We rode a chicken bus to the base of the mountain where we were supposed to start walking from, and found out from our "tour guide" who only ended up being the bus driver, that the way we were going, was to be different than the rest of the tourists. Myself and others were a bit apprehensive at this point, and I personally was a bit scared due to the fact all my travel books say that muggings occur on these hikes sometimes, and that armed guards normally accompany the groups. Well, if a machete is "armed", I guess we were "ok", but being away from all the other people was a bit unsettling.
Getting Up the Volcano
Taking the Taxi to the Top
We started marching, and found out that it's about 1800 meters where we started above sea level. That's approx. 5-6000 feet. The ground was loose volcanic rock, and difficult to walk on. There were guys walking beside us with horses and would ask us every few minutes if we needed a taxi. I was getting a little annoyed with the incessant persistence of the "taxi" owners. The hill started getting very steep at this point and with the altitude, I started to feel really light-headed, and exhausted early. I guess the Taxi owners knew that we would never make it and is why they kept asking us to take the horses. So Shelly, our new friend Ollie and I decided it best to get on the horses that accompanied us, and pay 10 dollars to ride it up and 10 to ride it back down. Glad we did. It got harder and steeper, and we simply had a better time on the horses. It was absolutely beautiful!!!
Making it to the top of the volcano
Geothermal Activity Near the Top
The view was amazing and we finally reached 2800 meters at that point and we dismounted and climbed up the volcano over and across an obvious old lava flow. We stopped finally at a volcanic vent where we were able to toast marshmallows etc. It was neat! Extremely hot air blowing out of a crack in the ground. I sat down and had a snack. It was getting cold up there and VERY windy, so visibility got a little worse, but the vents kept us warm., There was also a less hot vent (more like a cave) where a lava tube had been, and that was about 140 degrees inside. IT WAS AWESOME!!!! We didn't see active lava ( a little disappointing as we were told we would) And after talking with some of the horse owners I got the REAL story.
Making it to the top of the volcano
The Real Story
Here's the real story. This volcano erupted last 10 months ago, in may. It was absolutely devastating! The volcano shot hot lava and rocks 5000 meters, that's at least 3 miles into the sky then it rained down hot rocks and lava on all the villages, and virtually destroyed everything. My guide said that he thought it was the end of the world. There was a lot of pain, sadness, and misery associated with that eruption. It really gave me a sense of what these people go through here. Complete rebuilding, and when I asked him, if it scared him, he replied it was just the way it was! These guides weren't even winded walking beside us! Amazing people with warm hearts!
Enjoying the View
We sat on the volcano for about an hour, and made our trek back down. Kind of. We actually had to go higher up the volcano to get down, this time without the horses. We had to walk up this incredibly steep hill to the horses, it was like a prize in the sky. This was a lesson in persistence and self-ability. Even though I was tired from our previous walk, even higher up than I was before, and generally beat down, we climbed. ONE step after another. Next to the hill was a crater that was absolutely massive from and eruption 150 years ago. You could imagine the top of a volcano that simply blew off......there was vegetation now, but it was deep and wide! Un-imaginable the destruction that must have rained down. I realized I don't think I want to live anywhere near a volcano.
The Thighs are burning hard
Miserable Hiking Experience
Breathing hard and gasping for air at 8000 feet, with mine and Shelly's pack on my back, we made it. Shelly had knee surgery less than a year before, and on the loose rock wall we were facing, I thought it the chivalrous thing to do. But my thighs were BURNING! I felt a sense of accomplishment and was happy to see our horse guides (they called it our taxi) and our horses. We made it down the hill at dark and took the bus back to town another 2 hours. It was tough, scary, exhausting, fun, amazing, beautiful, and interesting all in one trip! Well worth the 30 dollars for EVERYTHING! Amazing place, people and friends! Great tour however, Shelly and I realized we really aren't hikers. We are too far out of shape for this!
The three amigos at the bottom of the volcano
Making it Back To Antigua
We made it back to Antigua at 9:30pm and got our clothing from the laundry lady (they smelled GREAT! and folded nicely) we ate at a hamburger joint in town, and crashed out. Another amazing day in Central America! We are in need of rest and tomorrow, we will be going to Semuc Champey, which are natural springs nestled in a mountain valley, with caves, and a river. Looks relaxing and beautiful. We may have to relax a couple of days there. Our thighs are spent and we can't imagine doing anymore hiking right now or even walking around town. We are just not that young or fit anymore for this stuff.