Volcanoes, coffee and near death experiences
Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
43Trip End Jul 17, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Antigua was the epicentre of power for Central America until a massive earthquake in 1773 smashed the city and they moved the capital to Guatemala City. They plundered it for material but the locals never really gave up on the idea of their city and rebuilt it. You have to give to them, a city surrounded by volcanoes and on a fault line would be enough to make me want to start up someplace else but not these guys.
We got our bearings in the city again and Nic went and found us the banana bread shop that we remembered from 3 years ago
There are many steps involved which I won’t detail here but if you want to find out a little more, buy me a coffee and I would be happy to describe it to you. Better yet you could come over and have some of the Guatemalan coffee that we roasted and sent home. We had a chance to roast the coffee old school on a clay pan and also grind it on a big mortar and pestle before drinking it. We had a great time and 6 cups later, I was ready to head off to find a place to empty my bladder.
The second half of the day was reserved for climbing one of the nearby volcanoes called Pacaya. Pacaya volcano is 2.5kms above sea level. We got a van up some of it but the rest was going to be done on foot. The big attraction here is the lava that flows down the volcano. There are plenty of videos of people roasting marshmallows and burning sticks as the lava flows by. We were looking to do the same. Climbing up this volcano is some serious work. The first third is made up of a forest trail that just goes straight up. The second third is made up of this volcanic sand and once you leave the forest, you’re met with this barren black sandy landscape which is something else. Walking this sand is dense, a real case of 1 step forwards and a couple back
As the volcano is an active volcano, the lava flow changes every day so the guides know which way to head up and what is safest. I’m pretty sure that taking tourists up a live, changing volcano would not be allowed in Australia, no matter how experienced your guides were. Unfortunately, on this day, the volcano wasn’t being kind to us and the lava was about 40m away and sliding down the side of the mountain. No marshmallows were getting toasted today. It was still very cool to see live lava flowing down the mountain. While we were perched on the volcano, an old American guy (who took the horse up) decided that he wanted to walk to the edge and see the lava like everyone else. At this point, you should also know that this was a guy who used the horse to get up there AND he also had crutches. I’m all for equality but this was a little silly. Needless to say he went sliding down and if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of a guide, the mountain would have got a sacrifice that day for sure. There are loads of stories of people doing stupid stuff and plenty of people getting up there and freaking out because they wanted to get down but so petrified with fear that they couldn’t move. Sadly, there was one red-headed Aussie girl do dropped her bundle on top of the volcano. There was no mistaking she was an Aussie. Very sad. All the marketing our diggers did in Gallipolli and Kokoda were undone in a few short minutes. We got back down but not before our guide decided to run off into the dark and left us to get lost before we had to scream out to him to come find us again
The next day was spent walking around the city and we ended up at a really cool restaurant that was closed a few nights before when we wanted to go. They have all of these clay pots lined up with meats and stews, then a whole table of condiments and sides that you can choose from. We couldn’t let the opportunity pass and got some for dinner that night.
One of the cool things about Antigua is that it’s heritage listed, so all the buildings have to maintain their old school look. It becomes interesting when you have a Burger King housed in an old colonial building. To have a look around one of these modern conversions, we had to go into a Burger King and have lunch there (purely for historical and anthropological reasons).
We left for the airport to catch a plane to Miami for a day. We had a ton of things to do there and not much time to do it in so we decided to skip the sightseeing and work through our list of things to buy and things that needed to be sent home. So, in the end we would call it a 'shopover’, rather than a stopover.
In our next blog, we head to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for some pampering before we have a couple of weeks in a favela, the biggest one in the Southern Hemisphere in fact. If you don’t know what a favela is, spend a few extra minutes now Googling it.