Eduardo's possie

Published: March 1st 2009
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Xela (sh-ela) is at around 2200m and gets very chilly at night. The big draw that brought us to Xela was to hike up the dormant volcano Santa Maria which stands at just over 3700m and peer down upon the active volcano Santiaguito (2500m) to watch its hourly eruptions. Eduardo was our man to lead this compelling adventure. Apparently he’s a famous character as he was proudly telling us of the personal mention he gets in the tours section of the Guatemalan Lonely Planet.

It was a convenient 5am start as Eduardo and his wife Marta also ran the hostel that we were staying in so we just rolled out of bed into the back of their 4-by-4. We were joined by Peter a forty something German who was in his third year of an eight year travel plan and Elonker a thirty something Dutch lady on a month of travel who lives in Brittany translating for a French TV station. We began in torch light for the first hour of hiking before the sun rose. It was not a particularly steep climb but the very dusty and stony paths often made good footing difficult to find. Just as the sun was appearing we entered into a damp cloud line. Our worry about the potential lack of visibility when we hit the top was dismissed by Eduardo who insisted that the clouds would clear. It was reassuring to hear especially from a man that had made this accent over 300 times.

We made the summit just before 8:15am to freezing gusts and zero visibility. Desperately trying to keep our hands warm and faith in Eduardo’s cloud predictions a few flashes of blue sky tantalised us. Then within ten minutes of being on this high peak it cleared. We found ourselves stood in the midst of a majestic range of volcanoes stretching across Guatemala on one side and across to Mexico on the other. To have such a bewilderingly beautiful view revealed so suddenly was completely breath taking and having just our small group up there made it extra special.

After starring out off our mountain top trying to take it all in for some minutes we found a good perch from which to wait for neighbouring Santiaguito to perform. It took just over an hour for the reliable Santigito to let out one of its huge plumes of volcanic dust. The noise was subtle from our position but the ever expanding cloud of dust was substantial casting an immense shadow over its two other craters and surrounding landscape. It was certainly an incredible scene and for sure a major highlight of our travels on this continent.

Even without its volcano hikes Xela has much to offer a traveller. Our four nights left many possible activities untouched. Its excellent array of bookshops enabled us to purchase a second hand Lonely Planet of Mexico. As it rather worryingly dwarfs our guide book for Central America we though best to push on North as our final month is quickly approaching.


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