07/05/2010: Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala
Travelling through Central America, I didn’t have any plans or must do activities. While there, I started to hear about a volcano in Guatemala, so I researched it. It became a must do, and best of all, you could spend the night on the volcano and camp.
As I got closer to Antigua, Guatemala, where the volcano tours depart from, I started to see post-cards for sale with amazing lava flows. However, speaking to other backpackers in the area, they all said that they had visited the volcano, and that it was not flowing lava. All that they could see, was a small hole in the ground, and see a little bit of orange lava inside. This was disappointing news, and therefore decided not to opt to spend the extra money camping, and to just do an evening tour.
The tour left the hostel in the centre of Antigua during the afternoon, driving to a small village at the bottom of the nearby volcano. It was a moderate hike, made more difficult as walking through volcanic ash, for about one hour, until were close to the summit.
It was my lucky day, as that morning the volcano had started flowing again. By the time we were there, there was a grand river of flowing lava, visibly crawling slowly over the black ash mountain. It was a wonderful sight, seeing nature create new ground right before my eyes. Posing for photos in front of the lava, you could feel the immense heat radiating from the lava. You simply could not stand even within a metre of the lava due the intensity of the heat. As it was Central America, there was no health and safety regulations here, if I was stupid enough, I could physically touch the lava, with not a thing or person to stop me. The thought did cross my mind, that if I was to have an accident here, it would be a scar to be proud of, with a story to tell. I also hoped that my trainers would melt a bit from the heat on the ground, however I was not that lucky.
Being optimistic, I had bought some marshmallows to take with me up the volcano. I had the idea to barbeque some marshmallows on the lava. The first obstacle though, was to find a stick, as I had forgot to bring one up with me, and the landscape was barren, with nothing but black ash. I did manage to a stick, and promptly stuck some marshmallows on the tip, and got under way. I did it several times, not always successful in melting the marshmallow, due to the inability to get close enough due to the heat. It was great fun though, and a few others joined in on the fun. At one point, I had myself filmed doing it, a video that I still love to watch and show off.
The fun did have to end though, so as a group we left, and walked back down the volcano. The sun had already set, and it was getting dark. The black mountain soon disappeared into the black sky behind us, leaving a red snake of lava, seemingly floating in the air. We all had a beer at the bottom, all temporary friends. This is one of the most amazing experiences that I had ever had, and one that I wish that I could have shared with somebody.
Here is a video of me barbecuing a marshmallow on lava: