19.02. I flew to Panama. From there Iberia Airlines unfortunately postponed my corresponding flight until the next morning and I spent one night in the hotel at Panama. My benefit was an additional stamp in the passport.
20.02. When I arrived at Guatemala by 11 a. m. my travelling-group picked me from the airport and we drove directly to the volcano Pacaya. We ascended – interrupted by rain showers – towards a hot hole, but beside that the volcano was unfortunately absolutely inactive. Details Pacaya
21.02. By 3:30 a. m. we started to continue to ascend to the top. But with the fog we couldn’t find the right way. We finally reached at the top in the daylight, but there was only for some seconds a chance to look at the three volcanoes in the neighbourhood: Agua, Fuego and Acetenango. We descended and spent the afternoon with comfortable activities down-town at Antigua (churches, market, bus-station, taking coffee,..).
22.02. Today we ascended at the Acatenango along a fascinatingly beautiful path, and reached at the base-camp after roughly 5 hours and 1,300 height-metres. From there we had a direct view to the continuously erupting volcano Fuego. Details Fuego
23.02. Nightly photo-session of course. By sharp 4 o’clock in the morning we ascended to the top (3,967 metres) of the volcano Acatenango. Dusty descending and another nice afternoon down-town at Antigua. Details Antigua
24.02. At our spare day I made a short trip with Detlef to the lake Atitlan. By boat we went over to the three places San Pedro, Santiago and San Antonio, viewing a coffee-factory, strolling round markets, admiring colourful clothes and doing a little shopping. Details Atitlan
25.02. We spent the morning in Antigua. Around lunchtime and went to the airport flying over San Salvador to Madrid while by the way we sat in the row next to the emergency exits.
26.02. By 6:50 p. m. we arrived in Frankfurt very welcomed by our families!

Day 01, 02: Volcano Pacaya

After the Iberian Airlines had kept me waiting for one night in Panama I could only arrive this morning. Right at the airport I met the whole travelling group and right from there we rode with a minibus direct to the volcano Pacaya. Its a National Park since the year 2000 and we had to pay entrance fee to the armed guardians. We changed our clothes and our belongings inside the minibus, eat delicious chicken with rice in the village Montufar at one traditional and simple restaurant. We took bottled cola and followed our tourist-guide Leonel (his father still guides tourists himself to the volcano despite of his 76 years of age!). We went into direction of the red-glowing Hornito, as it had been promised by our travelling agency to our travel-guide Chris. But the promised lava-streams are there not existing.

We walked conveniently through a forest and short after we reached the timber-line’s end a heavy shower with hail came and we decided to wait, take shelter inside the lodges there and try the ascent to the top again in the early morning. After the end of the rain we went to the Hornito accompanied by many other tourists (some of them rode horses). Reaching there we noticed only a little hole with hot steam coming out and a little grotto extremely “sauna-like” hot. Around 6 p. m. all tourists had disappeared and the night came up, but the Hornito was not glowing and the Pacaya was completely inactive (not regarding the gas coming out at the top), what a pity. So we stayed an ate cheese-cucumber-tuna rolls for supper, glanced far away towards the continuous eruptions of the Fuego (which we are going to visit within next days!) and laid down to sleep early: directly on the ground round the warm hole. Thereby we didn’t need to feel cold at night.

By 3:30 a. m. we got up, moving towards the top. But it became more and more foggy and we couldn’t find the right way to the top. We paused and waited till daylight, then we finally ascended, but still under foggy weather-conditions and only accompanied by half of the travelling-group, the other half didn’t want to come along. The top (around 2,500 metres) was only a few (up to 41% steep) and less than 100 height-metres away. Nevertheless the fog moved upward for a few seconds so that we could get a short view from the volcanoes Agua, Acatenango and Fuego in the morning-light.
We descended together back into the sunlight, took a tasty breakfast with egg, paste from black beans and returned to our hotel in Antigua. Back to diary

Day 03, 04: Volcano Fuego

We took breakfast with toast, additional roll and Nutella which was a gift of Chris. Then we took a minibus to go to Almendro, where we met our guide and started to ascend the steep way to our base-camp at the volcano Acatenango. Our guide was also our bodyguard and we paid for our security up to 1,000 USD “fee” to the local bandits, who used to attack tourists who come to that area. We wanted to have a direct view to the volcano Fuego in the neighbourhood, which was very active by that time.

We walked through fields and a forest afterwards, enjoyed our tour very well with a low speed 🙂 finally overtaken by the disturbing not quite very dynamic group of French tourists. After three hours and 1,100 height-metres (from a total of 3,400 metres) we made a cosy break in the sunshine, and then walked just another 200 metres round the Acatenango to our base-camp with perfect view to the volcano Fuego which was about 3 kilometres air line away and seemed to welcome us with a loud explosion.

Now we took our time to spread and install our equipment, especially the tripod and the camera, and let the guide and his companions cut two trees with their machetes so that we could start our photo-session. We were lucky that the clouds disappeared more and more and from the blue hour on it did us a favour with eruptions. It is always great: watching the top, noticing the orange-red glowing, pieces of lava thrown out into the air, the explosion, the bright colours coming to the front of the dark sky, the shining stars, again and again shooting-stars, amazing…

Taking a sleep with our clothes on and often interrupted by eruptions which we saw, we got up quite early by 4 a. m. to start ascending to the top while the Fuego showed heavy eruptions. The way was 42 degrees steep and we walked on slippery rubble (I had big pain at my shoulder because my rucksack wasn’t meant for carrying overweight, which I learned only afterwards). But finally we, that means half of our travelling-group, arrived 3,976 metres high at the top of the Acatenango, right in time of the blue morning hour. We watched out for a good place for snapping pictures and waited, but we were not very lucky in viewing really big eruptions. But we benefited from the sunrise and with it the increasing warmth.

