcano was upgraded to orange alert status, meaning everyone in the area was on tippie toes to get ready to run at any moment as the red-hot orange stuff is coming to get ya!
Every travel shop in the whole of Guatemala has clear photos of it erupting, flaming shots
of red hot molten lava, sulphurous steam, carefully placed scruffy orphan kids, abandoned and looking so cute amidst the bad weather and other such dangers, along with great shots of beautiful formations of ancient dried black charcoaled lava which was razor sharp to touch. This clearly exhibited serious health and safety issues throughout all for 120Q (£10). All this should be some kind of indication as to what you are signing up for; this is not an ancient ruin excursion without any risks involved.
The shuttle bus picked us up at 6am, full of the usual international suspects. After an hour we drove off from the main road and further up the steep dirt roads of this very same volcano. I loved the easiness of the drive as my legs were still in a van and warm as we had passed the clouds. We arrived at a remote misty village and as I got off the bus I am truly flabbergasted, because stood in front of me were two 17 year olds wearing regular thin-ish beach flip flops, showing off very bare feet and toes. It was cold, damp, muddy and very misty today was the day Hurricane DEAN
hit Belize and was coming our way so weather conditions were very poor. This girl wore sunglasses on her head, a sarong and a low slung top, no bra, did she think that the laved environment would inadvertently give her some kind of sun tan? Not a single cagoule, sensible walking boot nor piece of practical clothing in sight. I promise this is not just me showing my age but concerns grew for their safety.
My horror soon diverted its attention to heaven as I spotted many healthy fattish horses, four legged live MINICABS that were all at least fifteen hands high which is big enough for my 4ft legs to dangle from. All live stock were for rent for a fair price, alleged to go up to the very top, which had to be a lie as they would surely burn their hoofs clean off. I was so tempted to get the horse. I have also just rid my self of several past lives and bin liners full of emotional/body clutter im sure to fly up that hill, I felt lighter, springier and fitter than the last time we did this in (Xela blog) Santa Maria, where the
tour guide abandoned us at approx 01.33 in the morning, half way up on a full moon night walk, while I was dying of respiratory failure all the way up.
How wrong and frustrated was I, Stu lit up many fags and patiently waited for me at certain ledges, but this time everyone else waited too, including our amazing tour guide who didn’t for one minute take his eyes or his attention away from the entire group. I found out later that this was at one time the biggest crime area for bandits towards knackered tourist, which is why all the guides still carry mobile phones, walkie-talkies, big sticks and a knife. There was a point where the horses stopped following us. With my new inner soul programming I just relaxed and enjoy the climb in-between my actual body that silently struggled where I huffed and puffed on ascent, that could not be helped at this point as Id just had psychic surgery not 2 days before.
I knew no one was in a hurry even the flip flop crew were going at a far steadier pace. A pleasant distraction was watching two very special people who also
climbed with us. They were a Canadian dad with his 10-year-old son Liam who wore very sensible shoes. All the way up it was one big nature trail, I was also very ear wigging and fascinated, dad would point out amazing things for his son to see, they held furry caterpillars, looked carefully at various plant life, they did father-son bonding stuff while looking watchfully at a intricate spiders web that carefully balanced heavy droplets of early morning dew from its fine silk threads. Dad taught his son how to correctly capture this amazing piece of nature with his digital camera before it disappeared, then taught him about being in the moment using the spiders web as a metaphor. They also took their time doing all this, which didn’t make me look too slow, for which I thank them both.
A sharp descent down a very steep hill took us to where it got extremely misty, rocky, jagged and hot. Wow, the hottest show in town, my solid walking boots were literally cooking beneath me as I was bobbing about so not to melt my heat resistant soles, the flip-flop crew were jumping as if they were running barefoot
in to the sea on Brighton Beach. When reaching the summit it was clear that our small purchase of big walking sticks that the kids sell at base camp was a very sensible idea, purely for safety reasons as walking on this razor sharp lava has caused many balance incidents and accidents including previous fatals. Many times I nearly fell over as its hard to tell what is solid ground and what looks like solid ground but is infact incinerating lava or very fine dust beneath, imagine what a log looks and feels like after its been burnt in a fire, on the surface it looks burnt and whole but it can snap and crumble to dust in seconds. If you fell the black dry swirling layers of lava would cut flesh to the bone in no time.
The heat from beneath was intense, the guides were having fun by roasting marshmallows on sticks, which I heard were toxic, but to be polite I ate one anyway and im still alive. Everyone threw rocks into black heat intensive mounds that then burst into a full on flow of red-hot wonder. This tour is available at night, now that would
unfortunatley his n hers...was not planned like that!
be spectacular. Mesmerising to think how more connected to earth wind and fire could we possibly be, at one with all elements including water as it started to pour with rain on the way down. Again the tour guides kept vigilant for anyone struggling with their breathing, these mighty forces changed every minute, lava suddenly sprouted from one place then another the steam or clouds or both blended in and visibility was poor, our orientation of where we were was confusing, similar to being blind folded and spun around a few times,
Antigua (Means Antique). The one thing I noticed about Antigua was its ability to disable and maim the full able bodied individual. The narrow pavements were all uneven and slanting at 45 degree angles. Also at mid/upper arm level.. if your short or elbow/lower arm level ...if your taller, people would be knocked, bruised and humorous bones broken as everyone at first walks right in to these concrete window ceils that jut out from all the buildings. The uneven cobbled streets were equally a nightmare; major potholes, iron grids with large gaps to aid the filtering of torrential rainy session weather had many a tourist and resident
slipping over, bruising bottoms, spines, twisting ankles and knee joints. I witnessed alot of vintage VW ambulances that were called to these very jobs.
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