This past weekend was real cool and kind of crazy. My friend Phil down here has a motorcycle and we decided to take the weekend and get out of the city, thinking that climbing Pacaya, the volcano that erupted back in May, was the best option. Hopping on his motorcycle (yeah, we wore helmets) we drove about an hour till we got to the volcano.
The ride was pretty cool - one of the advantages of being on a motorcycle is that you can weave your way through standstill traffic, saving a lot of time. One of the disadvantages though is that you get wet if it is Guatemala's rainy season, which it is, so we got wet.
Still, we made it to the base of the volcano without getting drenched, purchased our entrance fee and hired our (required) tour guide for a total of about $12.50 a piece. On the uneven and rather strenuous hike up the volcano, our guide, a 15 year old kid who looked about 13, pointed out various signs of Pacaya's recent eruption – large chunks of rock that had spewed from the crater, bashed in tin roofs, and trees, which had been stripped of their vegetation by the fires:
Without warning, the trees gave way to a rocky, very uneven landscape of solidified ash/ lava – in the picture below you can see the end of the tree line in the fog on the right (this dog had followed us all the way up):
Walking out onto this landscape was kind of surreal – looking ahead at our guide, I felt like we had Gollum showing us the way, except that this kid wasn't schizophrenic:
The ground was uneven, sharp, pourous – layers upon layers of dried lava. In certain places, if a hold in the ground went deep enough, it was easy to start fires simply by holding a stick in the gap between the rocks, and letting the heat underneath ignite it:
Once we got a decent fire going we roasted some marshmallows, feeding a few to the dogs that had followed us (for that very reason) the entire way up:
Once the fog cleared a bit, we got a good view of the crater (the little trails of smoke on the right are not fog, but from fires up near the crater):
Though we couldn’t go nearly as far as people were able to before the eruption, and though there was no visible lava like there was said to be previously, it was still a really cool, unique experience that was worth every bit of the cost.
Afterwards, we drove to Antigua, met up with Phil's cousins for dinner/ drinks, and got a 2 bedroom room at a hostel for $5 a piece. It was no five-star resort, but for a private room and shared bathroom/ computer with internet/ resident golden retriever, I'd say it was a great deal. Nothing crazy to report in Antigua though, except that the drunks pee anywhere, in any direction, so you have to watch out.