Guatemalan Volcano Hike

Magma Hike

Today our work in a nearby orphanage was canceled, so we decided to take an excursion to a volcano. When we signed up we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. So that morning we started out walking to the bus pickup spot, completely unprepared. Looking back I realized that out of the three of us doing the four hour hike, I was probably the least prepared. I was only equipped with a small lunch and flipflops which I would not recommend.

After a 90 minute shuttle ride we reached the base of the mountain. As we stepped out of the shuttles we were instantly surrounded by kids selling everything from marshmallows you could roast on the lava to wooden walking sticks and horses to ride. In spite of our determination not to buy anything unnecessary, the novelty of riding a horse got to me. I convinced Alyssa to chip in to the very inexpensive price I had bartered for and we split a 4 kilometer ride for 30 Quetzales each or $3.60 US. We would both be able to ride for 2 kilometers.

When we had finally trekked about 4 kilometers, the horse could not go any further because it was too trecharous. We dismounted and decided to walk the rest. But first our guide gave us a little pep talk which I had no idea what he had said because it was all in Spanish. A Spanish tourist in broken English, later translated it for me. It went something like this, “We all need to stay close together and go really slow because the hike can be very dangerous.”

From then on the trail turned into an uphill pile of loose sand and rock which was very bad for my flip flops because rocks went in the top and did not come out the back. I was constantly having to shake them out. When we finally got to the last leg of the hike uphill, the air became warmer and occasionally we would walk over a heat vent that spewed hot air. As we trudged around a corner. The scene in front of us stopped us dead in our tracks.

Winding its way around a bend not more than 10 feet in front of us was a billowing hot magma stream. Its steam bubbled and liquified all rocks it came in contact with. Looking up the flow of lava a bit, I could see the more adventurous tourists putting their sticks into the molten rock and watching it burst into flames for a photo. Quickly I got my sister Alyssa to stand ready to take a photo as I ran down some rocks and picked up a stick. But as it turned out, I got more than I bargained for. After a skin melting photo my feet began to get warm. Looking down at the bottom of my flip flops, I found pieces of black lava rock, embedded in the melting soles. It didn’t take more than a second for me to realize I had to get onto cooler ground.

After that I started picking rocks out of my shoes. Maybe I would stay farther away next time… or maybe not.

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