San Pedro Volcano

The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. – Jack London

This quote is in honor of the book I just read yesterday – The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Being a big dog lover, it was a pretty intense read, but I did enjoy it. Especially the part about Buck falling in love with his master. It made me wonder if Simone ever wants to be a wild dog… maybe that’s why we make such a good pair?

Today I took at stab at my third volcano. I am getting more confident with each hike since I know more about what to expect. I did some research on San Pedro ahead of time and it turns out that this is one where you don’t really need a guide since it’s a pretty straight forward climb (i.e. difficult to get lost). Below is a photo of me early on in the hike when it was really sunny and sweat was pouring… you’re welcome.


I was going to get up at 8am to try and beat the heat, but coming off of a day of laying in the sun yesterday, I needed the extra sleep… *wink.* I’m telling you, life is tough here… Anyway, so I woke up at 10am and decided I was up for the climb, so I grabbed a tuk tuk, which cost me about $1.50 and was at the base on the volcano by 11am. I hadn’t taken a taxi yet since getting here, so it was fun to have the experience.

This is a climb that charges a fee and foreigners are the lucky ones who get to pay a premium price of 100q, which is about $13. Locals get in free.

The guy who took my money tried to convince me to wait for other hikers to arrive so that we could climb as a group with a state park guide, but I was anxious to get going and didn’t want to be slowed down, so I put in my head phones and took off. About 15 minutes into the hike, I heard yelling behind me and the man who had taken my money had been chasing me trying to get me to sign the waiver. Since I had my headphones in, I had not heard him until just then. I don’t speak much Spanish, but I am pretty good at reading body language and I could tell he was annoyed that he had to run after me for so long. Off to a good start, Lara!

IMG_8921The hike was challenging for sure. I would say that the steepness was comparable to Acatenango, however, the trail was much better maintained. You can see the steps in the photo above, which was about a quarter of the way up. There was no sliding sand and it had stairs built into the trail almost the whole way up. On top of that, being without a backpack and enjoying shade about 90% of the hike up, it was actually quite pleasant. I passed at least three other groups on the way up, so I felt good about my pace. I was expecting the hike to take me about 3 hours (most estimations said around 3-4 hours), so I was elated when I realized I was nearing the top at 2.5 hours into my hike. There were a few sneak peaks of the lake during the hike, but for the most part I was in woods on the up, so when I made it to the top it was truly striking.



Even though it was the weekend, there weren’t a lot of others on the trail, so I was able to enjoy the view at the top without many interruptions. I had eaten the food that I had brought and drank all my water, so I decided it would be best to run down the mountain to try and get down as quickly as possible. It normally takes about 2 hours to get down, but I was able to do it in just over an hour. Boom! Trying to get in some good Asheville training for my half-marathon in March. And it’s a good thing that I booked it because I made it to the base just as a truck load of gringos were about to take off. I asked them if I could hitch a ride and they gladly let me onboard. It’s only a ten minute ride, but it is difficult to get taxis from the volcano back down into town.

I made friends with the folks on the truck – they were a group of bird watchers who were in town from California and just finishing up their two-week tour of Guatemala. Everyone is so friendly here! They were probably all around 65 or 70 years old, so I was impressed they committed to the hike. I had actually passed them on the way up and noticed this group in particular because they all had beautiful cameras. Dad, you would be proud. Ha.

I learned that one of the men had started his own bird watching company based out of Cali and organizes tours all over Central America, so this is his seventh trip to Guatemala. At one point, one of the men asked me about why I was here and I told them I was on vacation just traveling around and had gotten to San Pedro on Thursday. Another woman chimed in and asked me if my parents were worried about me. I laughed and said that my parents are just about as crazy as I am and they didn’t bat an eye when I told them I was going on this trip. I explained that I grew up in China and spent my childhood traveling all over the world, so I was used to not understanding the language and picking up on cultural cues and norms in order to fit in as best I can. It was at that point that I realized this trip has gone relatively seamlessly and that the number of hiccups have been less than most of my international experiences. Thanks Guatemala.


The group was all very kind and even when I insisted that I pay them for the ride, they refused. They were off to cervezas and I was in desperate need of a shower, so we parted ways.

Of course, I jinxed myself, because when I got back to my hotel, I had no water in my room. It took a good several hours to get fixed, so I was dirty, covered in mud and sweat for longer than I had hoped, but hey. I got to spend the time FaceTiming friends and family, so it wasn’t all bad.

Another successful volcano climb in the books. I am considering going back up for a sunrise from the top before I leave. What do you think?


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