Sleeping with Volcanos.
I had first learned about volcano Fuego while I was in Costa Rica and the images the story painted in my head made it hard to ignore so I made a dot on my map, created another deviation on my plotted course north to Mexico and a few weeks later I was in Antigua, Guatemala getting ready to hike a volcano – something that I never thought I would do, especially so spontaneously. Antigua is an amazing city, its old architecture, cobblestone streets, town square, and colorful local culture makes it impossible to forget the first time you experience it. I arrived in Antigua along with a charming Canadian couple that I had been traveling with through Honduras and El Salvador and we spent the first night on the roof of our hostel – where the kitchen was located, enjoying the night air and cooking pasta when all of the sudden bang. Fuego erupts. I had completely forgotten it had existed, and it wasn’t until the neon red lava pouring down the side of the volcano did it all really set in. And just when I thought I couldn’t be any luckier, as I sat with my camera shutter open in the middle of an exposure – Fuego decided to show off to us again and let out a fiery explosion that sent giant boulders what looked like 100s of feet in the air. The result being one of the best photographs I believe I have ever taken. We had been in Antigua 8 hours and seen an incredible volcano eruption from our hostel roof while cooking dinner and I didn’t even have to put my boots on. The following morning I would be picked up by a shuttle at 8am for a 10am start. I was instructed when signing up for the 2 day hike to bring a jacket, hat, gloves, and warm pants. What I had was a pair of canvas boots, pretty ripped up jeans, and a denim button down shirt so in the final shopping hours of the day the night before the hike I frantically ran around Antigua looking for something that would be warm. I didn’t have much luck in the adventure outerwear department – I settled for a snazzy knockoff womens Dolce & Gabbana vest that I found in the back of a grocery store and decided to layer as much as possible, luckily locals were very entrepreneurial and had grown accustomed to ill prepared hikers like myself so it was pretty easy to get a pair of gloves.
At 10am the group of a dozen or so of us started up the volcano. The one extremely valuable piece of advice I got from a hiker who I had met in Nicaragua that already made it up was to stick as close to the guide as possible, with the way the breaks were fit into the hike you would get the longest stretch staying glued to the front guide, we would only wait a few minutes after the last hiker in the group made it to the break site before leaving again so I made it my mission to stick to my guides heels and max my breaks out. You would think that after spending 24 hours with someone, 8 of which were spent walking within 10 feet of eachother I would be able to tell you my guide’s name, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. Its not really surprising, we didn’t talk much, he was a lot like me in that he seemed to really enjoy the peace and quiet that being somewhere remote brings. I really value silence in grand places. Listening to the wind swirl around us, feeling the intermittent rain showers from the clouds we were climbing through, I have never experienced such loud silence as I did going up Acentenagno, the only thing I can think of that comes close to it is being in the middle of a snowstorm, it had a violent way about its silence.