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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Walking on Molten Lava

GUATEMALA | Sunday, 7 October 2007 | Views [3294]

"Poke your walking sticks firmly into the hardened lava, and step carefully," says our guide, in Spanish, as he guides us across the hot, crisp, hardened lava fields. Black shards crackle under the weight of our feet. There's somebody's pet dog with us, and his legs are trembling with instability as he moves his paws rapidly to avoid letting them bake into the hot rocks for too long. One girl's foot caves through a weak spot and she gasps. For just below the surface, through the nooks and crannies, we can see glowing orang/red lava that hasn't yet hardened. Our guide, a skinny, yet tall local farmer turned tour and security guard whose missing several teeth, waves his walking stick, machete dangling by his side. He gathers our group out on the lava field, telling us that we need to stick together, it's not safe to be alone. He's not referring to the safety factor of walking on an active lava field; he's speaking about safety from the local thugs out there in the trees, lurking and waiting to mug and rob tourists. I'm sure our fearless, toothless machete man will hack apart any threats and protect us. I for one, am more fearful of dipping my body into hot molten lava, as opposed to being mugged.

We are on Volcán Pacaya - an active volcano that still spews rocks and cinders, visible at night. The red and orange lava streams that move slowly down the face are much more visible at night. Hence, we've opted for the evening climb. Out on the hot lava fields our guide moves us along further toward the soft, glowing lava. In typical form, our group of tourists are pushing and fighting their way forward to see who can get closest to the slow moving ooze. Our guide busts out a pack of marshmallows and starts roasting them above the red glowing goo. A girl freaks out as the rubber soles on her shoes slide off the bottom of her sneakers. I and two other friends from school (Linda and Anneke) wonder together if this activity would be permissible in the US. Here you can't sue anyone for damages, so there's really no limit to the risk you may take on a trip. We've never been to the volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii, so don't have that experience to compare. However, I'm certain that the tour company would be sued in the US if someone on a volcano in Hawaii was prodded by a tour guide to stick their walking stick into the red molten lava to see if their stick burns, and accidently goes to far and touches the lava. Heck, in the US, someone would probably sue for a new pair of shoes if their soles melted off on the lava fields.

As night falls, the orange streams of lava grow more brilliant, and it's much easier to see it slowly oozing it's way down the slope side. We can see small sprays of sparks and rocks, and red glow surrounding the top of the volcano cone.

In the complete darkness, the trek down is a challenge on the steep, narrow trail, and my headlamp batteries have just died. We make it safely back to the bottom, and aside from fresh horse dung coating the bottoms of our shoes, we're home free. Guatemala is the land of volcanoes. we've only taken the time to climb Volcán Pacaya, however there are so many more that could keep us "active" for months.

Tags: Adrenaline


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