I’d decided I wanted to climb one of the four volcanoes around Antigua, Guatemala. In the end, I picked Pacaya because it’s active and you can climb up and down it in a day trip. The first time I had booked was cancelled as Guatemala was entering the wet season and the afternoon rainstorms were really intense. I switched to an early morning departure, meaning leaving my hostel at 5am.
Stepping outside I realised it was pretty overcast as I waited for the mini-van to pick me up. I also concluded that my backpack was way too heavy for the two hour climb up a volcano, so I decided to leave behind my big zoom lens. I was glad I did.
When we got to the base of the volcano, we couldn’t see it through the clouds. It didn’t take long until the forced march up the volcano began. My guide moved fast and didn’t make any effort to stop and rest. He also decided to skip the many viewpoints along the hike as it was too cloudy.
I had looked around the group and realized that, with my pack of camera gear (and less than ideal fitness), I was probably going to be one of the people at the back of the group. That being said, I’m not one to ask for rest. Once, I went canyoning in Slovenia along with my mate Greg from university and John from Bermuda. We put our wetsuits on at the bottom of the hill and then had to walk up the steep paths leading to the point where we’d follow the river back down. We asked our guide how long the walk was and he said about an hour and a half. We were supposed to say if we wanted a rest along the way, but all three of us were stubborn and wouldn’t admit we needed a break. We completed the walk in an hour and a half and our guide was shocked! He said he always says it’s an hour and a half walk but most people take over two hours to get there.
Before heading up Pacaya, I’d decided I’d probably be alright. There were two girls from New York with us, who didn’t seem to do a lot of hiking. If anyone was going to crack and ask for a break, I thought it’d be these girls. Twenty minutes into the hike I was already in agony. I was shocked that no-one had asked for a rest yet and couldn’t believe the two girls I’d picked out hadn’t made a peep. I was sure they’d want to stop soon. Then, I looked over my shoulder and discovered why they hadn’t asked to stop.
They were on horseback!
So, I went on up the volcano asking myself why I put myself through these things. It was two hours straight up, with one break. I kept wondering if it was going to be worth it. Then, we emerged from the treeline and there it was – definitely worth it.