Photographer's Note

Due to work and travel related reasons (all good), I have been absent from the site for some time. So, as a consolation, here is a little greeting from the Guatemalan volcanoe highlands near Antigua Guatemala. The shot was made shortly before sunset from the lava ridden (the dark rocky structures in the foreground) slopes of the active volcanoe Pacaya (2550 meters above sea level).

Guidebooks (such as Lonely Planet) suggest the weather and the views on all the volcanoes there are better early in the morning. I did not regret taking the guided night expedition (bargain price of about 8 usd with rountrip from Antigua city to the trailhead included) though. The sights were breathtaking... and I had no complaints about the dry-season weather.

By the way, when I say breathtaking, I also mean it in very direct sense... The ascent is quite steep taking hikers to the altitude of 2600 meters. That can leave low-land dwellers (like myself) starved for oxigen and grasping for breath unless well acclimatized before the hike... :)

p.s. the thumbnail looks darker than i would have liked, but now it's too late to change it. the post was optimized for a bright LCD screen.

a few words about the Pacaya hiking trip: it's easy to find an 8-10 usd deal from the gzillion of tour agencies in the nearby Antigua Guatemala. the tour package includes transportation (it's a 1.5 hour drive from Antigua to the volcanoe trailhead; given that the gas prices in Guatemala are higher than in the US, the transportation is definitely a bargain...) to Pacaya and back, and a fit tour guide. by the way, a tip to the tour guide is common and recommended. national park entrance fee (about 6 usd) is an extra.

unless you bring along your own skiing poles, i highly recommend buying a walking stick (or two) from one of the many local 6-year old mayan business men/women. stick 'vendors' hang out at the the trailhead and are impossible to miss. the going price for a freshly peeled stick was 5 quetzales, which translated into 0.75 usd at the time when i made the trip (two days ago).

from the trailhead, the guide takes the group on a rapidly climb to the peak of the volcanoe where fresh, boiling lava can be observed. the hike can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours depending on group's fitness condition.

all along the trail, the climbers are followed by the same local 6-year old business men/women, this time dragging along mules and skinny horses, which are offered to the most tired looking 'turistas' as 'taxis' ("taxi, taxi!... muy bueno!...). of course, the fare rises as the distance to the peak shrinks and the climbers get more exhausted...

the descent from the peak usually goes much faster (about 1 hour). flashlights for night climbs are highly recommended, actually - required. oh, before i forget: the same business 'men/women' will await you at the bottom of the trail and demand that you 'gift' them the walking sticks so they could resell these accessories a day later.

all in all, the hike is quite an adventure even if irresponsibly dangerous judging by western european and northern american standards - the molten lava fields are visibly unstable and under a constant threat of new eruptions.

Philippe, fulvio52, Gerrit, Wandering_Dan, jorgi, lopshang, belido, plimrn, avene has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by Kristaps KL (zmey) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1234 W: 95 N: 1748] (7335)
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