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Cam & Suz’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 15 Feb 2005

Location: Antigua / San Pedro, Guatemala

MapGuatemala - a country of learning spanish, chicken buses and volcanos. It now feels quite natural to travel in a chicken bus packed with the locals, three to a seat plus 30 standing with a crazy driver ducking and weaving through traffic and overtaking on blind corners.. or to travel on the roof with our backpacks when the bus is overflowing. Not so natural yet is the police stopping the bus and randomly spot checking passengers in search of guns and drugs.
We have conquered 3 volcanos in a week - all very different and spectacular. Volcan de Pacaya is an active volcano which we climbed to see the red lava in the crater in very very windy conditions. The descent became a little hairy as the winds kept increasing and we had to slide down the volcanic ash on our bums as it was too difficult to walk. Winds above 100km/hr sprayed the volcanic rocks into our legs and faces but it was a magnificent site to see the lava flowing down its side.
Our third chellenge - Volcan de Acatenango (3975m). We set out from a small village on the base of the volcano. There were no hotels there but an incredibly generous local woman with 7 children under the age of 10 took us in for the night. She spoke no english, we spoke little spanish but she fed us and gave us a warm bed and would not accept money. We were very touched by the generosity of someone who obviously had so little.
The ascent of 2km has topped Agua for the hardest one day climb we have done. The steepness combined with thick, loose and dusty rocks plus the altitude and heavy packs (8l of water) meant each 2 steps was worth 1. At the top you could not imagine a better view. We were above the clouds overlooking all of Guatemala and another active volcano. We decided to camp in the crater at the summit to enjoy the view at sunset and sunrise and to listen to the pulses and puffs of the active volcano below. Temperatures well below 0 degrees meant it was impossible to stay outside much after dark, and so an early and very long night was spent in the tent - Cam was sick and Sues legs hurting!
We are now on Lake Atitlan in San Pedro. Yesterday has seen one of the low points of the trip as Cam was pickpocketed on the chicken bus - $160AUD (2 full days worth of travel). This might not sound as much at home but feels like a million dollars now. However we are in a very pretty village on a lake surrounded by volcanos and about to start more spanish lessons.