by ALEJANDRO REYES VEGA, CSU Public Relations Assistant
Hiking is a fun outdoor activity that allows you to get fresh air and some physical exercise in a relaxing healthy way. I love doing it, but I get bored easily so that’s why I decided to make my little hiking adventure in Guatemala a little more extreme.
‘While we were all perplexed by the safety of the source of the heat while still appreciating the added warmth, we were handed long sticks while the guide pulled out a large bag of marshmallows.’ALEJO
I was staying in a beautiful property in the city of Antigua, just east of the capital. It was a beautiful morning and all the mountains were visible including the volcanoes. It was common to see some of them spewing smoke or ash. This morning, however, the nearest volcano seemed particularly active. Normally this isn’t a concern, especially to the inhabitants, but I was supposed to hike up to it. Nothing could be done at this point; I was committed, and I couldn’t turn back.
The car picked us up and we headed towards the mountains. We kept climbing and the scenery just became more and more intense. The day couldn’t have been more beautiful, blue skies as far as the eye could see, except that the neighboring volcano seemed to be angry today. I wasn’t sure of the likelihood of two volcanoes erupting the same day, but I was willing to test the odds, after all, it was spring break.
As we climbed higher in the mountains, I started to notice that the vegetation started to change as well as the soil and the rocks. The vegetation became sparser and it was very clear that the rocks had a volcanic nature. We finally arrived at a little outpost with horses and other attached buildings that seemed like restrooms. It had a pay booth and a gate that lead to a dark dirt path. We met our tour guide who briefed us on all sorts of safety measures, and we started on the path with the dark volcanic dirt. The easiest way to sum it up, if you feel the ground trembling or hear explosions, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. I thought it was straightforward enough.
At first, it was an easy path with soft sand and dense vegetation on either side. However, it soon became steeper, rockier, and windier. We stopped various instances to admire the different views that the hike offered of the valley. It was really astounding how far we could see and how beautiful the valley and its surrounding mountains were. We continued to climb until the vegetation just ceased to grow and everything was made up of dark volcanic sharp rocks and sand. Did I mention the high gusty winds that made me doubt my ability to stay grounded?
I have always thought that volcanoes are perfectly shaped and hiking one would be a straight up hill climb. For the most part, this was just like that, however, near the top it wasn’t as straightforward. There was a large hill that once we finally reached the top, we could see the summit of the volcano, and right before it, there was this sort of small valley that did not look earthly. It was dark, desolate, and fumes could be seen escaping from various parts. The craziest part is that we were headed to this barren wasteland and had to hike down the hill which was made up of loose sharp volcanic gravel and sand that kept being picked up by the wind and thrown at your eyes.
Might I remind you that the neighboring volcano was still active, but this just meant that our marshmallows might be roasting quicker. When we all reached the valley, we followed the guide who directed us to a few holes in the ground. The altitude and the wind made it hard to keep warm, but these little caverns expelled heat that felt just like fire. While we were all perplexed by the safety of the source of the heat while still appreciating the added warmth, we were handed long sticks while the guide pulled out a large bag of marshmallows.
This might’ve been some of the best most rewarding snacks I have ever had even if there was a slightly weird worrying smell in the air. As we packed our bags and started to head down the mountain, one of the sides of the top of the volcano was clearly visible and no smoke was coming from out of it. However, the sides were covered with small openings from which smoke was clearly coming out of. When I asked the guide why it seemed like the side of the volcano was more active than the top, he replied with “well it blew up a few years ago and created the valley we were just in”. Turns out that although the area had been stable, there was still activity which is why we were able to roast marshmallows in the crevices.
Most people would say that hiking an active volcano is crazy and dangerous. It might’ve been, but we got back to the city in one piece with a new experience to tell stories about and a full tummy. Couldn’t think of a more perfect way to make memories in a new country.
Alejo is a student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, born and raised mainly in Venezuela. Having had many opportunities to travel, explore, and go on a variety of adventures. Alejo’s Mischievous Adventures captures some of those exploits.