7 abril 2011- jueves
Yesterday I hiked up the path of crushed volcanic rock on Volcan Pacaya, one of the 33 volcanoes here in Guatemala. Several of this group are active volcanoes, including this one. Hikers must stop a considerable distance from the peak, but the smoke curling from the top indicated that I had gone far enough. An eruption nearly a year ago sent large rocks and boulders to the towns clinging to its slopes; our guide saying that under this assault that the laminated tin roofs caved in like paper, including at his home. That activity in May 2010 also rained a light carpet of ash onto the capital of Guatemala City, 19 miles away. Apparently the rich volcanic soil and income from tourists keeps people willing to live in the shadow of their dangerous and capricious neighbor, Pacaya. The lava flow from its last major eruption had torn off the side of its peak, with the porous and sharp-edged lava spillage spread out before us…a dark moonscape devoid of greenery.
Despite living at 7,000ft in my town, I still find exercise challenging at these altitudes, so I crunched along slowly…it was like walking on chocolate rice krispies…both the sound and slippage with each step. Our Guatemalan guide would run ahead, bounding with each step, inspiring both admiration and a slight twinge of jeaousy. In case I wanted to wimp out, several men on horseback followed us up the slope, suggesting slyly at each break, “Need a taxi?” No, I was going to make it on my own steam, with no money nor desire to hop on the horse.
Some highlights included roasting marshmallows over a crevice that belched heat which turned them soft and brown within seconds…quite a delicious snack on little chocolate-coated Chiki cookies…my mini smores! We also entered a cave approximately 15 x 20 ft that was truly a sauna…a few minutes inside was quite enough. Currently there is a project underway to harness the thermal heat at Volcan Pacaya for electricity; perhaps this could be replicated elsewhere in the country given their resource of volcanoes.
Although 3 volcanoes: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango are normally visible from Pacaya…only Agua showed its face to us, the others hidden within clouds. Yet we were still treated to a beautiful sunset. As darkness cast upon our path, we crunched on down as quickly as we dared, finally turning on headlamps at the end. We piled back into the van for the 1 ½ hr ride back to Antigua…pleasantly tired. I am now thinking of the next challenge, hmmm…climbing Santa Maria, a volcano near Xela, for my birthday next week?…. perhaps, quizas, quizas, …