It wouldn’t be a trip if I didn’t encourage Daniel to do something a little stupid and a little crazy. After he had suggested that we head to Guatemala, I did a little research and found out that one of the top things to do there was to climb one of the nearby volcanoes, Acatenango. Of course, Daniel thought I was being crazy, but decided to go along with it anyway as long as he could talk about how horrible it was after.
Sounded like a deal to me. We met with our guide the day before and discussed what gear we would have to tote up the 3,976 meters up the mountain. All of us would be carrying up a piece of the tent we would be pitching (since, it had to be an overnight trip to really experience lava erupting from the nearby Mt. Fuego), pots and pans, and sweatshirts and pajamas for a cold night.
“How bad do you think this is going to be?” Daniel asked.
I shrugged. The guide had said it would be difficult, but I had no idea. I had spent much of my childhood hiking the trails in Montana and had finished the Inca Trail, so I wasn’t too worried. Difficult hikes are one of my favorite things, and I like pushing myself when I go to new places so I always have a story.
The next day, we woke up early and chose a hearty breakfast with protein before heading up to the spot where we would be climbing almost straight up from there. We soon became close friends with our walking sticks, and we found that there was a lot of switch-backing and heavy climbing as we made our way up. Our guide was in a hurry and set a pace that was fast for the group.
We let the rest of our troop move ahead and started walking the trail at our own pace. We had plenty of time, and the higher we got, the less humid and hot it became. We even managed to collect a friendly dog who followed us along the path.
I didn’t want to be rude to the guide and the other young women we would be sharing a tent with, but I was frustrated that they felt the need to barrel ahead. As exciting as the hike was, it was better to go slow and enjoy it and we had plenty of light before we would have to put the tent up. We later found out that the guide was in a rush to get back and go on vacation with his girlfriend, but it definitely tainted the experience by making us feel like we were going more slowly than we actually were. I was the only other hiker carrying a pack (the rest had opted for porters), and we were moving along just fine. Even our dog friend was pooped by the time we made it up the mountain.
A night in a tent isn’t the worst place we had ever slept, but the rain started falling at one or so in the morning. We didn’t sleep much, and I could tell Daniel was just waiting to get on me about the horrors of this trip.
“Don’t say a word,” I said.
But the morning views of the sunrise were unlike any I had ever seen before. If you looked, you could see the Pacific Ocean while Mt. Fuego quietly fumed behind us. It was a trip that encompassed the full power and beauty of nature at the same time.
The way down was worse than the way up, and we were glad to get back to the hostel where we could take a hot shower and think back on what we had accomplished.
“I hated it,” Daniel said. “But not very many people can say that they climbed a volcano like that.”
Have you had a tough experience while traveling that you’re glad you made it through?