Mission: climb the Pacaya volcano, which first erupted ~23,000 years ago and today, erupts continuously
Elevation: 8,373 feet.
This afternoon we ventured to the Pacaya volcano with Hugo of Expeditions Guatemala (or as he likes to say guat-ever). After a twisty-turvy 45-minute car ride of passing two 18-wheelers simultaneously with a cliff on one side, we arrived to the base, where young boys sold us “walking sticks” (or literally, wooden branches). The first 200 meters of ascent were on a concrete base…it was at this point that the “taxis” or horses’ owners called out to us, “Amigos, need a lift?” Was it that apparent that we might not be able to make it? We paused for a few moments to gather the group – one collective sight of panting and clutching one’s sides.
Luckily, the path became soft ground and we turned down the taxi ride…we were going to conquer this volcano by feet. A 60-minute hike later, we found ourselves at the base of the volcano. A soft red glow was visible in the distance. Our path transitioned to hardened lava for another 20 minute hike. And then we arrived. Pools of red-orange lava oozed slowly – we neared it cautiously, eyes wide opened, feeling the warmth envelope us. We found spots to sit and began our picnic dinner – sandwiches, chips, and banana bread never tasted so good. And for dessert? Marshmallows roasting on an open fire :)
After dinner, we began our descent in pitch darkness. A sea of headlamps lit the way, but still, it was a bit treacherous. But we embraced the lesson – as PT’s, we ask our patients to push through their pain, their fatigue, their fears. And as group, we did just that- some of us had pain, most of us were fatigued, and one of us conquered her fear of heights. And by having pushed through, we were able to savor in the present moment, the beauty of Pacaya. And although not directly the same, we are hopeful that moments like this will help us to help our patients find their own moments of beauty.