Pacaya!–Salem

Well, in the spirit of the Watts family we climbed a mountain yesterday. We climbed a volcano called Pacaya. It’s not one of the three you can see from Antigua… it’s a little farther away, but it’s the shortest and safest of the ones nearby. Pacaya is almost continually active, but instead of erupting it has lava flows. This keeps the volcano from big, violent eruptions. Until last year you could see the red lava flows and roast marshmallows on them, but in May of 2010 Pacaya erupted and covered everything in ash. Eventually the lava will be back, but for now all you can see is brown ash everywhere.

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Now for our experience! We signed up for the hike on Sunday afternoon (which is common here. Guatemalans do things at the last minute). It cost about $7 per person which included the transportation, guide, and security inside the park. At 6am on Monday we were outside waiting for our bus. Our group had about 15 people. Us, some people from France, some Spanish-speakers (don’t know where they were from), a group from England, and a guy we think was German. It took about an hour and a half to drive from Antigua to the base of Pacaya. When we got there we had 20 minutes to get ready. We met our guide, Sergio, who only spoke Spanish. That’s when I knew this was going to be fun, since my parents don’t speak Spanish. At the bottom of the mountain there are boys who try to get you to buy walking sticks. Luckily, I knew this and told my parents to bring hiking poles. There are also people selling “taxis” up the mountain… meaning you can rent a horse to the top. The Spanish couple got one right away and my mom ended up getting one.

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They went on ahead while the rest of us grunted and groaned up the mountain trying to catch our breath at altitude with humid air. Between the rest of the group my Spanish was probably the best. I translated some of the things our guide said for my dad and Loren, but through gestures and demonstrations he was able to get his point across pretty well. It reminded me of my English classes at school. After about an hour and 15 minutes of hiking we could see my mom at the top of a big hill. We made it! Or so we thought.

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We had a while to take some pictures and rest until we started down a hill of very loose rock and sand. Then we were to the lava! We walked to an area with a big hole in the ground. Our guide took some sticks he had carried with him and put them in the hole. He explained that this was the hottest place we would see and it was 500 degrees celsius in the hole. The sticks caught on fire to illustrate his point. This was where we were supposed to have marshmallows to roast, but we forgot them at the apartment.

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We climbed a little more and made it to the “sauna.” This is a big cave which is hot from the lava below it. We walked around it and then had a 20 minute break for lunch. One of the couples on the hike had brought pizza with them. They put their pizza in the sauna to heat it up. It worked great!

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After a celebratory snickers bar and cookie we started on our way down. As we started down the fog started rolling in. We got down the mountain and drove home. About an hour later the rain started. We were lucky we didn’t take the 2pm tour or it would have poured rain the whole time!

Today the whole family went to school with me. I got to introduce my family to the class, and they helped make sure everyone was paying attention. They seemed like they had a lot of fun. Now we’re waiting for Loren to come home from tutoring and we’re going to have crepes for dinner! How Guatemalan of us… or something!

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And here’s a video of a chant my class does every morning. When we say a student’s name, they are supposed to wave or dance. Some do, some don’t. We think they were a little shy with my family being there.

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