Volcan Pacaya

Published: March 1st 2006
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With my girlfriend finally granted some time off work we somehow decided upon doing a mad trip to Antigua, Volcan Pacaya and Guatemala City: all in the one day. We had to start early, and early in this case meant rising at 2:30am for the 3am Chicken bus. This bounced along uneven roads for a couple of hours as I drifted in and out of conciousness. We changed buses...somewhere... to get to Antigua (Maggie was doing the navigating). Feeling fairly nautious and exhausted the prospect of climbing a Volcanoe wasn't seeming as exciting as it did the previous day. The attractive streets of Antigua woke me up somewhat despite seeing them through my contact lense-less eyes. A cup of tea helped. Being 7am in the morning we had arrived a tad too early to gather any information on how to actually get to the Volcanoe, and subsquently we chilled in the attractive central park for a bit.
After realising we hadn't brought enough money to do the tour AND eat we decided to go solo. Three Chicken buses, a minibus and about two hours later, we arrived at the entrance. The scenery on the way was attractive, along long flat, smooth roads through attractive landscape with Volcanoes piercing the landscape like the triangular top of a knife through a sheet of paper. Maggie has a likeable nack for starting up a conversation with anyone within close proximity and we subsquently met numerous friendly and helpful Guatemalans along the way. After realising on the bus that by travelling with me, she would need to pay more, as we would be treated as two gringos, she decided upon taking measures to avoid this. This mainly consisted of asking the guy how much it was before getting on, at this point not appearing to be with me so that we would end up paying local rates. This wasn't always possible but asking others on board normally works.

One way or another we arrived, fairly easily, with more adventure and with less money spent than with a tour. After being convinced it would be too cold to wear shorts, I sweated away in my Jeans up the slight incline past the entrance. The track is well developed with numerous signs and good views of the surrounding area. It's not difficult but we found it tiring. On approaching the cone the landscape turns black and lifeless providing brilliant contrasts between this and the green land behind it. It was little cloudy which stopped what would have been superb views but nevertheless the views were still pretty impressive.

It's a slightly frustrating climb up with every forward step including a half a step slide backwards over the loose surface.

The Volcanoe has been erupting for some thirty years continously for nearly thirty years and near the top gases are pumped out and rocks are varied in colour. Hot puffs of smoke sting your eyes if you approach certain parts at the wrong time. After waiting for a calm moment we managed to get a look at the lava from fairly close range (see photo), unfortunately it's too dangerous to get really close (being lava and all!). But it's a pretty awesome sight regardless.
On the way down we managed to mis-place the track and ending having to slide down after it become too steep to easily walk in any direction (see photo).

We hitched part of the way back in a truck with a friendly guy who drove manically whilst talking calmly. After this we took several buses towards Guat. City where Maggie's parents have a house. Back there various relatives and friends popped in, exhausted I wasn't up to making much in the way of conversation, especially in Spanish.
All in all another good if slightly crazy day, although having another to see some of Antigua would have been ideal. But I have plenty of time for that.


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