On Wednesday morning I woke up at 5:30 am in preparation for a 6 am pick-up at my Airbnb. I decided late Tuesday night to book a morning tour to hike Pacaya Volcano and am so glad I did! Surrounding Antigua there are 3 volcanoes--Fuego, Agua and Acatenango. Pacaya is an active volcano about an hour's drive outside of town and rises to an elevation of 2552 metres (8373 ft). It's last activity was in 2014. In my group there was a family of 4 (French Canadian), a couple and their good friend (from France), Fernanda (my friend from Costa Rica) and myself. Upon learning that I speak Spanish, Fernanda and I quickly became good friends and hiking buddies. She's traveling around Guatemala for a week with a co-worker that as she described it, "is older and not in the best shape, so she decided to pass on hiking the volcano." It was a lovely hike to the top although a bit challenging at the steep inclines especially due to the high altitude. The drive to the base of the volcano took about an hour and then it was a good hour and a half on the way up. The view
at the top was the perfect reward as it was absolutely magical! We also had an opportunity to roast marshmallows beneath the surface of the volcanic rock. What an experience!
After the hike, our driver dropped us each off and I said goodbye to Fernanda. She and I agreed to keep in touch because we both have Cuba at the top of our lists for next-up travel destinations. It would be lovely if we could plan our trips so that they coincide. I quickly ran into my Airbnb to grab my bags and to say goodbye to Fernando. He and his mom Gladys were kind enough to hold onto my bags even though they were expecting a new guest to arrive and occupy the apartment I had been staying in. So I hugged them goodbye & ran out to the street to hail a tuk tuk to take me to my new hotel where I'd be meeting up with my tour group.
The last few times I've traveled, I've taken a fair amount of time to do some solo traveling and then have enjoyed meeting up with a group. I enjoy the solo experience
I'm more impressed than this French kid
as I tend to be a wandering explorer and like to move at my own pace. That said, I also enjoy meeting new people and getting to know them quite well over a period of time. I've found that the coordinated logistics of travel as part of a group also makes going with the flow much easier when you have a limited amount of time and are looking to see as much as possible. In any case, I digress. My group is fantastic! Judy and Ivan are an older couple in their 60s from New Zealand and had just finished climbing Machu Pichu (with the flu) before joining our tour--so impressive! Marg and Geoff are an adorable Aussie couple in their early 70s and in my next blog entry, I'll be sure to talk about their swinging from ropes into a swimming hole in Flores (Marg in her little bikini) and singing drunken karaoke on our catamaran. Luke and Tara are a sweet couple from Australia in their 30s and also my official hang out buddies as the three of us get along fabulously. Finally, there's Mick, a 50-year-old little Irishman and a family of 4 (also from Ireland)--John and
Gwen and their two children (teenagers, really) Carlos and Danitza who are both of Guatemalan decent but were adopted when they were very young and have thick Irish accents. They are all fantastic!
So although I started off in Antigua on my own, I left with a great group of folks to set out on a journey together. We left our hotel early Thursday morning with a long travel day ahead of us. We sat in horrible bumper to bumper traffic for close to 3 hours which tacked on additional time to our already 9 hour trip. Hijole! With the group's morale beginning to visibly decline, I tried to get folks to do a soul train line down the center aisle of the bus but it was a no go. At that point they were too far gone. but alas, after the drive from hell and a short boat ride, we arrived at our lovely waterfront lodge for a nice dinner and a restful night's sleep.
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