Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!

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09 August 2007
Subimos y subimos y subimos
Olympic hiking on Volcan Chicabal

An exhausting morning. I'm not sure whether to be proud that I made it back alive, or embarassed that apparently I am the weakest link, goodbye.

I failed to realize the steep angles drawn on this map are entirely accurateUpon advice of my German friend Valeri, and with some encouragement from Claire at Black Cat, who said it would be "a nice walk," I decided to go on a hike to Volcan Chicabal. Heh, a nice walk, indeed. We set off at the buttcrack of dawn, a 6am departure that once again precluded breakfast, boo-hoo. They do give you an anemic sandwich on occasions like these, but it's a poor substitute to a plateful of pancakes or the big-ass breakfast burrito. Anyway, we headed out towards the volcano, and the shuttle dropped us off outside the closest town. Right away the trail was almost straight upwards, although our guide and the Austrian mother and daughter who also came along seemed to think nothing of it. Right then, onwards and upwards.

And upwards. And upwards. Without stopping. Yikes! I managed to mostly keep up, slowing for a drink of water here or there. At one point we started going downhill a bit, but then the trail quickly went back up. Eventually we arrived at the entrance to the park. Great, that was just the warmup! We signed the guestbook, and headed off to the trail. I felt a deepening sense of despair as the trail wound ever steeper upwards. Why aren't we stopping for any breaks? Am I the only one who thinks this is hard?? And how badly am I going to maim Claire when I see her again??? A nice walk. Gonna kick her ass into next week. If I can ever move my legs again.

Volcan Santiaguito erupts (kickass!)After what seemed like days of climbing and struggling (ehm, that would be the other three chatting merrily while *I* struggled) we did eventually reach the top. And there was a nice enough lookout point... two, actually. One over the lake and the other overlooking Volcanes Santa Maria and Santiaguito. The latter of which is apparently the most active volcano in Guatemala, and treated us to a small puff of ash while we sat and watched. OK, that's pretty cool.

lakeside meditations (thank god, a rest!)After pausing and munching a bit, during which time our guide convinced the Austrian Mother-Daughter Olympic Mountaingoat Team that they should go on a 2-day hike with him to Tajumulco, it was time to head down to the lake. Yep, like 300 steps down! Which means at some point we have to come back up! Well, no point worrying about that now, might as well try to enjoy the scenery. And it was lovely, with Mayan altars sprinkled around the perimeter and fluffy clouds rolling by. But then it was time to head back up. No fair, a hike that's uphill BOTH ways! Fortunately we didn't take those maldito stairs (they would've had to leave me behind), but went the "easy" way. Easy?!? An hour of straight uphil climbing over slippery sandy soil, once again not pausing for any hint of a break... that's easy?? Nope, I had to take a few breaks on my own, and the mountain goats got further and further ahead till I thought they *were* going to leave me behind.

a long, if scenic, walk back through townUnfortunately they didn't, and once we reached the top it was time to head back down. And just to give you some sense of the incline, it was just as hard to go down as it was to go up. My knees may never forgive me. Of course the other three went racing down, leaving me to carefully zigzag at my own pace lest I slide and fall on my butt. I held out some faint hope that our shuttle driver would be waiting for us at the park entrance, but of course he wasn't and we had to hike further into town. Starting uphill again (that's uphill THREE ways, for those of you keeping score) we trekked back from whence we came. To add insult to injury, when we got to the spot where we'd been left off... no van. OK, just a little further, then... And we continued the descent all the way through the town. Just as I asked if we were going to have to walk all the way back to Xela, the shuttle showed up and we piled in. Whew!

I treated myself to a big lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, with a glass of wine, and then took a nice afternoon nap. I was actually feeling ready to go out and find something to do when Valeri mentioned a folkdance performance that evening. Perfect! We trooped over to the Teatro Municipal for an evening of traditional dance from various countries in Central America. Also a tango performance from an Argentine pair. Very cool! Reminded me a bit of WolfTrap, albeit with slightly lower production values. Still, it was a very fun way to spend the eve.

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