The morning started at 7am. As we mentally prepared for the adventure we were about to embark on, we showered and ate making ourselves ready for the bus pick up at 7.30am. We decided to do the trek through a local company called 'Gilmore and Soy', which meant we got more for our money by way of food, and also that half of the money we paid went towards building a new playground for the local school children. The bus arrived and we were taken to a lovely family home, where we were provided with our layers, bags and packed lunches. We then took a bus to the part of the dormant volcano where the trek started. As we exited the buses, walking sticks were immediately forced upon us which implied we were in for a rocky ride!
As we started the incline of our trek, we were warned off by fellow travellers descending the mountain... "that was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life... Don't do it!!", "that's f***ed!". We were clearly about to put ourselves through something tough, but as motivated young girls we proceeded to follow the steep, never-ending path.
Each step we took up the mountain seemed that bit harder and the altitude meant that every breath we took was a lot shorter. Every ten minutes we would break for water and to catch our breath. The occasional paracetamol would be popped for headaches, and the biscuit supply was consistent from start to finish.
We eventually reached base two where we were to stop for lunch, we tucked into our rice and chicken and fuelled ourselves for the next part of the trek. Having reached half way, we mentally prepared ourselves for the next leg and continued on our journey. Again, this part of the trek was tough however we did make it to base camp.
On arrival at base camp we all huddled around a campfire, due to being 3200 metres high it was very cold and so lots of layers were essential. At first it was cloudy at base camp so we were therefore unable to see the volcano, however a few hours passed and suddenly there was a roar of voices as the volcano appeared from behind the clouds! The view was truly incredible! We were able to see the small towns below and about every five minutes the volcano would grumble and erupt... SO AWESOME! As the sun set, the volcano lit up which was mesmerising and an image we will never forget, despite the fact that we were to be very unlucky the next morning, we did (thank god) witness this for an hour or so before the clouds blew over. The evening ended with us huddling around the campfire enjoying hot chocolate and marshmallows whilst exchanging stories. We discovered two of our fellow trekkers had previously completed Everest base camp this year, mentioning the fact that at no point in those 12 days was the incline as steep as on Acatenango... Just to put this journey into perspective.
After an average sleep we were awoken at 3.30am by that dreaded alarm. We struggled in our sleeping bags for ten minutes and then chucked on as many layers as possible and embraced the freezing cold air. It was slightly clouded outside which led us to believe that we were in for a treat... Yet to discover our hard work was about to be rewarded with not a lot!
The trek up to the top of the dormant volcano was hard, VERY hard. It took an hour and a half to reach the top and for every step up you took three steps back - no jokes! We were literally scaling the side of a cliff face in the pitch dark. This part of the trek was very challenging, however we made it to the top despite a few mere panic attacks on the way up.
As we reached the top, the clouds surrounded us and we started to doubt this "incredible" view we were meant to see. We then sat down huddling and shivering waiting for the sunrise that never came. Frozen and unamused, we scrambled (slid) down the volcanic rubble eventually reaching base camp. We huddled around the fire and were provided with coffee and cereal to perk us up. WHAT A JOURNEY! The decent was hard but doable and we eventually made it down, both legs in tact (just about).
Although we were unlucky, the views at the top are meant to be honestly unbelievable (2 photos attached at bottom are from the group who went the day before us of what we were supposed to see) and in any case, it really is a must do if you visit Guatemala!
If you do decide to undertake this crazy trip, here's a few tips we wish we had read beforehand:
1. Take snacks - biscuits and chocolate are a must!!
2. Lots of water - recommended amount is 4 litres
3. Warm layers - and plenty of them
4. Get a stick at the start
5. Baring all this in mind try to take as little as possible as you'll be carrying the backpack the whole way to base camp
6. Torch for the morning
7. If you have walking boots or substantial footwear, TAKE IT. However we did it in Nikes and survived (just about)
8. Take a photo as soon as you see the volcano as, like us, you may never see it again!!!!!