Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 20 - Climbing Volcano Pacaya - Wow!

part 1: riding up on a horse through the forest

Part 2: Climbing the old lava field with Alan

where is the lava?

flowing lava

What to do when you run out of numbers...
We did something really Guatemalan today. We climbed Vulcan Pacaya. It is not really like a national park in the US. There is very little organization and control. As soon as you park the car in a dusty parking lot, you get assaulted by various people, including children that want to sell you a hiking stick or a horse ride to the observation point, which is otherwise a good 45-min. hike and so difficult that many of us "gringos" will soon be happy to be riding a horse, regardless of the cost. We decided to take 2 horses from the start, so the kids could save their energy during the first part of the climb. We reached the obesrvation point and where sorrounded by clouds. So we decided to proceed on the old lava field. We were not sure how far we would get, but little by little we made it all the way to where the lava was flowing... wow!

Driving in Guatemala is an adventure on its own. We drove a lot during this vacation and we went from being really scared at first to start laughing about all the crazy things that happen and that you see along the way. Here are just a few of the things we saw during our 1 1/2 drive to the volcano and back.
1. The sign above at a gas station along the highway. Do you see anyting wrong with the numbers?
2. The same gas station accepted credit crad for payment, but only on pump 1 and 3... Not clear why.
3. We drove by the secondary garbage dump in Guatemala City. Vultures were flying all over and the smell was hard to describe.
4. In one of the villages we drove through cars destroyed during accidents were lined along the road. Our guide, Alan, explained to us that they were lined in front of the local police station. They will stay there during the investigation period or something... again, not clear.
5. We were driving up the highway on a steep road and there was a nice, tin-and-cinderblock wall. Just up the curve, we were surprised to see that a part of the wall was all smashed from a car driving through it...
6. There was an accident on the road. One truck was parked in Lane 1 and the accident was in Lane 3. We drove around it, but about 100 yards ahead were 2 black police trucks, watching traffic and doing absolutely nothing about the accident in their midst.
7. We were climbing down the volcano and there were some naive American tourist groups who were just starting their climb up. Apparently there are "night tours" where they climb up and see the lava in the dark. They are very dangerous because you can easily get lost in the fields of pumice and they do not tell you to carry flashlights or anything.
8. A pickup truck with 6 people covered with blankets in the bed of the truck. All driving home from work.
You can easily tell who the tourists are. There are the wealthy American middle-aged couples. The husband is jolly and jokes with everyone. He is rather large around the middle. He wears khaki shorts and Hawaiian-print shirts and has a fancy Nikon of Canon camera around his neck. The wife is also rather large and smiling, and wears stretch capris and sandals and T-shirts from previous vacations that read Puetro Vallarta or Alaska or something like that.
Then there are the wealthy American families with 2 kids: the teenage daughter who is always texting or listening to her iPod and the 9 or 10 year old boy who is always playing on a DS and asking "Are we there yet". The mother and father obviously have next to no knowledge about Guatemala and are reading from guidebooks. The mother wears perfect makeup and has huge stylish aviator sunglasses. The father keeps urging the family on. Of course, there are general stereotypes but they seem pretty relevant so that is what I will use.

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