Trip to Guatemala – Part 6

This country has many volcanoes, so when I learned that my language school was sponsoring a walking trip to a lake in the crater of a volcano, I was interested. This would be an extinct volcano, of course.

The name of the volcano and lake is Chicabal (also spelled Chikabal).

So Melanie, JoLene and I showed up at the school at 7:30 on Saturday, August 22, to join a group of 14 for this excursion.

As we walked several blocks to meet the bus, Melanie twisted her ankle painfully but resovled to go on. However, after several minutes on the bus the pain was not going away, and she realized she was not up to a long hike in the mountains, so she and JoLene went back to the apartment while I continued with the group.

We arrived at the town of San Martin and started our hike. I was amazed at how the farmers plant crops on the steep slopes of the mountains.

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I was a bit nervous about how strenouous this trip would be. When I first heard about the walk, I understood that this would be a one and a half hour jaunt. Now our guide was saying it was two and a half, one way. I thought, “I will go as far as I can.”

From the first the walk was daunting – steep hills up and down and crossing a steep, high mountain. We rested often, and for part of the way I paid a woodcutter to haul seven of us in his pickup to the entrance of the volcano park. Five of us rode in the back of the pickup on scattered wood and plastic bags.

We had come 7 kilometres (4 1/2 miles) from San Martin to the park.

By this time I was quite tired of walking and knew I had to walk the 4 1/2 miles back, but why come this far and miss the crater and lake? All the others were intent on going forward, so I joined them – one more mile up the side of the volcano to a lookout on the rim and then down into the crater.

This sign shows the route up and down.

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On the sign “Mirador” means Lookout, and Laguna means lagoon or lake.

The climb up the volcano was now steeper than anything we had seen so far. When we got to the lookout on the rim, you can imagine our disappointment when all we saw was fog! What is the point of going down into the crater if all we will see there is this fog? But by this time a cheerful madness had ovetaken us, and we decided to continue the adventure.

The descent was even steeper than the ascent. Fortunately we had man-made steps and handrails. the descent took 15 or 20 minutes.

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The volcano is covered with dense forest both on the “outside” and in the crater.

At the lakeside we saw only dense fog and were keenly disappointed, but soon the fog lifted and we saw a beautiful lake, much smaller than we had imagined.

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After only five minutes the clouds descended again, and all we could see was the shore.

The volcano and lake are sacred to the Mayans, so no swimming is allowed in the lake. There are two Mayan altars still in place on the shore.

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After resting on the grass and eating our snacks, we start up the caldera again, this time by a different route, which is a narrow dirt path without benefit of the wooden steps we had on our way down.

I wondered how I could make the return trip, but somehow I did it. Fortunately, much of the return is downhill, so, surprisingly, the hike back to the village of San Martin and the van bus took only an hour and a half.

I got back to Melanie’s apartment in Xela at 4:00.

The interaction with others in our group was stimulating. Most of the group were from US. I especially enjoyed two children, brothers who were with their parents, from Minnesota. The boys were ages 7 and 5. How they made the hike without complaining I do not know, but they did it. My estimation of them is of the highest level.

I expected the forest to be full of birds, and I was eager to add new species to my life list. To my surprise and disapointment, most of the time the forest was silent. I saw only four species, three of them already known to me and the fourth being an unidentifiable hummingbird. Such are the vicissitudes of birding.

The hike was by far the longest and most difficult I have ever expereinced, but I was glad I went. Throughout the day I was praising the Creator for the glory of the world he has made.

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2 Responses

  1. Your foggy trip reminds me of our several hour journey to see Mt. St. Helens in Washington state. After finally arriving at the visitors’s center we were guided to an auditorium facing a wall covered by heavy drapes. After a narrative and music, the huge drapery dramatically parted to reveal only dense fog. The fog never lifted that day. Although this was disappointing, we had not made any investment in physical exertion as you did. Such is life. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

    • Yes, life has so many disappointments, encouragements and experiences pointing us to God.
      John

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