Volcano Hiking: The Devil’s Marshmallows – Volcano Pacaya, Guatemala

A simple, half-day trip from Antigua – Pacaya volcano is an ideal way to spend an afternoon.

We organised it on a whim, we had had a couple of weeks of consistent rain and now that the weather was (kind of) better, we decided to go for it! My legs were still very sore from our Acatenango hike a few days previously and I figured – what better way to loosen off stiff muscles than by hiking up another volcano!

Unlike the violent plumes of ash and lava that we had seen from a distance on our hike at Acatenango, Pacaya is known for it’s long, slow lava flows. In fact often the volcano cannot be climbed due to a lava flow creating hazardous conditions. Indeed, a friend we had met who went to attempt this hike a couple of weeks after us couldn’t do it as the conditions had become more unstable.

The cloud cover unfortunately came in as we were ascending and our phones couldn’t capture quite as good a photos as we would have liked due to the flat light. (I think this was the moment I finally decided to invest in somewhat a decent camera – which I did when I got back to the UK)

The hike itself is fairly easy going, especially compared to Acatenango. But don’t expect it to be a complete walk in the park. Entrepreneurial locals will follow you up with a horse in tow, occasionally saying – ‘Caballo?’ in an effort to get you to cough up the cash and finish the hike on the horse. Local children tried to rent us ‘hiking poles’ made of sticks for Q5 (US$0.70). They are not really necessary, but a couple of our group took them to reward the kids for their salesmanship.

The lava flows here are still active and moving – albeit very slowly. You can literally feel the heat radiating off the black rock. Despite the altitude and the cold, once our boots were crunching across the newly-cooled lava, we found ourselves stripping off layers and walking in just t-shirt and shorts.

The numerous vents that we encountered in the cooling lava flows radiated such heat that it was difficult to get too close to them. In fact, in the above photo, Candace could only withstand 5 – 10 seconds maximum in this position, just long enough to get the photo, before she would have to move away to cooler air.

However, these vents created ideal conditions to cook marshmallows! And so we did! There is something primal about cooking using the raw power of mother nature!

Did you see my previous post about our amazing time at Volcano Acatenango? Click here if not!

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