The hike to flowing lava - one fun day trip from Antigua

Published: July 23rd 2009
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By far the most memorable day trip of this journey has been the hike up Pacaya to see the flowing lava (only somedays is there lava flowing, we got there on a good day). Other than the Lava, what made the trip the most memorable was the preparedness of some of the other travelers.

I will refer to them as the President of the Valley Girls of Southern California and the future leader of Blondes of Briton respectively. The first gal was staying at our hostel. I was browsing the net in the lobby when she arrived from the airport. This may have been her first time in a hostel, and her first time traveling. She was in heels, had a Gucci purse, and one of the largest rolling suitcases I have ever seen. Her friends had reserved a room upstairs, and the 3 of them had to battle to get this anchor up the stairs.

Fast forward to departure. Miss President was 'ready' to be picked up to go to Pacaya, except that she had flip flops on, had her purse with her, and nothing else. The receptionist informed her that she was going to a "VOLCANO", and might want to A, drop the purse, B, wear shoes so her feet don't get cut up on volcanic rock, and C, bring a jacket. Antigua gets cold after sunset. The mountain is much higher than Antigua. There are formulas such as E = Mc2, and then there is A > B.

The Blondes of Briton rep was someone we got to meet on the bus. No jacket. A purse, and only a bottle of water because she found out from her lodging that they don't sell it up there. This Volcano was clearly not up to standard. Are there any other lava spewing mountains that don't have a water kiosk next to the magma? Her shoes were canvas slip ons. She was in a spaghetti strap top, and loose fisherman pants she kept on tripping on.

As we climbed up the mountain, we frequently had to wait several minutes over the course of the 1.5 hour ascent for members of our group to catch up. Apparently, per their comments, it was a surprise to some that the 'climb' 'up' the 'mountain' was not flat. How could they possibly have known?

Once we got to the flowing lava, which, was just about the coolest thing I saw on this trip, Miss California and Briton freaked out. It was "hot and dangerous". I know, I know, it was a surprise to all of us. We were expecting a climate controlled site with a security perimeter.

However, lava sans perimeter allows for the adventurous to roast marshmallows. I saw that it was very effective. Lava takes some time off the process when compared to an ordinary campfire. I was able to chuck a few football sized chunks of volcanic rock onto the lava. It bounced. Anti climatic, but very cool.

We ran into our Dutch traveling companions from Panama at the summit. Small world. Arie and friend (name escapes me at the moment) were doing well and enjoying the trip.

The sunset was very nice. One of the other slightly active volcanos in the distance started to smoke a little right as the sun was setting behind it. Cool stuff.

Least we think that the fun of the day was over, we were treated to more precious moments on the way down. As I am your witness, canvas slip ons and baggy fisherman pants can lead to loss of traction on downhill portions of a hike. When the screams and falls from the loss of traction are coupled with screams because of 'bugs in the air', this can lead to to general amusement. However, the best was for last. Our British representative of expanding intellectual horizons let out a shriek befitting a horror film when she encountered a local girl walking up the trail collecting walking sticks that had been rented out. Per her story, because it was dark, she thought the little girl was a dog. Imagine the reverberations that would have ensued had it actually been a canine.

Once we got back to our minibus, our UNICEF ambassadors in-waiting were pumping the begging children at the parking lot full of marshmallows because 'there is so much hunger and poverty in Guatemala and the parents can't afford to feed their children'. Yes, 'let them eat cake.' I was left pondering the possible changes in the trajectory of history had these people been in a position of nobility a few hundred years ago on the continental side of the English channel.

No doubt about it, the hike is a great way to spend an afternoon in the greater Antigua area. For $12, the experience was a great value. Hiking up with the Valley Girl from Southern California and a Blonde from Briton: Priceless.

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