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  • Day179

    Acetenango

    July 31, 2017 in Guatemala ⋅ ⛅ 54 °F

    It's taken me a while to summon up the strength to write about Acetenango. I joke, but this one is a hard one to right... stick with me and you'll soon understand why.

    We were picked up at 8am by an old school bus, and taken to a house outside of Antigua to pick up our equipment for the hike. Although extremely chaotic, we were eventually given sleeping bags, a tent, mats and food for the next 2 days. There wasn't enough food to go around - a sign of things to come.

    We then drove for another hour to the starting point of the hike. At this point, we rented walking sticks and hats. Phi's bag was towered over her head, and lots of the Guatemalans were laughing and pointing at us, telling us that we would regret not getting porters to carry our bags.

    The first part of the hike was a complete shock to the system. With our 10kg+ bags we walked uphill for what felt like an eternity, although it was probably only for about 20 minutes. A few breaks on, we made it to the halfway point. This was my low point as I started feeling really drained of energy. The hike up to base camp was 4 hours of pure uphill, probably one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done.

    When we arrived at base camp, we were all in high spirits to have arrived. It was pretty cold, at around 3,600 metres above sea-level. Our tents were assembled and with six of us in a tent we were pretty confident that we would have a warm night's sleep. This illusion was shattered when we found that our tent didn't properly close and had a huge gaping hole at the bottom.

    With our lovely group, we sat around a campfire with some tunes, pot noodles and hot chocolate. It was a bit later into the evening when one of our guide's (the bright spark) came up with the idea of sewing our tent shut with a needle and thread. Begger's can't be choosers and that was the only solution we had.

    Around 8pm we all collapsed into bed. Freezing cold and pretty uncomfortably, we were sewn into our tent and "slept" untill 3.30am. Throughout the night we were woken up with the sounds of the heaven's opening - and our tent leaked and my sleeping bag and shoes got completely soaked. After little rest, we were woken up at 4am to walk to the summit to see Volcan de Fuego erupting.

    It is probably at this point that I should actually mention the whole reason we were doing this hike - not because we are insane human beings who enjoy 4hr uphill hikes and freezing cold conditions. The point of this hike is because, from Acetenango, you can see the active Volcan de Fuego erupting at night. Tbf, this was absolutely wicked. The volcano is steaming and erupting all the time, and in the pitch black you can see the lava exploding. Without a doubt one of the coolest bits of nature I've seen on my whole travels.

    So, at 4am we started the 1.5hr steep uphill hike to the summit. I found this part a lot easier than the hike the day before with our heavy bags, although I know a lot of people struggled more with this part. The gravel slips below you as you try and climb up to the summit. When we arrived, my brief joy was soon overcome with some of the harshest winds I have ever experienced and it was freezing cold. We were on the top for around 20 minutes, with enough time to see an amazing sunrise over the whole of Antigua/ Guatemala City/ the volcanoes, before starting the descent down.

    So going down should be the easy part right? Wrong. Nothing about Acetenango could be described as 'easy'. Going down was like freestyle skiing over loose gravel and I was terrified of falling headfirst. Alice and I slowly descended, reaching base camp before packing up our tents. We then started the 2 hr descent back to the starting point. This was a different type of endurance and my knees were in absolute pain because of the steep downhill. It was also so slippy because it had been raining all night. Reaching the end was amazing and we had celebratory beers before getting the bus back to Antigua.

    Looking back, I don't know if I'll ever be sure if it was entirely worth it. It was definitely one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. But tbh, getting to watch an erupting volcano was pretty cool.
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