After we left Mazatenango yesterday, we took a three-hour bus ride to Antigua, an historic Spanish Colonial town and the former capital of Guatemala.
We each picked how we wanted to spend our day of R&R today. Some of us-- based on little information-- picked the volcano tour. So we were up early and ready to leave this morning at 5:50 a.m. for a hike to the top of Pacaya, the most frequently visited volcano in Guatemala... which has been regularly erupting since 1965. 🙈 Despite this, the volcano and national park-- created to protect the area-- are popular with tourists.
The six of us (Rick, Janine, Susan, Nell, Judy and I) boarded a minivan with two Canadian girls and took off. We stopped again to cram in a nice Brazilian guy. We had been given paper bags with breakfast as we set out from our hotel and Janine suggested we give our food to people who needed it more than we did.
As we drove to pick up the next members of the tour, (and stuff them into seats that kept magically appearing in the van), we saw several people sleeping outside near the city center. We asked our new Brazilian friend to ask the driver in Spanish to stop. He happily complied and Nell got out to give them our food and some cross necklaces. The people were eating our breakfast as soon as they opened the bags. We were thrilled that we could help them.
There are two trails from different parking areas to the crater at the top of Pacaya. One trail is "gentle" and the other "a bit tougher". That's the one we took. Tougher? Ha! The volcano hike was treacherous-- straight up dirt, rocks and roots for almost two hours. The sign at the park marked the trail as medium difficulty, but medium for who? Professional hikers? Rock climbers? What were we thinking?
Our group moved very fast. Susan, Nell and Janine smartly traded hiking for horseback pretty quickly while Rick and I suffered through more than half the trail before we opted for horses, too. Judy went all the way to the top on foot! Bless her! We were all very impressed!
My horse had a two-month-old foal that also made the treacherous climb and was in training for a future of carrying riders up. It stayed close beside its mother the whole way.
At the crater, we roasted marshmallows in the volcano's heat. It was sweet and sad. I felt bad for the horses and the people who do this hellacious journey twice a day.
Joe, Jim, Rich and Frances chose more serene recreation and played golf this morning. The volcano erupted black smoke as they warmed up.
Jake and Burch suited up in protective gear and rode motorcycles up to Hobbitenango, a village being built in the style of the shire in Lord of the Rings, using sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods and materials.
Their ride included a stop at Cerro de la Cruz -- Hill of the Cross. The stone cross was erected in the 1930s in devotion to St. James, the patron saint of Antigua. This point offers stunning, unobstructed views of the valley and Agua, another volcano in the area's volcanic range.
Freddie and David truly took the day off to recharge their batteries for our trip back to the U.S.
It was a wonderful day of fellowship and blessings. We're now headed to Guatemala City to catch a 3:00 a.m. flight home tomorrow. We'll be back in our own beds Sunday night, tired but fulfilled in so many ways.
I'm Karen, a member of the EAMC Mission Team from Topsail Beach, N.C. I hope to share our experiences of ministering to the Mayan villagers of Guatemala though our photos and bits of information about our day-to-day projects.