Notes from the Field

Volcanoes are all around us. We have been wanting to ascend the mountainside towards the summit of the active volcano Pacaya. We boarded a big yellow Blue Bird School bus at the school parking lot where Iniyal is an educator, along with a good sized group of other teachers at 4:30 pm. The bus made one more pickup stop for another 20 or so who would be climbing that day. Our planned hike up an extremely steep incline was to begin about two hours later after a journey through winding roads towards this burning giant. We passed through rural towns and wilderness before making the last leg of the bus ride up a steep and winding, narrow road towards what would be considered the base camp – as this is where guides would be found and we would pay our park entrance fee. Children of varying ages scrambled around our enormous group offering us hiking sticks for a small fee – five quetzals. Iniyal contemplated who to buy from as they swarmed around us… eventually finding a rather lonely looking child who was not likely older than four or five… holding a couple of walking sticks… fine sticks he had.. so she purchased one. Realizing that I may regret not purchasing a stick as well… I fished in my pocket for a ten quetzales bill and found a boy with a good selection and purchased a stick. He didn’t have change of course (we knew they did)… so I told him to keep it -clever fellow.

iniRandy INFERNOThe guides were introduced to us and we went on our way up a steep trail that led into the black of night. Nighttime on the mountainside… very very dark. Glowing worms littered the path… occasionally I stopped to marvel at these bizarre creatures… There is a cloud cover that hovers above us… without flashlights it was very difficult to navigate the path… which altered from having dense forest on either side of us… to forest on one side and a steep drop on the other… we could barely see past a few feet.. so who knows what was below in the depth of that wild. The bravest of our entire group was most likely Abby and Emma… Jen and Jims children… who, though only in grade one and four, were leading the group fearlessly up the steep terrain behind only the guide. This hike… this trek up this mountainside was not a stroll through the park… though it was not an intensive climb either… but it was a test of ones body and breathe… and the walking sticks… there was a good reason why they were being sold at the base… we needed them. Iniyal, who was concerned that she might have a difficult time on this hike… did well with the climb through the woods… laughing and chatting with her comrades… though we were all slightly short on breathe.

iniyal INFERNOI am going to cut this short… darkness, wilderness, a final ascent to a plateau – where we saw the narrow streams glowing below us… from this plateau we then would head down… a steep sandy slope towards an orange field of fire. We were able to get as close as possible to the mounds of glowing molten rock. all around us this alien landscape of course black lava flow… though these photos are the best I could do with limited knowledge of night photography with our DSLR…. they will give an idea of what we saw there… and though, on this journey we would not be hiking to the summit to peer into the mouth of the volcano itself… these lava flows in this field of constant change was well worth the trip through the blackness…

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Want to know more about Volcano Pacaya? Dig Wikipedia.


Mr Hryhorczuk