This trip has gone far too quickly! The last destination of our Easter travels is Antigua, a colonial city in Guatemala, one hour from Guatemala City. We took the night bus from Flores, which was quite the ordeal. It was SOOO COLD. The aircon was literally blasting sub-zero temperatures, everyone was shivering! Ann and I were so totally under-dressed, having come straight from the 38 degree San José heat. I cuddled my backpack for warmth (desperate times), and considered covering myself with the bits of paper in my backpack (tickets, email confirmations, hostel reservations), but decided not to go full hobo. Ann had it worse, the window seat being even colder. She resorted to sitting on the stairs of the double decker bus all night, the only place without air con blasting on your face. I think almost everyone on the bus complained to the staff at some point, but they wouldn’t budge, the sadists.
Luckily, when we got to our hostel in Antigua, our room was ready. We satyed at wicho and charlie’s, a cool hostel with a pod-bed design, which is actually a great idea as it gives you some privacy, even in a shared dorm. We rushed to the hot showers, which were luuuush, then freshened up. Ann took a nap, and I walked the streets looking to book a volcano trek. Initially, I had wanted to hike Acantenango, but despite what I’d found online, there were no day-treks available for the only day I had free: they were all 2-day camping trips. So I decide to hike the slightly smaller Pacaya volcano instead, and booked a trip for the next day, as the weather reports were slightly more favourable (still rain, though).
Having booked the tour, I popped back to the hostel to wake Ann and we went to get lunch, and explored the town centre. Antigua is a beautiful town, very similar to San Cristobal in Chiapas, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. We saw its iconic arch and bought some souvenirs – haggling seems to be very common here, and very easy – the vendors normally do it for you! We bought some cushion cover souvenirs, (from 200 Q each down to 80), and then went back to the hostel to chill. We played board games, watched Netflix and in the evening, we got chinese food (#sorrynotsorry) and hopped in the hot tub, which wasn’t actually that hot so we didn’t stay long!
Some other travellers hopped in too, but they told us how terrible their trip to Pacaya had been that day: it had been hailing (!!) and they got drenched. I checked the weather for the next day again, and oh shit it had got worse – 60% chance of thunderstorms. Shiiiiiit. At least I have a coat and boots!
The next day in the morning we explored the town a bit more, got brunch, then played taboo back at the hostel. My tour picked me up at 2pm (btw I paid $8usd, which I think is cheaper than most haha, shop around 😉 ) and we set of for the volcano. The clouds were looking a bit menacing, but I stayed hopeful (with extra jumpers, raincoat and backpack raincover at the ready). We got to the volcano after about 1.5 hours, and paid the 50 Q national park entry fee. There’s a load of kids selling you sticks for hiking (just plain wooden ones) for like 3-5Q, but our Guide Kevin didn’t get one, so I didn’t either (trust the experts), although most did. I don’t think it would’ve helped much anyway #noragretz.
I’m not gonna lie. The hike was HARD. Online it is advertised as suitable for beginners and families. NOPE. I’m not a beginner, I’ve spent last summer in Switzerland and I’ve been living in higher altitudes for over 6 months (CDMX is so high, higher than this volcano!), but this hike was STEEP. We took regular breaks, but the threat of the horse “ambulances” behind us, following to pick up those who couldn’t cut it (for a price), kept me going. Once we got to the top, it was all SOOO worth it though. And, the weather was perfect! not too hot, and no rain! Just a tad cloudy, but it cleared up at the top!
The views were stunning. You could see the other volcanoes so well, it was surreal how they popped out of the clouds, at first we thought they WERE clouds.
Then we carried on down into the crater, full of hardened lava from the 2010/2014 eruptions (this volcano is very active), and roasted marshmallows on the hot rocks. It was sooo cool! and delicious!
Then we hiked out of the crater on the other side, all the while the volcano was grumbling and rumbling, and saw THE BEST VIEW EVER of the other volcanoes, with the sun setting behind them. The photos really don’t do it justice, I wish I had a better camera, not just my phone!
The sun set, and it was go-time. It was getting dark, and we still had to hike back down. Kevin said the easiest way was to run. So we did. We ran non-stop (basically controlled falling) down the volcano in pitch-black (karate-kid-esque instincts needed), when suddenly Kevin stopped us. We looked back up, the volcano was erupting! 😮 It was soooooo cool, like a fireworks show, just for us. You could see red hot lave spurting out the top, flying in all directions, it was hypnotic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show on camera well, so I don’t have any good pics. But believe me, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen.
I got back to the hostel, found Ann (who didnt want to come), and watched telly all evening. The next morning we packed, and our shuttle picked us up to take us to the airport. Guatemala City airport is actually much nicer than CDMX, and all was going well, we boarded on time, but just as everyone sat down, they told us all to get off again as they had to change a tyre on the plane: there would be an hour delay. Oh well, Ann and I played cards and browsed the shops, then the flight went smoothly. We got free drinks and snacks on the plane #bonus #loveinterjet, and there was even TV. We landed in CDMX with a fab view of the city, then took ubers home and crashed.
I slept for like 12 hours.