At 4:30am the alarm starting ringing. I jumped out of bed more enthuastically than normal while my brother rolled over and tried to ignore my attempts at early morning conversation. We put a few things together and prepared to leave the room. I didn't feel as fresh I was making out but I was looking forward to the day ahead, Rich still looked asleep although his eyes were open and he was standing up and moving about the place.
There seemed a suprisingly large number of people moving around the hostel for this time in the morning, either about to start a trip or returning from one. We walked a little bit down the street to our meeting point and sat waiting for the van, still pitch black. In the distance the gentle rumbling of a 4x4 could be heard as it gently carressed the stoney streets, eventually coming under an archway and in to sight before stopping at our side. We jumped in and sat half asleep in the back as the two guys in the front chatted away. Around twenty minutes later we arrived at some point of the edge of town. With the darkness and general lie of
the land I wasn't even sure which direction we needed to head. The guide gave us a brief in nicely paced Spanish so that I could understand it and translate it to Rich whose Spanish was still on the basic side of things.
It wasn't as cold as I was expecting as we started walking slowly from our current altitude of around 2400m towards are target height of 3772m. The early track only had a slight incline with lots of loose stones, however with only the mini-torch (flashlight) of the guide to light our way this proved a little tricky. After around half an hour the sun started to make its presence known and the attractive night-time view over Xela behind us was lost. About an hour in we took our first main break. Rich looked exhausted, which was a little worrying since we had only covered a third of distance and this bit was the least challenging.
After letting nature take its course in the natural environment we carried onwards and upwards. I felt fine at this point but Rich started drifting behind and the breaks became more frequent. The guide seemed unhurried as was I, especially because the
A puff of smoke
The lower Volcan blasts smoke several hundred metres into the air
sky was already littered with clouds, the thing we were trying to avoid by leaving so early. As we approached the two hour mark I generally felt fine although I had a slight headache and felt a little dizzy. Rich was still pressing onwards as we came across a Mayan group. They were heading to the top to perform a Mayan ceremony armed with heavy bags, a guitar and football. The guide commented that I was a good walker, from that point onwards I started deteriating quick badly with my breathing coming much heavy and the headache intensifying. The breaks seemed to be nearly ever five minutes now as we struggled up the last bit. Over three and a half hours we reached the top, I sat with head in my hands as my head pounded away. Rich looked surprisingly fresh now and started taking the first of his 78 photos. After around ten minutes I moved to a point where I could actually see something. Down below laid the white coated highly active Volcan Santigiauto, as promised it twice puffed out smoke high into the sky. The sky was generally fairly cloudy but enough blue existed to get a
fairly decent view. We sat there for some time at the same height as mainly of the clouds. I still felt out of it some what but tried to make the most of it.
A little later we started our descent, Rich and I took it fairly easy because of some light rain and a fairly slippery surface. A guide had lost his patience a little bit by this point but we had little sympathy since we were paying good money for this trip and were not holding anyone else up. My headache died down as did my feeling of being close to vomitting.
In the afternoon we sleep and then in the evening a bit more. I felt a little off and did for a least a few days afterwards.
The next day we went to San Andres Xecul. Not feeling too active this became more of a photo session than much else. In the centre of town a small football match was going on. The standard wasn't too hot and the tiny pitch meant the ball was subsquently always going out of play. Next to the game a community development was being half-heartly received by locals although
the bouncy castle was being well used. The town was generally fairly run-down but the people seemed happy. The lack of stares we received suggested tourists visit this place but we didn't see any.
In the centre of town below the football games is the lucid Church which is hard to miss and one of the reasons we came. Later on a storm kicked up and we were forced to do more resting.
Mid-morning the next day Rich and I parted ways, he headed to Mexico and me back to my second home of San Pedro.
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