This story is a bit bitter sweet. The Acatenango is one of the highest mountains in Central America and a demanding hike. Reason enough for me to want to do it. It is also a great view point for the Fuego volcano, which can be seen erupting every couple of minutes. Reason enough for my sister to absolutely need to hike it too. That being said, I’ve been training in Bolivia for the last six months and was fairly sure the hike wouldn’t be an issue, while my sister came from the flattest and lowest part of Germany with no preparation. So she was a bit worried about how intense the hike would be. Queue about two weeks of “I’m going, I’m not going. Wait I’m going”.. When the time finally came close we started collecting feedback from people who had just been on the volcano. It was less than stellar..,
Some didn’t see Fuego at all, others had caught a glimpse during the hike up. The weather wasn’t on our side, but in the end we found a night with minimal rain and cloud coverage according to my favourite weather forecast and decided on a date. However, the morning before we wanted to leave my sister woke up super sick. She could barely get out of bed, but insisted that she’d totally definitely be fine the next morning. With every passing hour she postponed the decision to not go by a day until finally, she had to admit defeat. Or I did for her, since she hadn’t been awake for more than three hours that day and the day was slowly drawing to a close. It was the right decision, she later told me that she also slept the entire next day and had barely recovered by the time I came back.
So, I ended up going alone. A bit conflicted and sad… On the one hand i wanted to see the volcano and be amazed, on the other hand I also wanted to be able to tell my sister that she didn’t really miss much. The day set out promising.. We were in the deepest fog, nothing to be seen. It was cold, wet and the hike was seriously hard. Not the hardest I’ve ever done, but boy.. I did wish for the hike to be over long before we reached the top. I did notice the very nice and luscious forest and the amazing trees. But mostly I noticed the steep path. After four hours of a steep uphill climb (and almost a 1000m in altitude) we started walking along the mountain side towards the camp.
It was still foggy and especially the direction of the volcano was just fog. We did however hear the volcano already. The explosions were quite impressive. Everything was going to plan, I’d be able to tell my sister she didn’t miss much. We arrived at the camp and the views were mediocre, but we were amazed.. The dark cloud forming on top of the white cloud, must’ve surely been an eruption! The white clouds forming on top of the black cloud on top of the white cloud, were forming from the heat of the volcano! Everything was amazing.. but then something unexpected happened: It cleared up! Suddenly we could see the volcano and the smoke erupting from it. We stood around checking the eruptions and THERE IT WAS!
We definitely saw some lava, or at least stones flying out of the crater. The guides seemed moderately impressed and spent time setting up a fire, telling us to be patient and wait for it to get dark. And they were right, once it got dark we could see that every eruption came with lava.. and the eruptions just kept coming. We had a nice dinner and then, surprise, surprise, marshmallows and hot chocolate from the fire and since we were being lightly smoked, there were absolutely no mosquitos around.
However all the food could not quite compete with the volcano, which now also sported some people walking along its slope with headlights, dangerously close to the lava.
And then, because the lava wasn’t quite enough, we got extra thunderstorms!
We went to bed early, since we were supposed to get up at 3:30am if the weather was good.
But were woken up a number of times by the more impressive explosions, one of which actually shook the ground beneath our tents.
The next morning, or rather in the middle of the night, we had to face the final ascent. The sky was now completely clear, we could see the stars, but also the towns below. Something that hadn’t been visible in the evening. From the top we got treated, not only to more eruptions, but also to an absolutely amazing sunrise.
Sorry sis, I tried, but I can’t call it anything other than amazing.