Hiking volcanos at altitude and a bit of yoga
Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
257Trip End Jan 31, 2012
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Where I stayed
Hostal Don Diego
Camping on volvan Tu
Caught a firdst class bus to Quetzaltenango or Xela (Shella) for short. Unfortunately only three people wer using the bus and so they decided not to send it. Instead they placed us into a taxi and sent us to another bus companies terminal. Was glad I had two other people in the taxi with me since I had no real idea what was going on and only hoping that I would somehow end up on a bus heading to Xela. First class buses are basically pullman (coach) buses where you get your own seat. YouŽll understand why Im pointing this out when I talk about my first chicken bus ride.
Once in Xela got a cab to my hotel with no probs. Give the price of a single room was only $1US more than a dorm decided on the roon since my luggage would be safer. Next headed out to fins an ATM. Excpet for one, all the rest were inaccessable since it was sunday and the banks were closed. Was luck to find the ATM
Lots of foriegners and a spanish school around most corners. Seems that Guatemal is a popular place for people to come and spend time learning spanish. Xela seems to be one of the favorite locations to do this. It definately has a nice location and an old city feel to it. Also seems a lot more mayan than say Guatemala City.
After the ATM headed out to see if I could find a hike to join up one of the nearby volcanos. HAd a backup plan of a tour company that always did a hike on Wednesday though this was not the hike I had originally planned. The hike I wanted to do was also done regularly by the tour company but leaft on a Saturday and since it was Saturday that wasnt going to do me much good.
First tour company had no hikes planned and required a minimum of 4 people to organise a hike. Thankfully the second place I went to only required 2 and I was lucky enough to rock up just before another guy, Gilles, who also wanted to do the same hike. In addition another hike up a different volcano was happening that same night. This was the full moon hike up Volcan Santa Maria. Ended up organising one hike for Manday and another one for Sunday.
Since the Sunday hike started at 12am (full moon hike) decided to get some supplies and head back to the hotel to pack for both hikes. Also got a couple of hours sleep since I would be sleeping in my bed that night. Also took an altitude sickness tablet. To close to tonights hike to help but hopefully helps with the next days hike.
Got picked up at 12am by the shuttle to the volcano. Had a group of about 9 people going. Ended up spending 5 hours heading up. Unfortunately while most people in the group were setting a good pace there were a couple of people who were struggling so every 15minutes or so we had to stop 5-10minuts for them to catch up and have a rest. If not for them Im sure we would have done it in 3-4hrs.
For the first hour didnt even need the torch since the full moon was bright enough to light the path. Needed the torch for the last few hours though since the trees were creating dark shadows and the path was quite steep. By the end breathing hard since I was heading up to 3600m without being alclimatised. Guess I must be reasonably fit since I didnt suffer to much from the altitude.
Even with all the stops we managed to reach the top just before sunrise. Especially cold up hear with a high chil factor due to the wind. Could see some lightning in the clouds far away and had a great sunrise. Not many clouds around to start with and a nice view of the nearby volcanoes and the valley in which Xela was in
After an hour on the top, headed back down. This time didnt go down as a group and reach the grassy meadow 30min from the bus in about 2hrs. At this point went to sleep for and hour waiting for the girl who had been struggling. Seems she twisted her knee near the top and was struggling even more coming down from that than going up from the altitude.
Got back into town and wandered a biy but didnt do to much since I had another volvano hike the next day.
Another early 6am start for the volvano Tajumulco (4220m) hike. This is the highest point in Central America.Started the day by heading to the public bus terminal. Here we caught our first chicken bus to San Marco before we got our second one to the volvano.
A word on chicken buses. These are basically old american school buses and have seats like those found on local city buses
In addition these buses have almost no suspension and crazy driver. Buses basically speed as fast as they can while they can then slam on the breaks as required. This means if your not holding onto the rail on the seat before you your likely to slide off the seat when rounding a corner. Also unfortunately slowing down by any considerable amount does not seem to be a consideration when speed hups are involved. The only real question when you hit one of these is how far out of the seat youll get launch.
Weather at Xela pretty crap to start with but a bit better when we got to the volcano and the views of the local villages and farms along the way were nice. Lots of small plots of corm or other vegatible with small cottages located nearby.
After reaching the base of the volcano started heading up and it ended up being about 5hrs which includes a one hour lunch break. It appears that our guide hadnt done the trail for 4 years and so we ended uo loosing the trail for a while. As a result ended up walking up a 45deg incline plane which at the altitude was tough going
During the first 10 minutes I could not get my breath to catch at all, my heart was pounding, my legs aching and I was wondering if I would make it. Thankfully my body seemed to recover a bit and while my legs ached (probably from oxygen deprivation from the previous hike causing fatigue) and breathing was still tough I could cope. Certainly better than the guy I was wlking with. Guess some combination of my fitness and probably the drugs helped me. Managed to keep a reasonable pace and had reasonable breaks waiting for my partner to catch up.
After about 1.5 hrs had a reasonable break and the guide went to see if he could find the trail. Seems that the country side has changed quite a bit in the last 4 years due to landslide. Also the fact that the clouds have rolled in and you cant see more than 100m agead doesnt help with finding the trail.
Got onto the trail after that and had lunch after another 30min. Thankfully this was in my pack so my pack got lighter. Found that the last 45 minutes werenŽt so bad. Not sure if it was my body adjusting, the lighter load or a less steep trail but didnt feel as physically stressed doing it
Got to the camp site just before the rain started coming down and set up the tent. Stopped raining a bit and managed to eventually get a fire going.
Another early start, 5am, in order to get up to the top for the sunrise. Felt great today. Guess not having the pack has made a big difference. Gilles on the other hand was still struggling a lot with the altitude. Thankfully it wasnt to far to the top of the volcano. Saw the sun ride again and once agin had some nice views of the land surround the volcano. Could also see into the dead volcano crater. Again stayed at the top for an hour or so before heading down. Got a few nice photos of the clouds sitting on one of the mountains near the volcano.
As expected a lot easier to go down than up. Managed to have views all the way down since the sky was pretty clear all morning. Got to the bottom just in time for the first chicken bus and so didnt have to wait around to long.
After getting back first thing was to get a bed for the night and repack the stuff I had left behind