After a leisurely
breakfast we set off to explore Antigua. We found beautiful courtyards hidden away behind
the shabbiest of facades & lovely little cafes hidden away from the hustle
and bustle of the streets.
As with many cities
in Central America, the social life revolves around the parks, or squares and
Antigua is no exception.
We found our way to
the Central Square with its grand old building, lovely covered walkways and
Whilst walking along
we noticed a sign for a tour to the active volcano of Pacaya. We both
individually and immediately decided we wanted to do it and booked for that
One thing we have
learned is that tours are very good value and much easier and far better than
DIY tourism. For US$7, the bus would pick us up at the hotel, drive us the one
and half hour journey to the volcano and back and provide a guide too. All we
had to do was to pay the 40Q (US$5) entry fee to the national park
We were both quite
excited at the prospect of not only seeing but also climbing an active volcano,
especially after the events of the previous night.
Having climbed in
Angangueo Mexico, I had decided that this time I would ride the 2500m distance
that would bring us to the lava flow on horseback. Roger, of course, would walk
I negotiated a price
of 100Qs (US$14) for the return trip and mounted my steed, a very kind 8 year
old horse called Canario. I was led by Marlo a cheeky 11 year old from one of
the villages below the volcano.
At first I was the
only one riding, all the others preferring to tough it out. However, by the end
of the climb there were several others who had joined me, wishing they had done
One of the advantages
of riding (and it wasn’t a cushy number let me assure you) was that you could
enjoy the scenery, which was amazing, instead of walking, head down and only
looking up when they stopped for a “breather” (it was actually to
When we reached the
lava flow, Roger was nowhere to be seen! Everyone had been told to stay with
their groups, but Roger being Roger had gone ahead. I could just imagine the
look of disbelief on the faces of his friends and family when I told them I lost
him on a volcano!!!! But I needn’t have worried, he was waiting further ahead
with another group!!! (He said I must explain that he had a money belt under his
We all set off across
the slopes of lava crusts formed during the previous 3 years of eruptions and
oozings, toward the red hot lava flows.
It was incredible to
think that directly under the crust and our feet, hot molten lava was flowing.
The temperature began
to rise until we reached the point where the molten flow surfaced.
The temperature, we
were told, reaches 1400 degrees centigrade!! Let me tell you, I for one believe
It was almost
unbearable to walk on, the heat penetrating our shoes. We were both sure our
soles were melting (as it turned out, they hadn’t). It took me back to my
fire-walking days, which I may tell you, were a lot more comfortable than this
It was only as we
made our way back down later that evening as the sun was setting, that we
actually thought about what we had just done. We had all, willingly, walked and
climbed across a lava crust of undetermined thickness and
A crust, which could
have collapsed at any time sending any of us to instant death. The stability of
the crust had already shown to be less than secure as chunks slipped when
stepped on, not to mention the injury should you merely slip and fall, which
would have resulted in being cut to ribbons on the razor sharp
It also occurred to
us how it was only because of where we were that were indeed able to do it at
all. If it had been in Europe you wouldn’t have got anywhere near because of
“Health and Safety”. We both agreed, thank God there are still places in the
world that you can be responsible for yourself and not have some Government
making decisions about your safety on your behalf.
I have to say, I have
always been fascinated by volcanoes but have only seen dormant ones. I never
thought I would get to see and active volcano, neither did Roger and the memory
of Pacaya, its beauty and power, will be one of our best of the trip.