Take me… to the volcano!
“I have less than six months to live. The Waponis believe they need a human sacrifice or their island is going to sink into the ocean. They have this mineral your father wants so he hired me to leap into their volcano.” Joe Banks, Joe Versus the Volcano
I have always had a mild fascination with all things tectonic and especially volcanoes. I don’t really know why but I think it has to do with how active and alive the earth is in these locations and all the evidence of gigantic explosions and giant slabs of the earth bashing into each other. Geology is something I probably should have pursued deeper than several introductory courses in college. That being said the highlands of Guatemala and it’s line of active volcanoes has always been one of the things I looked forward to the most about this trip. One of the most memorable moments was cresting a mountain after an all day climb and getting my first view of the chain of peaks across the horizon.
I typically don’t do many organized tours or activities when I travel but I figured this was one situation where I had to. As soon as I got to Antigua I signed up for the trip to Volcan Pacaya. It’s supposedly one of the most active of the volcanoes as well as the easiest to get up to. It turned out to be every bit as cheesy as I had anticipated with guides hurryig you up and down and around while group after group of passing tourists complained about the climb. Who knew that climbing a volcano actually required climbing? Regardless, for me it was completely worth it. I am tempted to take on one of the much more strenuous overnight trips to the larger Acatenango.
Second to Antigua in terms of destinations in Guatemala is likely Lake Atitlan. This lake is something like 1,800 ft deep and occupies the caldera formed 85,000 years ago when a massive volcano erupted and left a 50 square mile crater. It’s hard to imagine how massive this volcano had to be to leave this.
Obviously I had to make a visit so I stored the bike at a hostel in Antigua and took the bus instead of riding for 2 or 3 days to get there. My first stop was San Pedro Laguna on the South West shore. San Pedro is sort of a slacker backpacker hangout as well as a good place to take Spanish classes. While the other two were taking several days of courses I realized there isn’t much to do there other than stare at the lake, drink beer and eat. In order to get a better look at the lake and surrounding landscape I decided it was time to move on via an early morning water taxi across to Panajachel. The early morning light should be perfect for photography….and it was. However, the night of strong winds really whipped up the lake and the boat ride was spent wrestling with a sheet of plastic to keep dry and bracing for the spine jarring waves. The glimpses I got of the scenery were stunning.
It’s quite chilly this morning in Panajachel but the coffee is hot, strong and abundant. The bus back to Antiqua leaves in an hour.