As I pulled myself up the steep hill to the next view point, still shrouded in cloud, I wondered really why I was bothering to climb this volcano at all.
The tour had arrived in Antigua, a city in the central highlands of Guatemala. The cooler temperatures were definitely welcomed by the group after nine days of humidity. It’s a charming colonial city to wander around, sight seeing and taking in the Spanish Baroque architecture, which was what most of the group had opted to do on our free day there. Antigua has a reputation for great coffee and chocolate, so it’s very easy to while a way a day between coffee shops, people watching at the market and the main square. Other members of the group took a chocolate making tour, proudly showing off their creations when we met in the evening for dinner.
Around every corner in Antigua is another dramatic ruined church after many destructive earthquakes have caused irreparable damage to the city. The two volcanoes that frame Antigua, Volcan de Agua and Volcan de Feugo are reminders of the effect mother nature can have on this city. I wasn’t just content at looking at the volcanoes though, I wanted to climb one.
Volcan Pacaya is a short drive from Antigua and a hike on it is offered by most tourist agencies around the city. It’s only a short hike of less than two hours although there is no let up in the steep track until you reach the more barren area near the crater. Because of the current status of the volcano it wasn’t possible to reach the crater, with a sign system signalling to the guide which paths were safe to take. The last significant eruption here was only in May 2013.
At the next viewpoint, the clouds started to clear. Before us lay a beautiful vista with the peaks of the other volcanoes peering through the thick cloud cover. As we continued upwards, it cleared further and we were rewarded with stunning views in all directions. It was time for a quick breather so we took it in turns to drop into a crack in the surface of the volcano to feel the heat being emitted. A sauna service on the side of a volcano was not what I expected!
In order to fuel ourselves for the downwards journey, our guide produced a packet of marshmallows from his bag and we promptly set to work scavenging for suitable marshmallow roasting sticks. Just four minutes, our guide reckoned, for the perfect roasted marshmallow. Apparently last year it would have only taken one minute. Satisfied, we turned back down the volcano side for our descent, just in time to see the dogs lick up the remains of our snack.
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