It was named after a Maya fruiting plant that used flourish in the area. It is a small plant, but is now rare. Pacaya is one of the 36 volcanoes Guatemala. Nearest to Antigua are a handful of volcanoes, one of which is Volcan Fuego (fire vocano), which is too dangerous and unpredictable to climb. So, Pacaya it is.
The coffee colored soil has a richness that boasts fertility in rows of corn, flower gardens, and coffee plantations. At the base of the hike, we are greeted with eager horse taxi's. Make a buck, save your legs, help the economy...sorry horses! I was excited to hike, so despite my persistent no's, a pack of about 5 horses and guides followed us up the first half mile waiting for the steep incline and our sweating bodies to beg for a horse. I never begged and eventually there were no more following me. They stopped at the overlook of the geothermal plant that Canadians built to provide electricity to local communities.
In 2007 Pacaya let a huge lava flow, or burning river as they used to call it, flow down her side and into the green countryside below. It's quite a striking image to have a black path where there was once a flowing river of molten lava. Word on the trail is that locals expect a similar flow to occur soon. It usually does every couple of years.
Until alas, we had no more green grass or trees. In literally felt like we were on another planet.
The only reminder of life was the adjacent valley and mountain, which provided life and color to the black, dead presence of the volcano.
Although the rainy season starts in May, locals say that the rainy season is coming early this year. Last night on the mountain a huge thunderstorms competed with the knocking and cracking of the blowing volcano. As we hiked today cool mist mixed with steam coming out of wide cracks along sides of the volcano. In the above photo you can see the steam to the right of the cloud, creeping out of the volcano in a horizontal line.
I didn't matter that there was no actual lava flowing today. Perhaps another time. The 2 foot hole blasting heat was proof of the intensity that lay brewing below us. And the marshmallow were pretty good too. But talk about being a pro cooker. If you left them longer than a second, they instantaneously went up in flames.
It was HOTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!
Despite the incredible scorching heat and sticky goo that encrusted fingers and clothes, our guide, Abraham, really like the marshmallows (knows as Angelos in Guatemala).
This mist rolls in as quickly as it crept out. My ability to take a clear photo or be able to pick up the smoke or lava being spewed for the top was nearly impossible. But the mist did make for some cool photos.
I met a lot of really interesting people on the hike. A couple from California. A Check born man from Portland, OR who was with a guide that specialized in camping expeditions and orchids. He had found two new species in the last couple of months. So, there you have it. My first active volcano hike. It won't be my last!