A Volcano, Marshmallow and a store thats only been destroyed once…

The steers of Jocotenango at
five in the morning

We were out of bed around 4:45. After preparing our coffee and getting all our things together, we were out the door a little after 5. It’s amazing how quiet the city is at five in the morning. We walked for a little while without seeing anyone. The walk usually takes us close to 45 minuets because we often take our time to get to downtown Antiguia. However, today we had to get there quick because there was going to be a shuttle waiting to take us the Volcan Pacaya. While we were taking our normal route, we spotted a tuktuk heading toward us. I flagged it down and asked “¿Cuanto cuesta?” how much? He responded with 15Q. This is the one thing that annoys me about traveling here. Often times, you don’t know if people are giving you a deal or trying to take your money. The other day, a tuk tuk driver told me it’s normally 15 for a ride from Antigua to Jocotenango

No people, quiet.

(the city where we are staying) and only 10 to go from Jocotenango to Antigua. However, this guy said that it’s normally 15 to go to Antigua. I was too tired to negotiate, so I just took his offer and we got a fun ride into the city center. We arrived about half and hour early and decided to just relax on a bench in the park and wait. At this point, there were a lot more people on the street and a lot of people jogging. A shuttle eventually picked us up about 15 minuets late and drove around the block  and told us that we needed to get into another shuttle which was already full of people. We ended up sitting in the front which turned out to be a good thing for us, as we got a front row seat to the crazy Guatemalan driving. The drive to the volcano was a cultural experience. There are some very poor people that live here. I don’t even know if you can call any of the buildings houses. The thing that’s most shocking is the division of wealth. In The United States, we think there is a huge gap between the rich and poor (which there is). However, take one drive through a neighborhood here, and I think you would get on your knees and God all mighty that you were born in the U.S. Several times, I saw a huge beautiful house with a huge wall protecting it’s owners and across the street hundreds of filthy shacks. It’s really eye opening.

Our guide explaining the
route we were going to take

After about an hour’s drive, we arrived at the park entrance. Our guide greeted us as we got out of the shuttle and said that if we got lost we need to tell the nearest guide that our group name is the champions. It cost 100Q for Alisa and I to enter the Park ($13). Our guide gathered us around and explained how the hike was going to work. The trail would take us up to 2,300 meters and would take us about an hour and half to reach our destination. It wasn’t possible for us to summit it because the top was still smoldering and can be very unpredictable. If we got tired, we could take a “taxi”. There were a lot of saddled up horses along  the trail that we could hire. The hike itself was not that bad for being completely up hill. Luckily Alisa and I are used to doing really long hikes so it ended up being a pleasant excursion. We stopped several times to look at different lookout points and different points of interest. However, the volcano itself was the reason why we were there, so we breezed

There were lots of dangerous
animals on the trails

through a lot of the views. Five minuets from the our destination, we were able to get our first look at the top of the volcano. Currently it’s missing its top because of the last major eruption in 2010 that destroyed a nearby city and is currently smoldering at this moment. It’s pretty crazy to be that close and actually watch the smoke coming out if it. Worst of all (sorry mom), the thing is still very active and  still can blow up at any time. We took a few pictures and then continued up to our summit where we were able to get a better look at the volcanos and two others that were near by Volcán Agua and Volcán de Fuego. 

There were stray dogs every where–on the trail and in the main office

After admiring the view and taking lots of photos, we continued downward toward the direction of the lava flow from it’s last, somewhat smaller eruption back in March. When we got to the bottom, we picked up a few pieces and they were surprisingly a lot lighter than I thought they would have been. Another thing we noticed, was how much warmer it was in the bottom. It wasn’t from the sun but rather the lava still cooling off. We arrived at a small opening where there were a number of people and then our guide gave us stick and marshmallows to hold over the rocks. It wasn’t as fast as an open fire but to watch a marshmallow melt over a hot lava rock is really cool. We hung out for a bit and started talking to a few others on the tour. We met a group of people from Virginia, a couple from France and a lady from Spain. There were also some germans in group, but we never got the chance to talk to them. On a section of lava that took several months to cool, there is a place called The Lava Store. According to the owners, it’s the only store that exists next to an active volcano (humm). This was actually a new version of the store because the last one was destroyed when the volcano erupted last march. Anyway, the artists make jewelry out of the lava rocks and sell them in order to help the families of the small town destroyed in the last eruption. Normally, I wouldn’t buy jewelry, but how often do you get a chance to buy jewelry at a store right next to a volcano with smoke coming out of it? The last leg of our journey consisted of a very steep uphill climb to where we were able to get a great view of Guatemala city and other areas. The hike down was really fun. We got a chance to get to know a lot of the people on the tour. Alisa and I were going to ask them if they wanted to hang out, but the ones from Virginia were going back home in the morning and the ones from France were heading straight to Belize. When we got to the bottom, the guide showed us a map of the route we walked and the total distance. ……. We got to the bottom, loaded up the shuttle and we were off. I didn’t realize how tired I was until we got into the car. I completely passed out and didn’t get a chance to enjoy the crazy Guatemalan city driving back to Antigua. 

When we returned to Antigua, we said our goodbyes to the group and headed off in the direction of a new coffee shop that the people from Virginia recommended.  We found it right next to the Cathedral in the central park called ABC Del Café. If some of you saw our pictures, thats where we saw the guy with the swastika bag. The coffee tasted great. I had 2 americanos and Alisa had an americano and a latte. We took some time to relax a bit and catch up on our internet usage. It’s really hard to find internet here and even harder to find internet that will stay connected for more than two minuets. 

We consulted our guide book while drinking our coffee and found out that there were some

ruins in the cathedral right next to us. After heading around the corner we found the entrance and bought two tickets for 40Q ($5). This place was huge. While we were standing admiring the entrance, a man came up to us and asked if we wanted a tour. I asked how much and he said 10. I thought he meant 10Q, but he really meant $10. No way were we gonna pay this dude double the entrance fee for a tour. Anyway, the ruins were amazing. They were huge. It’s hard to imagine that people could build things so grand with out the modern technology we have today. We walked around for quite some time and then discovered that we could walk into a crypt. We headed down and as you would imagine, it was creepy.

We returned back to Hugo’s house where we ate some Carne Asada with corn tortilla and some vegetables that you can only find here in Guatemala; I don’t even remember their names because there were so many. We talked for a long time and as usual, had a lot of laughs. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my Spanish. I feel as though my ability to speak has gotten worse today. It started yesterday, but today it has been really bad. Hugo seems to think it’s because I have never had to think, talk and listen to Spanish for this amount of time all at once and as a result, I’m starting to wear  out a bit. I agree. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and hanging out with the family. Tomorrow we are going to a coffee farm where I think we are going to try to learn how to roast some beans. 

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