volcan pacaya

Practically as soon as i set foot in Guate, my relatives began talking about the Volcano. The volcano was active now, they said. Everybody was going. Would i like to go? Volcano  – Heck yeah! I said.

On Sunday, we went. Swaddled up in borrowed grub clothes – Cristina’s jeans so low that my nalgas surely peeked out – and a lightweight rain poncho (chorros were expected), we waited for Isabel and Wicho’s cousin, Monica, at the dusty cement hacienda flanked by stray dogs, horses and chickens, and when they arrived, hired a tour guide – 70 if he was a day – for 50 quetzales (~7 USD) to take us up to the top of the volcano.


while we – a group of 24-30 year olds – huffed and puffed up the cement, then dirt trails littered with gnarled tree stumps and slippery rocks, our guide simply strode, barely seeming to take a breath. Monica hired a horse and we clumped along beside her. hearts screaming and lungs heaving, we soldiered on on our trek to reach 2500 meters above sea level.


stray dogs followed us. at intervals, Wicho and Isabel pulled out pixy styx – we had, you see, brought all of the necessary supplies – when we rested at wood stick houses scattered along the trail. when the rain began, we zipped up our electric blue ponchos and breathed in the fresh, bracing mountain air.


a wooden gate signaled a new part of our journey – the grassy terrain streaked with blackened skid marks from flowing lava that had long since dried out.



skidmarks that for once aren’t related to my brother

Isabel pointed out that the last time she’d been up the volcano, the skid marks hadn’t existed. further up, we met men selling cotton candy, potato chips, pop corn and gatorade, as well as dogs curled up in the dust to nap.


the sign says: to the volcano

a frisky pup with white feet joined our party and the smoke/clouds grew thick. walls of crumbled, black dried lava barred our path so we had to climb. again, our guide, fresh as a daisy, simply glode over the lava while we again wheezed. higher, higher, until the ground turned to black silt and the rocks became lodged beneath our sneakers.


closer to the top …


forget virgins – it’s cotton candy in heaven, putos

the clouds began to part. around us, swelling green hills overlooking the landscape from a plane’s window.


ahead of us, over more piles of dried lava, in a valley dozens of meters below, there was lava that glowed red as it sluiced through the terrain, sizzling twigs in its path.




with our guide

the trip down – sliding through the black volcanic ash – was begun in the dusk. we greeted cows chewing the parts of the landscape that remained green and hit the dirt path when it was already dark. bouncing flashlights lit the way and my clumsy feet seemed addicted to stumbling over the many, many rocks and snapping branches. the dogs followed yet again, and our white footed friend’s little paws seemed to glow in the darkness.


Cate, sliding down


I’m not evil. MOO’RE evil.

back down, safe on the ground … the volcano was hidden by dark and by clouds so we couldn’t even see how far we’d come.


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