San Pedro Volcan

Published: January 16th 2006
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The day after visiting Santiago Atitlan I continued my mental rest this time with some physical exercise which required little thought - tackling San Pedro Volcän. At 3020m high this would be probably the highest altitude I have climbed to, although starting at just under 2000m made the task seem a lot easier.
A hefty entry fee of Q100 (about US$13, less for locals) was necessary with a rather unusual arrangement of being the same price with or without a guide - this basically being to encourage employment, by subsidising this, to strongly encourage people to take a guide (also for security reasons). However I prefer walking at my own pace, alone so I can take in the surroundings better, discussing things later with others. This bemused the guys in the ticket office and they keep checking I understood the Spanish which I reassured them I did by repeating back to them I prefered to walk solo for the reasons above.
Incidentally I wasn´t to bothered about the differences in prices here because it was advertised as different, it was official and upfront (sort of confirming in my mind I had a point of principle on the boat in Santiago the day before). The first bit requires directions and there after is obvious, the guy insisted on walking me the first bit although this seemed a little unnecessary in hindsight, maybe he just wanted the exercise.
The walk itself winds up through steep forest with odd plot of Maize (for tortillas) along the way. These plots broke the barrier of the trees enabling great views over the lake, San Pedro and the Mountains. I was soon becoming exhausted from the altitude and/or my lack of fitness, my assertions that it would easy and that I´ve done this many times before were starting to look foolish although there was nowhere there to see it. Each of the numerous breaks I toke seemed initially like they needed to be lengthy but I seemed to quickly regain my breath, I think I was trying to go to fast, a frequent problem of mind.
I eventually made it in what seemed a long time but which was bit quicker than I had been told. One local guy laid stretched out on a rock at the top and said nothing more than the ´Hola Amigo´, a common feature of the town below. Initially the views seemed very restricted by trees as hover-flies bussed around me after a few minutes I realised I needed to walk about 100m further along to come to the true top where the trees were replaced with boulders. From here the view was what I was hoping for and more. Mixed nationality tourists sat peacefully in Buddha like positions starring in owe into the distance. I joined them. The sky was almost completely clear apart from over a couple of other volcanoes far in the distance. A low lying mist soften the landscape and and further, rising mist rose from over Santiago. A tried to start up a bit of a conversation but they all seemed a little to distracted to give more than short answers.
After some time I descended with some of them, this proved more tiring on the legs than climbing and their toke some time to recover, while their guides pointed out different types of trees and birds, things I have only a passing interest in, being more interested in the whole feel, beauty and romantic qualities of walking over anything more analytical such as development of eco-systems etc. We supposebly spotted one of elusive Quetzal birds, but I was later told this was impossible as they are not found in this region.


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