A Field Trip to Volcan Pacaya
Hiking a volcano in Antigua, Guatemala.
Remember those bus-safety drills we used to have to do as children? The ones where they’d pile us all onto a bright yellow schoolbus one afternoon a year and we’d have to practice hopping off through the back door in case we ever rolled off a cliff and the front was blocked by a roaring fire? Seventeen years later, those drills have finally become useful.
Don’t worry, I haven’t rolled off any cliffs (yet). But I have already had to hop off the back of my share of packed to the brim old schoolbuses while taking day trips here in Guatemala.
But I digress.
One Saturday afternoon, as an excuse to escape the busy Semana Santa filled city, my classmates and I piled into a school bus and headed up Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano about an hour and a half outside of Antigua. (There were often times when we needed to escape the busy city, like when we took a weekend trip to Monterrico Beach.) Out of all the volcano-climbing options the numerous travel agencies offer, we opted for the “easiest” hike. Of course the “easiest” hike still involved hiking uphill in god-awful heat for an hour and a half. And my out-of-shape-from-too-many-cocktails-and-too-much-pizza-in-Chicago body was not too happy with me.
Of course, I could have rented a horse to take me. For only 100 quetzales. Or 80. Or 50. They kept dropping the price the whole way up. And by that I mean I was followed, the entire hour and a half up, by a man with a horse asking, “taxi? Taxi?” But how else will this out-of-shape-from-too-many-cocktails-and-too-much-pizza-in-Chicago body ever whip itself back into shape if I don’t power through the excruciating pain of hiking upwards for an hour and a half? Diet and regular exercise? Don’t kid yourself.
In the end, though, or at least the middle (there was a downward hike too), I made it to the top. Or at least a sweaty, smelly, weak-in-the-knees version of me made it to the top. Or at least to the pre-determined this-is-as-high-as-we-go point. And then we trudged back down a bit, watched the sunset, trudged back down some more, and fell asleep on the bus ride home.
And no, the bus didn’t go flying off the road into a ditch. But, the next day, my body probably wouldn’t have known the difference.