Head in the Clouds

I was hesitant about hiking the Pacaya volcano as reports varied on the difficulty of the trek. It is only eight kilometers in total, four up and four down, totally doable under normal standards. But, as should be expected, three months of sampling Wisconsin beer and cheese had made me a little soft.

About half way up we became engulfed in heavy clouds and the odd large raindrop seeped into and darkened my shirt. The wind was strong and wild, it whipped our clothes and hair viciously, and even tore Pete’s hat from his head. His ‘Lucky Charms‘ ball cap turned out to be anything but as it quickly became a sacrifice to the mountain we were climbing on. I was quite wary that the weather would improve, that we would see more than the rushing wall of white before us.

Volcan Pacaya Guatemala -001

 

But we powered on, upwards and upwards. We’ve been up numerous volcanoes now, but I don’t think either of us could ever grow tired of them. The other-worldy landscape never failed to captivate, nor the fact that each contained more power then any of us can possibly anticipate. We’ve felt the fringes of volcanic might before, having lived on the edge of a very active one and on the edge of my own fear. But even that was just a brief taste.

Volcan Pacaya Guatemala -004

 

Volcan Pacaya Guatemala -002

 

This time, after trekking breathlessly up and down steep hills and in ankle-deep soft volcanic sand, we reached our destination. It was not a crater’s edge or even with a startling view of the scenery around us, but we had the unique experience of roasting marshmallows on her steaming rocks. Many people climb Pacaya to stand near the active lava flows that began in 2006, but we would have no such luck. Sugary treats cooked on sticks shoved into small crevasses would have to do.

Volcan Pacaya Guatemala -003

 

Once done, I sat huddled against the wind a short distance away. I curiously felt a strong compulsion to meditate but the crowd of people distracted. I expect that I was just drawn to the strength of the force on which I sat, or perhaps it was the need for deep rest after putting my soft self through such a climb. Either way, I enjoyed the strange peace that shadowed my sense of accomplishment.

Volcan Pacaya Guatemala -006

 

As the group gathered to begin the trip back down the volcano, we were quickly faced with one last devilishly steep incline. I leaned heavy on my walking stick while Pete handed his to another man who was struggling. Pete dropped back to walk beside me, when his fitness level could have easily seen him leading the pack.

“Sorry you have to stay with your wimpy wife,” I said as he took my hand and we began the incline.

“I’m with you to the end honey,” he said, before stopping suddenly to capture wayward horses, eating sparse grass from the dark and foreign landscape. He then added: “Which may actually be soon,” as another gust of wind forced us to both arch our backs in a braced position against the clouds that overcame us.

Volcan Pacaya Guatemala -005

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  • February 1 2013

    I’m glad you survived to write this post! I definitely need to get into better shape before I even attempt anything like this. Looks really amazing, despite the bad weather.
    Ali recently posted..Is “What If” Stopping You From Traveling?

    • Pete
      February 3 2013

      I thought the hike was actually pretty easy. The views were pretty incredible and the weather was not too bad once the cloud blew off. I wish we were allowed to go higher on the volcano or would have seen some lava, but I’ll have to see if I can book another hike.

  • February 1 2013

    wow, the 3rd photo really shows you how sweeping the landscape is up there. loved it – would love to do it again!

    • Pete
      February 3 2013

      Thanks Annie. Once the clouds blew we were pretty shocked how beautiful it was.

  • February 1 2013

    Your husband rocks!!! Gorgeous pics!

    • Pete
      February 3 2013

      *blush* thanks Andi 🙂

  • February 1 2013

    Nice one, thanks for sharing! I’ll put that on my Guatemala todo list 🙂
    Patrick recently posted..#59 Whitland Sundays

    • Pete
      February 3 2013

      Cheers Patrick, hope you enjoy and maybe get to see some lava when you do.

  • February 2 2013

    Glad you posted about this! We are going there this July and were considering the 3 day hike…which I think is a little to intense…I think I will stick to the day hikes! Great post, fyi I will also be the wimpy wife!
    Hannah @Getting Stamped recently posted..5 Months Til’ Lift Off!

    • Pete
      February 3 2013

      I was debating on the 3 day hike on our first stint into Antigua but never did it as we only had 4 days. Now that we are back for a week, I might take sign up. The day hikes are definitely beautiful and worth it, and there are more intense hikes than the one we did if you are looking for a bit more challenge. I would rank this one as easy.

  • Lena
    February 1 2013

    Great post, got a little teary at the part of your husband being so sweet. 😉 Nothing like a great traveling companion. Love reading your updates!

    • Pete
      February 3 2013

      I would do anything for her and most of the time we work brilliantly together as a team. I find it the most rewarding when we both can achieve something and share in the glory together 🙂 Thanks Lena!

  • February 3 2013

    Must have been quite scary, the first picture actually shows that. Loved the part where you felt completely at ease and had a desire to meditate. Nice touch in the end, lovely to have someone who sticks by you all the way!
    Have a nice day 🙂
    Arti recently posted..Heian Jingu Shrine and Garden in Kyoto, Japan

    • Pete
      February 3 2013

      The weather was intimidating at first, especially when we were walking along the ridge and can’t see nothing but cloud. But when the sky finally opened up, wow the sight was incredible. As always, thanks Arti!

  • February 4 2013

    We did this when Zac was four. Absolutely loved it. He got very macho when a guy in our group said, “There’s no way that kid can do this” and proceeded to outlast him to the top.
    Theodora recently posted..A Load-Shedding Mystery

    • February 8 2013

      Zac is a rockstar. I’m sure at 4 he would have run laps around me up that mountain.

  • February 4 2013

    I always have my head in the clouds (figuratively) 🙂 Looks like such a rewarding climb.
    Megan Eileen recently posted..The Colorful Faces Of Sarasota

    • February 8 2013

      Haha, as do I most days Megan, as do I! I wish we had seen some lava, but it was still a good climb. 🙂

  • February 4 2013

    I just hiked a volcano in Bali and the pictures here certainly bring back memories. Except instead of horses, we had “volcano monkeys” (as our guide put it).

    • February 8 2013

      Horses, monkeys, same same! Ha. So excited to one day get to Indonesia as it is ‘volcano central’. Can’t get enough of the landscape.

  • February 8 2013

    Great photos 🙂

  • February 16 2013

    Very cool. Definitely want to add more hiking to my travel life.
    Wandered around the Santorini Volcano and quite enjoyed it other than the sulfur smell. Never thought to roast marshmallows in the heat though. Neat idea.

    • February 20 2013

      We LOVE hiking. This one was a little tough for me as we hadn’t done any in awhile, but we try to as often as we can. And hiking on volcanoes might be my favourite. 🙂

  • ohh we didn’t have the chance to eat marshmallows on the volcano like you…it’s original 🙂
    Rachel @ Voyager avec Découverte Monde recently posted..Visiter la Colombie : Mon itinéraire et mes incontournables

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