Volcan de Agua

The first time I went to La Antigua Guatemala, I asked a local indigenous woman about the volcanoes, she names one of them as Hunahpú, as she tells me the names of the others, I did not realize she was referring to Volcan de Agua. Well, Hunahpú was the native’s name for the volcano, it became “Volcan de Agua” only after the area was destroyed by lahar from the volcano in 1541. Hunahpú means Place of Flowers in the local Mayan language. You only have to walk a few feet on the road to the summit to figure out why Mayan people called it that.
Most foreigners (and a lot of Guatemalans city dwellers) assume that the volcano is part of La Antigua Guatemala. Understandable, because it is seen from anywhere in Antigua and it has become iconic to La Antigua Guatemala. Well, the truth is that the volcano belongs to a neighboring municipality; Santa Maria de Jesus, a short ten minutes drive from La Antigua.

Don’t trust on locals!
When I started the hike, I asked a capesino (local farmer): How long to the summit? He replies: Como tres horas, around three hours.
Well, it took me almost six. This has happened to me in other occasions; when I hiked Volcan de Tacana (the second highest in Guatemala), I asked several people along the way how long to the summit. Many times they told me: tres horas, cuatro horas. It took me more than six!

Choose wisely when to hike.
I’m a very experience hiker and camper. I don’t usually hike with a jacket or much heavy equipment, because I’m used to the cold temperatures of the Eastern U.S. In fact; this hike of the volcano I did it wearing sandals.
I regret it somewhat this time. The day was very cloudy, and it started to rain when I started hiking. I reached a shelter very close to the beginning of the path and stayed there for few minutes for the rain to pass. I continued the hike and not long after, it starts raining again. I produced my emergency poncho and rest for a minute and then continue.
When I reached the summit, the cloths I had on were completely soaked. Well, Eli always brings spares.
I set up my tent at the bottom of the crater’s rim. It continues to rain heavy all night. At some point, the rain was so much, it started to enter my tent, without me realizing it. By the time I noticed the water; my backpack, spare cloths, globes were soaked! the outer skin of my sleeping bag was wet too, luckily the inside was dry. Not for long! After a small break from the rain, it started to downpour again. This time the water was reaching the inner layer of my sleeping bag.
Around 11pm it got very very very cold and we started to get some strong wind gusts. My hiker partner and I spent the rest of the night seated on a corner of the tent, covered by the only partially dry blanket.
I wanted to be up there to see if I could get a chance to photographs the meteor shower. Weather did not allow a second of clear skies.
Well, I was ready at four o’clock to attempt some photographs of the sun rise. I stepped outside the tent, put my cloths on top of my tent, so they can dried up a bit. I grabbed my camera and go shooting some photos. If you wonder: Yes, I did go photographing wearing only my underwear and sandals, under very cold morning temperatures and strong wind gusts. I’m glad there was no body besides my hiker partner.
No point of hypothermia would stop Eli of reaching one of his goals.
After sun rise, I put on my still wet cloths and hiked up the crater’s rim.

It was worth the effort.
One has to leave ones comfort zone to really enjoy life.

Volcan de Agua, the Crater

© 2013, Eli Orozco. All rights reserved.

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