Guatemala has been another revelation, after what was another relatively easy border crossing we soon found ourselves in a small town called La Antigua Guatemala.
|Antigua town square always something going on day or night|
|Antigua is a very laid back, very nice place to be|
We were chased up the road to our Hotel by a guy trying to sell us a tour. We said that we would visit his office later. After checking out the town quickly we found a nice bar to knock the top off a cold one or two, and decided we would have another lazy day exploring and climb the Pacaya Volcano.
Pacaya is an active complex volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. Pacaya rises to an elevation of 2,552 metres (8,373 ft). After being dormant for a century, it erupted violently in 1965 and has been erupting continuously since then, showering the nearby city of Antigua with ash. So far, the last activity reported has been the eruption that peaked on May 27, 2010, causing ash to rain down in Guatemala City, Antigua and Escuintla.
We were told initially (by the guy that chased us) that we would be able to see flowing lava on the Volcano and that it was an easy walk, but we later learned that this was not the case, so we decided that the best time would be the early tour so we might get a better view from the top. A six o’clock start and a bumpy bus ride for an hour and a half took us to the start of the climb. There were quite a few locals with horses also waiting at the bottom to offer their services, but all of our bus decided we would walk. Knowing what I know now I might be tempted to hire the horse!
We climbed for ninety minutes and the gradient got steeper as we climbed also the terrain changed gradually into the small volcanic rock that was left from the eruption 8 months ago but for me and few others the going started to get tough.
|The edge of the lava field|
Once we got to the lava field things started to get interesting though. Our guide had picked up some sticks on the way and when we reached a small hole on the lava crust he indicated how hot it was. He then pushed the sticks in and said that it would take two to three minutes. He was right instant fire and with the gas escaping from the hole the intensity of the fire was immediate. We continued until we came across what the guide described as the sauna. It was a lava tube, but when you entered it it was just like walking into a sauna.
From this vantage point you can still see the smoke coming from the top of the volcano. It was another hard climb back down. Slipping and sliding on the volcanic ash until my knees and calves were screaming!! A tiring day but well worth it.
During my wanderings I ran into Graham Styles who’s website Brainrotting (http://www.brainrotting.com/) was the inspiration for making video’s myself. He’s been volunteering in the school in Antigua for the last five weeks. It was a nice opportunity to spend a couple of hours chatting with him.
The next day we left for another small village San Juan, on the shores of lake Atitlan, this really is off the beaten track with a lot of the Mayan villagers here speaking their native tongue instead of Spanish, but all with a smile and a welcome. We only spent one night there with a twisty ride back up and over the mountain range that surrounds the lake. Then on to the border with Mexico.
|Coffee beans on the tree by the side of the road|
|Over the mountains to Lake Atitlan|
|The Jetty down by the lake. The water level has risen slightly!|
|Some local graffiti. These are all over the place|
|The main street in San Juan|