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Travel Adventure - Backpacking Latin America's Gringo Trail Backpacking Latin America starting in Cuba, then travelling from East to the west coast of Mexico before making our through Central and finishing in South America.

Antigua and hiking Volcano Acatanango

GUATEMALA | Wednesday, 15 July 2015 | Views [695]

Even though it was only 4 hours from Lake Atitlan to Antigua the shuttle ride made it feel worse than a 15 hour bus ride. It was a little shuttle and I was on a small, hard fold out seat at the very front in between the driver and passenger seat. Extremely uncomfortable! We checked in to our hostel - Jungle Party Hostel - which definitely went by its name. An Aussie dude was working at the front desk, checked us in to our 18 bed dorm, which was pretty cool as it was on top of an attic, and showed us to the rooftop bar which had swing seats and a pretty awesome view of the volcanoes that surround Antigua. We had a few drinks at the rooftop bar, which was felt well deserved after the uncomfortable bus ride, chatting to the bar tender and a few more people arriving. One Israli traveller (there's actually a large amount of Israli travellers in Guatemala) who was really nice and wanted to impart some words of advice before he said bye to us to meet his friend as he had been travelling for 9 months and was nearing the end of his journey. It was really sweet but I can't remember all of what he said. Some points I remember were not to be afraid to change you travel plans, he said you can't see everything and something different, which. Ay be better might pop up, if you meet people you like don't be afraid to change your plans to follow them as you will have fun with them where you go and again you might end up somewhere new and different. He said you can't have big adventures every day, so enjoy the small things. Do the things you like to do at home, coz those are the things you'll probably like doing while travelling. Enjoy the small things such as, dinner somewhere, a conversation you have, or even just reading a book etc. The hostel were taking people out and we went to go get changed to join them, but once we sat down we couldn't be bothered to get back up so opted for bed instead.

We walked around Antigua the next day. It's a very pretty city, cobbled stones streets , quaint buildings and volcanoes surrounding it. There were a few old churches and we walked up the hill where the cross is to overlook the city. It was an amazing view and one volcano looked incredibly close and huge from the hill. We rested for a while and just sat and admired the view. By the afternoon I was getting surges of pain in my stomach, didn't feel like lunch or eating and didn't feel very well. Don't know what I picked up but was sick that night with a tummy bug. We had booked to do an overnight hike of a 4000 foot volcano the next day and I said to Matt if I still felt like this the next day, I wouldn't be coming. Regrettably coz it sounded pretty cool and something I wouldn't probably do again. The guy we met in San Cristobal had done it and said it was really hard but the view etc from top was awesome and it was worth it.

The next morning, I wasn't feeling 100% but my tummy was ok and it was already booked etc so decided to do it. There were 3 other people we met at the hostel who were doing it with us too. Bridgette from Australia, Hilda from Denmark and Lucas from Germany. We all had small backpacks on, the hostel informed us to just take enough water. When the tour company came to pick us up she was like you all need way bigger backpacks. You need to carry your sleeping bag, tent, food etc. do you have gloves to wear? At least 4 litres of water Etc. we were all clearly unprepared and uniformed by our hostel. We all changed our small backpacks to our normal big backpacks and bought more water. 
We picked up more people and there was a fairly large group of us of about 30 doing the hike. We were given our tents, sleeping bags, food, thin foam mattresses etc and accumulated another friend Max from Australia and were ready to hike. It was steep and hard. I was out of breath and at the back of the group majority of the way, not sure if it was coz I had no energy from not eating the day before (and the website did advise to eat lots of carbs the night before) or my fitness levels are not very good - probably a bit of both! I went slow and my mind was just focused on the next rest stop. It took about 6 hours to hike up and finally reach our campsite. Going through jungle then barren alpine with dead trees at the top. Stopping occasionally to take it in and witness the good view of far, below and other mountains around. flashes of Cheryl hiking the PCT came to my mind from the book I read - Wild and reminded me to just keep going and put one foot in front of the other. I chucked off my bag and sat down in a heap when I got there, Matt and the rest of our group were already raking out a flat area of dirt and starting to put up tents on a small patch of flat on the side of the volcano. When I got a chance to catch my breath I looked out at the view and it was absolutely incredible! We were so high up, we were almost at the peak and were literally in the clouds and opposite and so so close to Volcano Fuego (the active one that is currently going crazy with eruptions at the moment). It felt like you could casually throw a stone across and it would land on Fuego. Occasionally smoke would puff from the top as it erupted. It was pretty amazing. 
Matt and I were in the 'the couple' tent and the other four shared the other tent. So naturally Matt and I had to have the smaller tent but when we started pitching them we realised the poles were too big for the tent and that it sat lop sided and the sides caved in. We said something to our guides but they didn't really care. The other 4 laughed at our shitty tent but were nice enough to invite us over for a game of cards in their luxurious one haha! The girls had carried up some wine so we huddled in for a drink and a game. A campfire was lit and it was 4th of July and a few Americans who flew the American flag on a stick. By this time it was pretty cold as night fell and we were in higher altitude. We sat around and had cup a noodles for dinner with water boiled from the fire. Fuego did a spectacular bang and a billow of lava erupted from the top. We all cheered and the lava oozed down the side. That was pretty cool. 
Unfortunately things started to go down hill from here for me. I started to lose my appetite and only had a couple of mouthfuls of noodles. Sitting around the campfire my head started spinning and I began to feel faint and weak. I moved myself away from the group and told Matt that I didn't feel well and was gonna go to bed, he came with me. As soon as we got to the tent I was sick. I felt like crap. We layed down on our thin foam things in our lop sided tent. It was cold and when the wind blew the walls of our tent collapsed on our faces. This was going to be a long night! I woke up (well it became morning) I don't think many people got any sleep and I was sick again. People could walk about 45 minutes for sunrise to the very top, which was originally my plan but I felt so terrible I stayed in the tent. Matt and the 4 others went up. They said it was so cold and windy they wanted to come straight back down but said the view was really awesome from the top. 
We then had to pack up when they got back (which I did slowly and weakly) and start our decent. A lot of cloud was coming over and it was freezing cold. It was windy and starting to rain. When I started walking I felt so weak. I let every pass in front of me. It felt like my mind and body weren't connected as I somehow put one foot in front of the other. The wind was strong and I felt like I was going to have frost bite in my 3/4 tights, no gloves or beanie. I had to keep stopping to rest as I was completely out of breath, I really didn't want to keep walking but knew it was the only way down. At one point I sat down and I threw up on the side of the volcano. I was lucky the guide and Bridgette and Lukas were with me. Bridgette carried my backpack, gave me water and a pill for the nausea, thank god I had her there. I actually felt a bit better after I was sick and slowly made it down to the bottom of the volcano. Thanking God I was finally at the bottom!
It was an experience, unfortunately I couldn't enjoy fully. But an accomplishment and a once in a lifetime activity that I'm glad I did.
We all couldn't wait for showers and sleep (and everyone else food, although I still had no appetite) when we got back down. 
These are matts awesome photos as I was too sick to even think about taking any :-/

Tags: antigua, camping, eruption, hike, lava, mountain, volcano

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