The volcanos Agua and Fuegos loomed on either side of the road, impossibly large as we drove to Pacaya. Today we would hike to the summit of Guatemala’s 17th largest volcano. The path was steep, stealing the breath from each of us, turning from stone to dirt to volcanic gravel. Our guide carved the bark from a tree and rubbed it on our faces, leaving an orange mark, as the mayans would have for war paint or makeup. He picked lemon cane from the side of the path and gave it to us to eat for energy. A wall of white surrounded the earth when we reached the plateau adjacent to the volcano’s peak. Clouds rolled across the black ground rimmed with green. Beyond the edge the ground dropped away to reveal an infinite expanse encompassing Guatemala City and the Pacific Ocean. On the other side the black earth gave way to wall of vivid green leading down to the giant crater. Across the crater was the true peak of Pacaya, a point lost in the clouds miles above us. I only saw the peak once for a few minutes when the clouds broke away. We walked down the side of the plateau to the crater. It was filled with black volcanic rocks and criss-crossed with gray pathways. Smoke rose out of unseen holes in the earth reaching to the lava 30 feet below the surface. We trekked through a sunken trail following the edge of the plateau to a deep hole with heat seeping from it. Our guide pulled out two bags of marshmallows and we roasted them over the hole. We then proceeded to follow the trail along the edge of the ridge separating the crater and the outside world. On the top of the ridge we had lunch on a concrete outcropping looking out upon the cities below. In the dynamic landscape of black, white, and green with its cloudy skies and cool wind, I saw God’s hand at work. When we descended the volcano it was down a steep path covered with a deep layer of loose soil. Archie, Charles, and I sprinted down it at top speed, sliding with every step, our feet sinking below the surface. Without a doubt, that was my favorite part of the day.
– Jared Hensley
Anyone that knows me knows that I’m not very athletic but, despite today’s many challenges, it turned out to be one of my favorite days of this trip. After an hour and a half of driving, we arrived at the bottom of the volcano. Only minutes later, we began the incredibly steep trek up the volcano. Due to my difficulty climbing the volcano, I decided to pay and ride one of the many horses accompanying us up the volcano. I soon found that it was money well spent as I was able to see over some of the foliage and get a look at the beautiful scenery below us. Because the horses were leadin the group, I was one of the first to reach the top, and therefore one of the first to be able to see for miles. The trip continued as we walked further along the volcano and eventually to an area where heat and steam could be seen rising off the rocks. I am happy to report that I can now say I roasted marshallows on a volcano. At the end of the day like many things, I have a hard time picking a favorite moment as there were so many incredible ones. Today, I saw God through the actions of two of our guides: Maria and Irving. The two of them, Maria near the end and Irving through the middle, helped me immensely and would catch me if and when I fell. I’m very thankful for both of them being there and I doubt my experience would have been so great without them.
– Claire Allen
Today, we were able to hike up Pacaya, a volcano located in Guatemala. We started the day early, leaving for the volcano at 7am. We drove about an hour and a half to get to the hiking trail. We started the walk, and right out of the gate, I was winded because we started straight up hill. After hearing about 10 minutes of Kai laughing to start the hike, a couple of others, and I started to turn the hike into a workout and started to run up the hill, but that didn’t last very long. We stopped many times along the hike. We got Mayan makeup from a tree, and stopped to see the many beutiful views we found of the surrounding mountains. We got to the end of the hiking trail that opened up to a large, open area where we got a 360 degree view of the surrounding land. We continued walking on another path into one of the craters of Pacaya, where we roasted marshmallows. We continued to the Lava Store, where we were able to purchase jewelry made from the volcano. We walked farther up and stopped for lunch. Lunch was amazing! We took pictures from our lunch spot. After lunch, the real fun began. We started to walk back down the mountain, on steep pathes, compiled of only volcanic ash. Some of us sprinted down these pathes, where we were able to slide on our feet down too, kind of like sandboarding – but without boards. We continued down the mountain, going down one more stretch of complete downhill pathes. Finally, we got back to the busses. We rode back to the hotel to get cleaned up after the hike. We had around three hours before dinner so we just hung out and had fun being with each other. We had dinner, and after dinner, a teacher from Escuela Integrada, named Fernando, spoke to us about his life. He talked about how he had grown up in an impoverished home with ten brothers and sisters. They were forced to move to Antigue from their home to find work. Fernando ended up recieving an education and graduated from the school he attended to become a school teacher. He has now been teaching at Escuela Integrada for the past eight years. Once he was finished speaking to us, about sixteen of us, including me, decided to go get ice cream, and enjoy the last night in Guatemala. We came back, and did an activity as a whole group, called touch two people. The activity was really fun, and brought us all closer together as a group. My favorite part of the day as when we were running, jumping, an siding down the downhill parts of the volcano because I really enjoyed the feeling of flying down the volcano. When we made it to the top of the volcano, and I was able to look down at different cities in Guatemala, I was able to see God’s work being put into place. I was able to see all the life, and the happiness God has put on this Earth to make the world a better place.
– Archie Dees