Blogs from Pacaya, Capital Region, Guatemala, Central America Caribbean


Yesterday Dan and I went shopping separately to get each other a little something for Christmas. When Dan returned he said "guess who I ran into?" A few names of people we knew here came to mind but I really didn't have an answer. "Who?" I replied, "Matt & Leigh!" he said. (The kiwi friends we made in Belize) I thought they would be much further south then us by now but they too had decided to enroll in a Spanish emersion school in a nearby city which allowed our paths to cross again. They told Dad they were leaving at 2 for a Pacaya tour which we had actually discussed doing the same day so we quickly got ready and signed up for the 2 pm tour. It was nice to see them again and ... read more

It really was an early morning; we woke at 5:15 and were on the tour bus by 6 on our way to the Volcano. We had purchased some cinnamon buns the evening before along with Orange drink for breakfast. An ungodly hour to be awake, but we watched the sun come up on route to Pacaya. Our guide spoke great English and had also hired a local guide to take us up the volcano; this is something that is now mandated since the eruption in 2010. We took 2 horses and off we set. It was an hour and ½ hike up the mountain side, with great views of the other volcanoes around as well as the villages and farming fields along the way. For the first while we followed the tracks to the cell phone ... read more
Three sisters again
on Pacaya
the crater at the top of Pacaya

Today I had booked a trip to climb the Pacaya volcano, which I’d learned was the best one to climb in Central America. It was 2,300 metres high and erupted in 2010 which blew away a large chunk off the top. We got dropped off 2 thirds up the mountain and had to climb 700 metres to near the top. Unfortunately we were not permitted to climb to the top as it was still active and as a result didn’t get to see the molten lava which to me was kinda the point. Nethertheless we did get some great views from the top especially when the sun set and with perfect timing one of the other volcanoes we could see from the top gave a small eruption which was cool.Near the top there was a vent ... read more
View from Pacaya
Me at Pacaya

So I met a guy who met another guy, one thing lead to another and I wound up hiking a Volcano on Sunday (after the Palm Sunday procession). Antigua is surrounded by 3 Volcanos, Volcan Pacaya is the most popular. Up until last May it was active and would erupt small bits of lava everyday (all the guide books still say it errupts all the time), however last May it had a major eruption and there hasnt been any lava since. Still, its a great hike and incredible view and is still very much boiling lava hot! The hike itself was very difficult. A $0.75 walking stick was the best investment I ever made because the trails are made of a combination of black volcanic ash and rock. Every step was difficult to plant your foot ... read more
The Guide and I

Friday's trip was to a macademia nut plantation. That makes it sound quite organised and grand, which it wasn't. Around 400 rather dusty macademia trees, some piles of unshelled nuts, a grading ladder to size them from big to small, a few clucking hens and little else besides a little shop selling macademia oil, cream, butter, cookies, macademias coated in white and dark chocolate and - you guessed it - macademias! Still not cheap, even here. However, well worth seeing how these tasty nuts grow, and the crowded chicken bus ride there and back was as entertaining as always. And on Saturday we climbed Volcan Pacaya. About a 3.5 km climb, initially through a steep wooded area which provided some welcome shade. On the early part of the track we were followed by 4 youngsters leading ... read more
Macademia grading
Chicken bus - departing!
Volcan Fuego

The title says it all. Where else do you get the right mix of lax safety standards, care free guides and hot fiery lava. How nice the world would be without lawyers and liability cases. Today I climbed a volcano. A real one. With lava gushing down the side. And I touched it. So perhaps it wasn't really gushing lava, but merely streaming, and possibly describable as trickling instead. But heck, it was lava and it made me excited! And just to prove how real a volcano it was - 3 weeks later the volcano exploded and destroyed part of a nearby village. Unfortunately Melenie couldn't make the climb as it was steep and given she was a few months pregnant, the guides recommended against it. So sadly I left my wife that morning and hopped ... read more
Volcan Pacaya from afar
Welcome to Mordor
They worship Judas

We had to rise very early that day, and shake off the beers from the night before. My travelling companion, who shall remain anonymous, was having some travelling stomach issues. Neither of us was at the top of our game. I flagged the bus over and we climbed in. We were quickly surrounded by blonde-haired, gangly-legged European youths, who looked far too healthy and sober to be sharing a bus with us. The journey was long, and after we left the paved road behind, it threatened to reshape my spine. Pulling up a sharp incline we reached a small village. A few stray dogs stood up to meet us. It seemed an unlikely start to the ascent of a live volcano, but after that drive no one was complaining. Our guide was a 14 year old ... read more

It took about 1.5 hours to drive to the Pacaya National Park from Antigua, with the time passing quickly with us viewing the landscape, chatting to fellow GVI organisation volunteers about what we are to expect in our coming weeks and chatting to the other Northern Americans that had joined the tour. A boy, named Jorge, jumped onto the ladder afixed to the side of the Dodge van that we were travelling in, whom we met later as a helper for our journey. Jorge was hired by our guide to show us exatly where the latest flow is. The guide said he couldn't guarantee that we would see any lava, but that there was a good chance that we would. Our French guide, who spoke good English, introduced us to Jorge and told us that it ... read more
Two rivers of lava joining
Dan on Pacaya
Dan at the mouth of the lava rivers

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 ... read more
Photo 1
Photo 8
Photo 12

The highlight of our stay in Antigua was our hike up a live volcano. There are several to choose from here, as the city is surrounded by (active and dormant) volcanoes. We were picked up from our hostel at 6am and drove for an hour about halfway up the mountain. We were in a tour group of about 15 people, with a tour guide who called us the 'tiger family', so that he could call to us when other tour groups were around. We then all hiked straight up for another hour and a half, arriving at a point where we had a view of a hardened lava flow at the base of the mountain, and active red lava flows and orange falling rock at the top! Here, the mountainside changed abruptly from grass and trees ... read more
Climbing the Volcano
...and going down

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