After our last wedding guests left town we still had some time to kill while the 4Runner was getting some surgery. We met a couple of fun German backpackers, Fabian and Puck, while hostel-hopping and they had convinced us to tag-along on a day-trip to climb Volcan Pacaya. It was less than $9 usd per person, and we were tired of worrying about our vehicle, so we were game.
We didn't realize we would be part of a large tour, but we still enjoyed the short 1.5 hour hike up this active volcano. The tour guide was in his sixties, but he was built like a 25 year old. He said he makes the steep hike twice a day, 6 days a week.
The guide's dog was following the whole day too. We named him 'Black Fred', in honor of Guanajuato Fred, because this dog was obviously a badass too. He climbs volcanos every day, what does your dog do? Lick himself to sleep?
It was funny to see a mini gift shop at the top of the volcano, allegedly selling "Lava Jewelry", but no one was there and we didn't see any molten gems on display. We did get to see some interesting thermal vents and Shannon even climbed inside. Then the tour guide roasted some marshmallows using the heat from one of the vents, the typical volcano tour photo op.
Fabian has been carrying around some traditional liederhosen around Central America, for an "art project" he's been doing for university. He takes a photo wearing the liederhosen in random places that you wouldn't see in Germany. So we talked him into bringing the liederhosen. At the top of the volcano, he snuck behind a rock and changed for us. It was a good laugh, and everyone enjoyed the irony.
Unfortunately they try to sell all the tourists on taking this trek, even some who physically shouldn't. A woman with hip problems was told that the hike was "easy" and she would have no problems. They offer a horse ride to the top for a small fee, but there was no option for the slippery walk back to the bottom. The poor thing seemed to be having a terrible time, but luckily she had some nice German boys to help her down the volcano.
Later that week while we camped at the Tourist Police headquarters, the Antigua area made international headlines. The nearby Volcan Fuego had been more active than usual, and we were fortunate enough to see some eruptions. Over 30,000 villagers were evacuated to the southwest of the volcano, but luckily we were safe in Antigua since we were to the Northeast, even though we were only 6 miles away.
It was very doomsday looking, but the locals all just continued with their day, so we followed suit. From our campsite at night we could even see the lava pouring down the side of the volcano, with an occasional eruption. It was a powerful display to witness and I feel lucky to have been there at that time. It's also a humbling experience, knowing that one minute we can be living our every day lives, the next minute we could be running our asses off while 10,000 degree lava chases us. Just a friendly reminder to take stock of what you have, and of course it's never a bad idea to sacrifice a virgin for the sake of the villagers.