Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hiking an Active Volcano

I recently added hiking an active volcano to my bucket list, and while Rick was visiting, we decided to hike Pacaya - a very active volcano near Antigua. In fact, Pacaya is so active that it had erupted just a few days before we hiked it and had completely changed the landscape of the volcano. We later read news articles that said they had almost evacuated nearly 3,000 people that live near the volcano due to the recent activity. But - even though it had recently erupted, I am still holding out to cross this item off my bucket list. 
In order to trek up Pacaya, you need to have a guide. The trails are very well marked, but once you get to the base of the volcanic activity, you need a guide to show you where to walk and what areas are safe. When Caitlin hiked Pacaya a few years ago, there was flowing lava running down the mountain. All we were able to see was a bunch of black rock with a few pits of burning embers. 
It was really warm though. I mean, really really warm. I was wearing sandals and could definitely feel the heat coming off of the rock. Our tour guide even brought marshmallows for us so we could roast them on the burning lava pit. 
I was super excited to roast a marshmallow, and I eagerly gobbled up my perfectly cooked mallow. In the states we are not really fans of marshmallows, but in Latin America they are so good. I don't know if they are actually all that different, but they seem to have a variety of flavors and colors - so we are always happy when people offer them to us as a snack. 
We met a really nice Australian couple that also hiked the volcano with us, and so we spent some time chatting with them. They told us that after you work at a company for 10 years, they give you 3 months of paid vacation. I was really jealous. Maybe we should move to Australia.
We also met a ridiculously annoying (and racist) guy from South Africa who would not shut up the entire time. Luckily we didn't have to hold a conversation with him. Unfortunately, he spoke so loudly that he included everyone in his conversation, whether they wanted to be a part of it or not. If you would like to know his life story, just ask. I'm sure between the three of us we could retell it nearly perfectly. 
Rick kept comparing everything to Idaho, and how this volcano was not as pretty as the hikes in Idaho. He is such a funny kid. I like to explore the beauty and diversity of many different places. There were some great things we saw on this hike that I have never seen in Idaho - like an active volcano, banana trees, people from South Africa... the list could really go on and on. I think Rick actually enjoyed his time on the volcano - but we learned from this experience that it is much better for us to do things on our own rather than take a tour where we are waiting on the time table of other people. 
And like I said, I'm not crossing this one off my bucket list yet. There are a few more volcanoes I want to hike - and I really want to see flowing lava rather than just pools of burning heat. There are a few that we might hit up while we are in Nicaragua, so I'm sure that in 2014 I can include several volcanoes in the completion of that bucket list item.

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