LASA Tour 2009-10
Sun 14 Jun 2009 - Sun 5 Jul 2009 24 °C
Sunday 14 June 2009
I returned to Guatemala going to Antigua. Within an hour of arriving I had signed up to take Spanish classes. I also got to stay with one of the tutors and his family. I got breakfast, lunch & dinner cooked for me on weekdays plus the classes are in the house so I don’t have to travel to a school.
I was staying with Jose his wife Karla and their children Karla Isabel, Jose Carlos & Tiffany. Plus they had three dogs, well almost three – two of them were Chihuahuas so were the same size as a rat. Jose was already teaching a German girl called Rebecca so I had a different tutor, his name was Freddy. After three weeks of lessons I think I finally understand the difference between the past tenses, although I am not sure why you need three of them! I can also use them a bit in conversation so that’s a big improvement on just speaking in the present tense.
Antigua itself is a great place to learn Spanish. All the locals correct you if you mispronounce something or use the wrong tense. It’s like they are all your private tutors, from the lady in the laundrette to the bloke on the street who sells newspapers. You might think that it would be annoying but it’s really helpful. The town has some very strange rules. For example there are no street name signs and the shops aren't allowed big colourful signs – that includes MacDonald’s. I thought this would be a great idea but it makes finding places very difficult (and I am not talking about MacDonald's!).
Sunday 21 June 2009
Antigua has three volcanoes nearby, Acatenango & Fuego which are joined and Fuego is still active but the nearest one is Agua and it towers over the town at 3,766 meters. I arranged for a guide and a lift to Santa Maria De Jesus so that I could trek to the top. I also got Rebecca to come with me. I must have a secret rule that I have to have a German girl as company every time I trek up a volcano.
Unfortunately I picked the worst day possible weather wise to do the trek. I later found out that it was a tropical storm that came in from the Pacific, but knowing that now is too late!
I got picked up at 4:00 am and there was light rain. It usually rains in the afternoon but not in the mornings while I take my Spanish lessons so I wasn’t that worried and expected it to clear up pretty soon. We arrived at Santa Maria De Jesus at 04:45 and started the trek, the rain had got worse. Not a good idea to only wear a T-shirt and thin jacket. The trek up usually takes between 3-4 hours, I guess that’s in good weather. Within 30 minutes it was really pouring down and after an hour I was ready to turn back. The guide asked if we wanted to turn around but Rebecca convinced me to carry on. The volcano was so steep and it was really difficult in the pouring rain, my jeans now weighed a ton and I was freezing. After 3 hours we were told there was still an hour to go, once again I was ready to give up – yeah I know I’m a wimp – and once again Rebecca convinced me to carry on. The trek now was getting really dangerous with mudslides around. We got to one that seemed impossible to pass and the guide and Rebecca both slipped and fell during their ascent. I thought no way, definitely not. Then the guide said we were 5 minutes from the top, he had also said there was an hour to go 2 hours ago! I was just thinking that if I slipped it’s so cold and wet there is no way I am taking my hands out of my pockets to stop me falling face first into the mud. I gave a roar and ran up as fast as I could and I made it through without one slip. Fortunately it really was only five more minutes. At the top the crater was pretty disappointingly shallow although strangely enough someone had built a hut in it. Not sure why there were bits of an airplane scattered around – actually of course I’m sure! So five hours to the top and now the easy part, yeah I wished! Not long into the descent my right knee went and I was unable to extend it fully. I was reduced to tiny steps at a time, it was going to take ages and the rain was still pouring down. The trek down was extremely slippery but I didn’t mind as falling on your backside wasn’t so bad because you could keep your hands in your pockets. I also needed to pee but it was so cold I couldn't put my little fellow through that pain (well it was cold!). Then I got to thinking that if I peed myself how warm it would be. It was very tempting. After 4.5 hours we reached the bottom. I was now walking like Forest Gump when he had those leg braces on. Also the rain started to cease. After 10 hours, typical! or tropical whatever.
It's a shame about the weather as the view would of been fantastic and I could of got some great photos. At least I can say I climbed it in weather that probably no-one else will, even if I had to be talked out of giving up on mumerous occasions. Also I was concearned about me knee as there a quite a few more volcanoes I've got planned to trek and the ones in South America are a lot taller.
Sunday 5 July 2009
I took a chance on the knee even though I had only rested it for two weeks, I decided to do Pacaya Volcano. It's only 2,552 meters tall and still active. A lot of the time people still get to see lava streams on it. Not me of course that would be too nice. The trek was easy but the knee had a few twinges on the way down, I hope it get's better soon.
As it rained most days for a few hours (something to do with the rainy season I think) and the knee wasn't up to a difficult trek I decided to leave Guatemala earlier than planned so missing out on Quetzaltenango and Lake Atitlan and yes of course there's a football match on at the end of July in Costa Rica so I need to hurry along but it was definately because of the rain and me knee honest. Also now I have a good excuse to return here.