We’d heard the rumors.
We’d even seen the pictures.
And, yes, it is true.
There is a place where you can hike to the top of a volcano and see the lava pouring down over the side.
How can you pass up an opportunity like that?
Sure, it has its dangers…Vesuvius anyone?
We knew that it would be safe for us, and something we just had to do. So, at 2:30pm, we were off.
We booked transport there and back with a group.
The information they gave said that when we got to the volcano that there would be a 1.5 hour walk/hike to the top. That doesn’t sound so bad…
The shuttle is met by children selling big walking sticks, and locals offering a taxi ride. (In other words, you could rent their horse to ride to the top).
At first I thought that this was silly. Who would really need a horse to get to the top of one little volcano?
Certainly not us. We’re from Colorado. We’ve climbed Kilimanjaro for goodness sake.
We start hiking. Not walking. This is genuine hiking.
At first it’s not so bad. But, then I start to feel it.
Have I mentioned that I have some sort of massive head cold? I don’t know how I managed to catch a “cold” since it’s been over 90 F since I can remember.
But, I’ve got one and have had it for a couple of days. My ears haven’t adjusted for elevation in a couple days, and I was already having trouble breathing.
Maybe hiking to the top of a volcano wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.
I make it roughly half way up the mountain. But then, I break down. I just can’t breathe anymore. I need a taxi.
Jonathan finds me a horse. (Yes, the locals have followed us up, leading their horses in case anyone changes their mind.) Clearly, they knew more about this “walk” than we did.
To be honest, I feel like I took the wimpy way out. I mean seriously. I’m in good shape and decent health. I shouldn’t need a horse to carry me.
But, without it, (and with my cold) I wouldn’t have made it to the top. That’s for sure.
(Alyssa – aren’t you proud of me? I rode a horse! I wish I’d had your lessons BEFORE this trip… it was a very steep climb, I could have used some riding lessons.)
With my trusty stead, I am quickly at the top. Or so I think.
Soon everyone else joins us, and we start taking pictures…wondering where the lava is.
Then, we find out that there is still another 45 minutes to go. It’s just too steep for the horses to go up.
Man, I’m happy for that horse.
When we finally do reach the top, it’s hot. I mean, really hot.
We’re literally walking on top of cooled lava, with hot lava flowing inches below our feet.
At one point I check the bottom of my shoes to see if they’re still there, or if they’ve melted.
There are so many people up here too. There are 4 groups of 20… that’s a lot of people on the tippity top of a live and flowing volcano.
It’s difficult to get pictures, let alone walk, with that many people up there.
Jonathan wanted to go right to the edge, but I didn’t want to. So, I waited for him.
I’d forgotten something VERY IMPORTANT though. Jonathan had bought marshmallows at the bottom.
As I was waiting for him to come back, the guides started telling everyone that it was time to leave. I tried to keep waiting for Jonathan, but the guides kept pushing me further away.
Jonathan kept toasting marshmallows to bring to me. But, he couldn’t find me.
By the time we’d met up again, the guides had started to actually physically nudge me back down the volcano. So, there was no more lava to roast a marshmallow over for me.
This means that I missed out on lava roasted marshmallows.
This is probably my biggest regret of our last three months of living and traveling through Central America.
(That’s not so bad. If I can say my biggest regret is not eating a marshmallow, then life is pretty good.)
Well, I rode the horse back down the mountain. I was really thankful for my new friend.
(Who unfortunately had no name. Her name was just “horse”.)
But, remember how steep it was going up? It was that steep going down too.
Did you ever see that movie “The Man from Snowy River”? (Or maybe it was “Return to Snowy River”.)
But there’s this scene where the man rides his horse down a really steep hill. He’s leaning back really far, with his hat off, and waving it behind him.
I really needed a hat, because that’s how I felt coming down. (That’s the first time in my life I wish I’d had a cowboy hat.)
About 1/3 of the way down though, the guy leading me and my trusty steed takes us down a different path.
He tells me that my tourist group of 20 (Los Toucanes – the toucans) is taking a different path. OK that’s great, but Jonathan is way behind us and in the Toucanes group. Does he know this?
I start to get nervous, because it’s just me and the other horse riders who are taking this path.
I can’t see anyone else taking it. It’s a completely different path. It’s nowhere near where the other path is.
I start to get a bit nervous. Here I am, in Guatemala, being led down a strange path on a strange horse, with a “stranger”. My mind is reverting to my 5 year old self and thinking “Stranger danger, stranger danger!”
It’s amazing what tricks your mind can play on you.
(On the other side, awareness is good. it’s just that the mind likes to go way beyond awareness in it’s imaginings of what could happen.)
I was never scared, but I was a bit nervous that Jonathan and I would be separated and not able to find each other.
We finally arrive at the end of the trail, and it’s somewhere very different from where we started.
The horse riders arrived there about 20 minutes before any of the hikers showed up.
But, they started to trickle in. And finally, there was Jonathan! YAY!
We bought some more water, and paid for my “taxi” (a whopping US$20 round trip).
What fun, but I was definitely exhausted by the end of the day.