Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hiking Volcán Pacaya

A few weekends ago, Katie, Leeah, and I decided to cross off an important Guatemala must-see from our list of things to fit in this year. That's right, we hiked Volcán Pacaya!

Pacaya is probably Guatemala's most famous active volcano. It's situated near Guatemala City and Antigua, making it a super easy tourist stop. In recent news, Pacaya also became famous for its May 27, 2010 eruption that covered the region in ash and shut down the airport for several days.

We <3 danger. 

Now calm down, Mom. Yes, this volcano violently erupted just a few months ago. Yes, I knowingly decided to climb all the way up to its molten lava-filled top. But, the way we see it, what better time is there to hike an active volcano?? Honestly, what are the odds that it will erupt twice in such a short time. Ok, I doubt that makes you feel any better. :P

Anyway, our hike went off problem-free. We left Antigua on a 2 p.m. shuttle, drove the hour and a half to the base of Pacaya, paid our Q 5 to buy a handy walking stick from a really cute kid, and then joined our guide for the hour and a half hike to the top.

  The view from the hike up.
 Katie proudly sports her Q 5 walking stick.
  The view over at Volcán Agua.

Now before the May eruption, tourists used to be able to walk right up to rivers of lava, and you could even roast marshmallows in the fiery liquid. Since the May eruption, however, there's no more lava to be seen. It's mostly rock and ash and hot spots where the heat is so strong it makes the air around you move in funny waves. It's definitely not the Pacaya it used to be, but it's cool in a different way.

 Almost at the top.

The views are beautiful -- we watched the sun set and the clouds roll in over opposite Volcán Agua -- and the experience is just sort of surreal. "I'm standing in what looks like a strange desert wasteland, on top of an active volcano." Oh, and did I mention that we hiked an hour back down the volcano in complete darkness? Between the walking stick and my flashlight, I managed to only wipe out once, but let me tell you, that hike down was an adventure in itself.

 That cave was HOT.
 Throw some brush in a cave radiating volcanic heat, and you get fire.

Finally,we made it back to Antigua by 8 p.m.-ish, grabbed a pupusa dinner, and then, exhausted, hopped a taxi home. Life was good.

Hike Volcán Pacaya: CHECK!

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