Then we descended in the dust, sometimes chatting with our guide, and arrived after 2.5 hours of directed walking quite straight 🙂 at Almendro, where the rest of our group, who didn’t ascend to the top, already waited for us. Back to diary

Day 05: Lake Atitlan

Wikipedia: The lake is situated inside a crater (Caldera) which resulted from an explosion of a very big volcano. Through the years the level of the water increased for the valley hasn’t a natural drain. Its covering an area of 126 square-kilometres, it is 18 kilometres long (from east to west) and it lays about 1,560 metres above the ocean-level.

Trip: At 5 a. m. our driver Eric picked me up and together with Detlef I went at our spare-day towards the lake Atitlan, which he also couldn’t visit earlier because his arrival had a delay. Our driver carried us fast and save over the quiet road and therefore we were short before 7 a. m. at a beautiful view-point with a perfect cloudless view over the lake Atitlan with its three volcanoes Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro.

There we enjoyed rolls with a paste of black beans which we warmed up at the car-engine while we enjoyed the view at the same time. Meanwhile Eric organised a private boat-trip for us. By 08:00 a. m. we departed by the boat to Panajachel, there we quickly drank one Espresso and continued to go to San Pedro. The driver of our boat was someone whom we already knew as the guide of the French tourists at the Acatenango. It was real fun to go by boat in the sun!

At San Pedro we strolled through the town, watched children from the kindergarten doing sports, went across a small market-place and then decided to visit the coffee factory. Our next driver Roberto wanted to charge us 20 Quetzel extra while he had to wait for us at the plantation (but instead he could have gone and picked us later again). When we denied to pay that extra money he couldn’t decide whether he would drive us or stay instead and pointed out his low income several times. But finally he gave in to drive us. The tour took nearly one hour and was very interesting, but the coffee which they offered us in the end was not satisfying (the beans were not roasted long enough and it had been made with too much water).

Afterwards we continued our boat-trip to Santiago, where one can easily see, that the water could not flow off after the rainfalls and storms in January, which increased the level of the lake by 3 meters above the ordinary level. In Santiago we visited the Cathedral and the market-place, enjoyed one fresh mango which isn’t comparable with those offered here in Germany, and we admired the colourful cloths which the women used to wear. I have traded a long time and finally I even bought a very nice one with Maya-print by 260 instead of 450 Quetzel. Afterwards we were drinking cola, chewing nuts in the sunshine.

Then we went on to San Antonio, which is just a small town and has often been destroyed and reconstructed after the recent storms. All women there wore blue dresses. They want money for snapshots and are eager to sell cloths, three by one Quetzel. We only spent a short time at the island and told our driver to bring us back to Panajachel. We drank one or two cups of coffee, watched the sun setting behind clouds and some rain appearing, which made us to decide to return back to Antigua. Back to diary

Day 02, 04: Colonial town Antigua

Wikipedia:  La Antigua Guatemala is a small town in the central highlands of Guatemala. It has about 35,000 inhabitants. Its name means “Old Guatemala” but they all call it only “Antigua”. From 1543 up to 1773 it was the capital city of the Spanish colonies in Central America. The town is well known for its baroque colonial architecture. Since 1979 it belongs to the Worlds Heritage of nations. Today it is one of the main attractions all over Guatemala for the tourists. The city has a beautiful colonial townscape and many hotels, restaurants, shops and language schools. One cultural highlight in Antigua Guatemala is the “Semana Santa” the week of Easter with its magnificent processions. Another highlight are the volcanoes Agua, Acatenango and the Fuego which is still active. One can see them close from there.

Trip: After the return from Pacaya we went back into our hotel at Antigua. Charming city, charming hotel surrounding a beautiful courtyard. And despite of all rooms being without windows it was acceptable. In the afternoon I strolled about with Detlef in the city of Antigua which has about 35,000 residents and which is quite safe. Therefore you can see many tourists wearing their big cameras very cool round their neck. We viewed an old washing place, many churches that had been destroyed by the earthquake in 1773 and which hadn’t been reconstructed. We saw colourful houses and shops, colonial townscape, central place (Plaza Central), bus-station, big market-place, football-match and had an extremely tasty decorated Latte Mocca in the Cafe Barrista.

After our return from Acatenango / Fuego I spent a very cosy afternoon again with Detlef at Antigua. I took a tasty fish for lunch, drank many cups of coffee, we went to the supermarket, discovered a shop with original chocolate from Guatemala (it’s really tasty :-)), had a coffee-break with cookie at the Plaza Central, bought the breakfast for the next team-meeting in a bakery. By 6 p. m. all team-members sat together taking supper.

Last common breakfast together. Then I strolled about through Antigua with Detlef, drinking coffee of course (there was a great modern café called Café Fernandez, which had tasty home-made chocolate), did some shopping, enjoyed the sun one last time and took a short lunch, before we had to ride to the Airport of Guatemala. Back to diary