Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Guatemalan adventures part 3: Volcanoes!!

In Central America, lots of volcanoes can be found. In Guatemala alone there are around 36.5 volcanoes (the exact number depends on who you ask), out of which a few are still active and many continuously blow smoke. Some inactive volcanoes have beautiful lakes in the crater. Most cities are right next to one or more volcanoes - which already makes for a beautiful scene - and one of the most popular tourist attractions here is climbing volcanoes. Having never really seen a volcano before (that's Daniel), climbing a volcano was on top of our to-do list here :)

The first volcano we climbed was during Christmas: volcano 'Ipala' which is all the way in the south of Guatemala - next to Asuncion Mita (where we celebrated Christmas). The climb up took about 45 minutes and was do-able but pretty warm.. what a change at the top - suddenly there was a lake, and a strong wind made it very chilly! Clouds literally sheered past us right in front of us. This volcano has been inactive for a long time, which is why it's full of plantation on the slope.

Wind!!! And a big lake in the crater!

On 31 December we climbed volcano Pacaya, which is the most popular active volcano in Guatemala to climb: it's only 1 hour away from Antigua and a 1.5-hour climb, which is not a lot compared to some volcanoes that take 5-8 hours to climb. This volcano is more 'volcano-like' than Ipala: the way up is mostly a black sand (ash) path. From the start, a few men with horses walk with you to wait for the ones that don't make the climb and pay a small fee to reach the top on a horse (AKA taxi). Luckily we were both able to make it. The view from the volcano was truly amazing! Unfortunately we didn't see any lava.. But there were some "sauna" holes which you can get in and feel the heat from the volcano!

The walk up!

Sauna hole! 

Volcano sunset, unfortunately with lots of clouds!

We are currently near lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen. It is the deepest lake in Central America surrounded by, guess what, 3 other volcanoes, which makes for an amazing view!!

We will stay here for one more week to attend a Spanish school while we stay at a family (homestay) so we can get the full experience. Indeed, the family doesn't speak English! More about that experience in a next blog!