The Adventures of April

We shall not cease from exploration - And the end of all our exploring - Will be to arrive where we started - And know the place for the first time. -- T.S. Eliot

Sunday, October 01, 2006

April vs. the Volcano

I just got back from my volcano trip this weekend and boy, am I exhausted. Most definitely the most physically grueling thing I have ever done. (Which I know isn´t saying much, but still...)

To begin, the volcano we were climbing is called Volcan Tajulmuco, which is not only the tallest volcano but the tallest point in all of Central America. It is near the western border of Guatemala with Chiapas, Mexico (Zapatistas!).

Our group was large - about 20 students from my Spanish school and two guides. The main guide (whose name I could unfortunately never pronounce) fought as a guerrilla in Guatemala´s horrid 30-year war and lived up in the mountains for years. His father, Pedro, was our second guide. He also fought as a guerrilla for many years and was captured and tortured relentlessly by the Guatemalan army for 5 days. So I guess it would suffice it to say that our guides knew these mountains! It was so interesting to hear all of their stories and about their way of the life during la Guerra (the war).

The hike was difficult for many reasons. One, we were carrying huge packs with tents, sleeping bags, water, food and any other necessities. Two, the altitude. No matter how hard you breathed, you could not get enough air in your lungs. I think that Mexico could hear us breathing! Plus it gave you a headache and made you want to throw up. Nice! Third, the ascent. In five hours we hiked up two miles in altitude - the path was much longer than this! Fourth, the accommodations. When we got to the camping spot, it was only 1 PM (we left Xela at 5 AM). I wanted to go to bed right then, but we had to stay awake so we would be able to sleep through the night. It was bitterly cold and wet and definitely a tough night´s sleep!

We got up at 4 AM to complete the hike to the top of the volcano and the rim of the crater. This was probably the hardest part because it was pitch black and you were on your hands and knees climbing up rocks, trying not to fall and puke at the same time!

When we got to the top we could just see the first glimmers of the morning. We could also see Mexico (which uses orange street lights) and huge expanses of Guatemala (which uses white street lights - did they plan that?!). Then we walked around to the highest part of the rim of the crater. This part I almost didn´t do because of the shocking heights on either side, the narrowness of the path and the darkness. But seeing as I had no choice, I made it to the highest part of the rim.

And it was worth it! It was so beautiful! I felt like I could see the entire country! Mountains, villages, a volcano erupting in the distance, the sunrise, it was stunning!

The walk down the volcano was much more pleasant, although still pretty rough on your legs and knees. The views were AMAZING since when we had climbed up the day before it was foggy and we were constantly looking up. Coming down you could see all of the mountains and trees around you. The environment was very interesting up there as well because it is so high up (and cold!)... coniferous trees, little flowers, brush and moss.

I guess before the hike I had forgetten that my favorite part of camping is eating yummy campfood and sitting around a fire. You live and you learn!
Would I have done it if I would have known what it entailed? Probably not.
Do I regret doing it? No!
Would I ever do it again? Absolutely not!

I´m excited to show you all my pictures!

I´m proud of myself for accomplishing something so grueling, but relieved that the week ahead is mainly intended for relaxation. Tomorrow I leave for Tikal and then on to the coast of Mexico.


At 11:09 PM, October 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 12:17 AM, October 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow... sounds amazing. proud of you for doing it... you are now tougher than you were before. Lots to tell, will send an email stat (or finally get Skype set up).

At 12:17 AM, October 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops, that last one was me, Terris. Of course.


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