Monday, January 17, 2011
After this break, I was energized and ready to step on the gas. I hiked ahead with Diego as Maggie and Daniel followed twenty meters behind. We talked about San Pedro, and how hippies began coming there 80 years ago, long before the tourist trade in Guatemala was established. I asked him why there were so many Israeli establishments in San Pedro, and he told me that Guatemala had been friendly to Israel before all other Latin American countries, and it is also cheaper than going to most other places. The Israeli presence, however, is not always appreciated, as the Israeli tourists tend to be demanding, self assured, and thrifty to the point of rudeness and ridiculousness. Climbing all the stairs was much easier when my brain was occupied, and the next leg went quickly. Just as a break was due, we came across a rope swing in the path. It was heaven on a volcano. At that point, swinging in the mountain, dappled with sunlight, the hike became worth all the hard work. After that, it was only about twenty more minutes of strenuous climbing to the peak.
The view from the top was astonishing. We looked out over the entire lake, and could see four other volcanoes, including Santa Maria, the one next to Xela. We sat on a rock at the top, ate chocolate cookie sandwiches dipped in Nutella, and talked with Diego about the geology of the area. Where the lake is now had been a huge lava reserve for the surrounding volcanoes, and when they all erupted—at the same time—all the lava left the reserve, and it collapsed, forming a three hundred meter deep lake. There is a very large probability that at least one of the volcanoes will erupt in the next five years or so. After sitting and eating, climbing around the rocks, and taking some photos, we headed back down. We ran down a lot of it, making the hike down much quicker, and much more fun. We stopped to swing on a vine at one point, and Diego spotted a bird, the one that the volcano is famous for, and the one that he waited in a cabin with some photographers from National Geographic for five days to find, unsuccessfully. He called it some kind of turkey—it looked like a very large, very beautiful turkey up in a tree, with a large red crest on its head. After that, we continued running, through the woods, corn fields, and coffee plantations. I had originally been the one running the most, and then just as Maggie started to run more, I slowed down. My feet began to hurt, and it wasn’t until after the hike that I saw the giant blisters on the bottom of my feet. I kept going, and we got to the bottom, exhausted and happy. A taxi took us back to our hostel, where we cleaned up and rested, and then found lunch.
After lunch, I bought some mangoes—two for fifty cents—and we got on a boat to the next town over, San Marcos. There are roads between the towns, but they are notoriously dangerous; one tourist agency warns travelers that they have a 99% chance of being jumped on some of the roads. The boats are cheap, quick, and run very often. We got to San Marcos, tried for a while to find the rocks to jump off, and finally found them, after walking through town a bit. Maggie and Daniel sat down to chill, and I hopped in the water. It was amazing. We had a perfect view of the volcano we just climbed, and the weather was perfect. Someone walked by and told us that there was a platform that we could jump off, but that it was very high. I swam over to it, climbed up the rocks to the platform, and saw just how high it was. While I was freaking out about jumping off the fifteen or so meter high platform—one of Guatemala’s most impressive feats of architecture and tourism, Daniel and Maggie walked over. I told Daniel that I’d jump if he did, so after he jumped in, I had to. After considering and psyching myself out for a while more, I finally jumped. It was wonderful. When we got out, I sat on a rock and read for a while, and then we chatted and ate a mango, and headed back on the boat around five. We ate dinner at a very strange restaurant, called the Buddha, run by gringos and more expensive that we could have imagined. The food was alright, but giving our money to Americans instead of the locals, and eating with only other gringos, on cushions, felt pretty wrong. As we were finishing eating, they began to play the movie 127 hours. We watched the first ten minutes, and then, exhausted, walked home, wrote, read, and went to bed.