A Stoddart in South America

Climbing an active volcano, it's a good idea... Right?

This morning was the volcano hike. At 5:45am I stood outside my house waiting to be picked up and at 6am sharp a small white minibus pulled up and the driver announced "Volcan Pacaya". We stopped to pick up another 5 people and the minibus was now at full capacity. Or maybe above it. It seem cramped. We drove for what seemed like an eternity (about an hour and a half), with the roads become more windey, more steep and more dirt road like. And then we arrived. Or did we? It didn't look much like a volcano. If it weren't for all the signs saying welcome to volcano Pacaya it could just have been the side of any tree covered hill. And there were horses everywhere! Which was of annoyance to me as I am allergic to them. We paid our park entrance fee and after a short introduction we were off!  Followed closely by the horses. Or taxis for the lazy. I'm not really a hiker, but after conquering last weeks hike in Edinburgh I thought this would be a piece of cake. Only Edinburgh was a nice smooth walking surface or grass and the occasional rock (and there was promise of alcohol at the top to encourage me!). This was an active volcano however, consisting either of black volcanic sand that slipped away under each step, brutally sharp volcanic rocks where one wrong step would result in a broken ankle or a combination of both where a fall would certainly mean a broken tailbone. And ankle. I realised early it wasn't going to be so easy. But stubborn as I am, I puffed my way up the volcano. Followed by the horses. These horse guys are smart. Calculate the weakest link and follow them until they give in and pay for the horse. And I had been pinpointed as the weakling and they were now constantly badgering me, enticing me with such words as "with a horse it's much easier" or "walking is not good for your heart" (!). I thought playing the allergy card would get rid of them but they were persistent. And it paid off. Around a third of the way into the hike, I caved! I knew it would only get steeper and I was slowing the group down. And they were right, the remaining two thirds were much easier for me on a horse. Not so much for the poor, little horse that had to carry me up the volcano...

When we arrived at the top the view was spectacular. Well worth the hardship of the first third. It wasn't the best of weather but still, the volcano was impressive! The crater with a chunk missing and the layers of ash from the explosive 2010 eruption and the numerous blackened lava flows from the most recent eruption 2 years ago. I was told that the lava from that eruption had only just hardened 10 days ago. I will admit I was slightly disappointed to hear that there would be no red hot lava pouring down the slopes, but hey you can't have everything!  At this point I said goodbye to my trusty, four legged friend, as they only did the ascent. I was on my own for the descent.

Descending the volcano was tricky. The first section was walking over lava, not the easiest of surfaces to walk on. Every now and then I'd walk over a very hollow sounding section, wondering whether it would give way beneath my feet. The majority of the descent was sand, loose, fine, black sand. And it was slippy! A few of the group found this out the hard way!

Back at the base I sat and thought about the morning. I'm glad I did it, I'm glad I held out for so long before giving up and choosing the easy option. But would I do it again?? Hell yeah! Only next time I'll be taking a helicopter...!

Photos in the photo section!




Hey Claire nice to read that you went beyond your comfort zone. You discovered a lot:))
Maybe reflect a little about it over a cup of nice coffee at la Condesa.
Txs for sharing


Hi Claire! Cool stories! You are definitely a writer! I'm glad you're having a good time there. I'll be reading you for sure! Hasta luego!

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