Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ancient History, Volume XXV

In the last installment, I spent an entire freaking day flying from Ecuador to Guatemala solely to avoid flying through Columbia. Don't be me...

The following morning, I realised that I was starving (due to skipping dinner when I arrived) and had no Guatemalan money to my name. So I set off for the Antigua town square in search of breakfast and quetzales. Which was about the time I found out that there were seven quetzales to the dollar, which is REALLY hard to work out in your head... I wandered around Antigua for about half the day - it's really pretty and the entire town is heritage listed - it was hit by an earthquake in 1776 and largely abandoned, so all the really old (and slightly ruined) buildings are still there.

In the middle of the afternoon, I headed back to the hotel and sat outside reading my book until I was suddenly accosted by a bunch of Australian voices. It turned out they were part of the group that had just finished the tour I was about to start, and the group was heading on to Honduras. Their tour leader was running an orientation walking tour of the city for the people joining in Antigua, so I tagged along.


Check out the decoration on this church facade! 

They invited me to tag along to their farewell dinner that night, which I did, and the following day I was up at stupid o'clock (like 5.30am) and heading out with the group to climb an active volcano. The first few hundred metres of the climb were absolute torture - like walking the trail to Dead Woman's Pass all over again. After that, it alternated between reasonably flat and crazy steep. As me and a couple of others started to fall further behind the group, locals would come up behind us asking if we wanted to get a 'taxi' (aka a horse) to the top. So I was constantly finding horses behind me. And I'm TERRIFIED of horses. So I was freaking the fuck out, and attempting to convey that no, I really REALLY didn't want to ride a horse to the top. Eventually, I managed to convey to one of the guides that me + horses = no bueno, and he persuaded the touts to leave me alone. THANK GOD.

Finally, we reached the lava field, I became increasingly paranoid that the pumice was going to give way under me and that I would fall into molten lava and die a horrible flamey death. OH HAI, OVERACTIVE IMAGINATION!!!
Thanks a lot, brain... Also, source.

Needless to say, I didn't die a horrible flamey lava death - SURPRISE!!. At the summit, we got to see lava bubbling away, and a little further down the slope was a river of lava. (How many more times do you think I can use the word  lava in this post? LAVA LAVA LAVA LAVA LAVA)
Climbing Mount Doom Volcan Pacaya




After not very long at the top, one of the guys in the group (who'd gone close enough to the lava river to try and toast marshmallows) discovered that the soles on his shoes were melted. Between that and the overpowering smell of sulphur, we decided that it was probably time to start heading back down. After an hour's bus ride, we were back in Antigua where I discovered that I couldn't get into my room because my roommate had arrived and had taken the key with her when she left the hotel. AWESOME. (This was pretty much the way our relationship would go for the rest of the trip...)

So I whinged to one of the girls on the other tour, and we went out to have a look at some of the ruins:

That night, there was a pre-tour briefing which was to change my life forever. Because that's where I met my BFF, Sara. And also our tour leader, Arizona Boy, who was...more than a little odd.

But Arizona Boy and his special snowflake behaviour (and his Evil Twin, who appeared when tequila was present) are stories for another time...................................

Have you climbed a volcano? Did you get paranoid that you were going to fall through the stone and die in a river of lava?? (Please say yes so I feel like less of a weirdo...)

K xx


  1. Honestly, I don't think I'd even dare to climb a volcano for fear of Death by Lava, so you're one step (or, really, several thousand steps) ahead of me.

    Also: RUINS! They are made of awesome!

    1. What's hilarious is that they were all "Who wants to climb a volcano?!" and because most of us were Australian, we just assumed it would be an EXTINCT volcano, because that's all we have here. LOL NOPE. HERE'S SOME LAVA!

      And yes, the ruins really were made of awesome.

  2. LAVA IS SCARY, YO. Your fear of death was totally legit.

  3. I've never climbed a volcano- and I would totally be picturing Lord of the Rings in my head too. All of those pictures look like they came out of the movies.

    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one to make LOTR connections. I mean, given the choice between LOTR and that terrible movie with Tommy Lee Jones, Volcano? I'd take LOTR any day.

  4. I've climbed lots of dead volcanoes, but only one live one. It didn't so much have LAVA as boiling sulphur pools, so I wasn't too worried.

    In hindsight, I suspect boiling sulphur is equally as deadly... so I'm not less scared than you, I'm just more of an idiot!

    1. Mmmmm, boiling sulphur must smell DELIGHTFUL... *gag* I guess your shoes were in less danger of melting though?!

  5. I have climbed one active volcano, it did not have lava flows, or lava coming out of it at all, so I wasn't that worried.

    Although the guide did suggest that we walk around the rim of the volcano which was loose shale and that didn't seem ideal to me.

    I was more concerned about sitting seatbeltless in the back of a ute and inhaling dust for 1.5 hours.

    1. That is a very valid concern!!! And yes, walking around the loose shale rim of a volcano seems like not a very good idea. Silly guide person...


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