Monday, October 12, 2009
Pacaya; or how i learned to avoid tons of horse poo and love climbing the volcano
On saturday afternoon we decided it would be fun to hike up Pacaya, one of the active volcano's in Guatemala. In theory I am an outdoors person who should be comfortable hiking and camping and all of that stuff but in actuality its more like the lemonheads song Outdoor type "id love to go away with you on a rock climbing weekend but what if somethings on tv and its never shown again... i lied about being the outdoor type." But at this point you throw caution to the wind and ive faked it adequately enough to make at least some people assume that i have spent a good amount of time in the wilderness doing manly things and perhaps my pale skin doesnt come from a lack of sun exposure but rather poor pigmentation.
Around 2 we boarded a shuttle van to head off to the volcano. I thought the lava would be the most dangerous part of the day and the hike the most taxing but i felt like utter and complete crap after bouncing around in the back of the van for the 45 minute ride to the volcano.
when we got to the volcano we were bombarded by a swarming phalanx of little kids trying to sell us walking sticks and marshmallows. They are brazen and crafty business people not to be trifled with, i tried to haggle my way down into a sweet deal for a walking stick on to be shut down by a 7 year old girl who had a limit to how much crap she would take from me and her demands were met. I actually ended up giving her more than she asked after a mix up with how much change i had in my hand.
Once we headed up the mountain or volcano, whatever you feel more comfortable with, we soon realized the hike would be difficult but avoiding all of the horse landmines left along the route would be even more difficult. I was forced to use my cat like reflexes and athletic prowess to circumvent the dangerous road apples that painted the trail. Our guide is one of the bad ass native people, similar to Sherpas in Nepal, who do this type of activity multiple times a day while everyone on the tour is wheezing and their legs are burning he just bounds up and down, sprinting to reclaim the lead, jumping on rocks that are completely unstable without breaking a sweat.
For the most part the hike was challenging but not ridiculous. When you get closer to the top you need to ascend through volcanic ash, i think, that is like deep pools of sand and you are really busting to get through it. At one point during the ascent Andy decided that every time we stopped he would yell out "es muy facil"(its very easy) and as i joined him in these refrains we collected boatloads of contempt from our fellow hikers, who were at times wheezy and tired, and even though we were sweating through our shirts i think they took us seriously.
Once we got to the top I realized it is utter chaos. There are clearly way too many people for a limited amount of safe space. There are also a bunch of bozos who really could care less about you, so shoving you while they try to get to a better spot is par for the course and i guess its your fault if you trip and fall on sharp cooled lava or better yet hot lava. I was following some members of my group onto some of the hotter spots and realized my shoes were melting a little and my legs felt like they were baking in an oven so I tried to be proactive and get to a cooler spot but another bozo was blocking my path because he didnt know what to do with his plastic grocery bag(seriously dude, a plastic bag for a hike is silly a plastic bag for a hike on an active volcano means you are a complete moron).
We stayed up at the top of the volcano for about a half hour and roasted marshmallows, lit sticks on fire and watched as the Guatemalan safety crew pointed and laughed at all of the tourists who were tripping on rocks, stumbling inches from lava, and burning their shoes to pieces. My brother Marcus gets frustrated when he sees kids at shaws slacking off and chatting while they are supposed to be working so i can only imagine how he would have reacted to this complete lack of professionalism.
Our descent was fueled by the sweet glow from our head lamps. I remember not too long ago a camping trip where Andy mocked my head lamp and now how ironic for him to be singing the praises of them this fine saturday. The descent down was actually pretty difficult, i almost ate it about a dozen times only to be saved by the grace of god. At one point we all turned around to see streams of lava sliding down the volcano and lighting up the sky. Its one of those moments where even the coolest of people have to stop and say wow. It was truly amazing.
The rest of the descent was basically filled with horsecrap. Every time we stepped in mud someone would say "its mud, mas o menos(more or less)" which was the enjoying part of the trip down. The other horsecrap part was this ubernerd who would not shut up the entire trip. Literally he did not stop talking and it drove everyone pretty nuts. At one point he asked someone if they had ever heard of machu pichu(sp?). Really dude, never heard of it, we are all only traveling to central America, im not sure if its on anyones radar. Is it a new attraction? But at some point you have to big the bigger person and just accept people for who they are. I mean I was probably just bitter because he was an even more condescending windbag know it all douche than me.
It really was an incredible saturday afternoon, a whole lot different from my previous saturday where i watched college football and then played scattegories with my family.