Thursday, October 7, 2010

Segment 24: Antigua, Guatemala to Panajachel, Guatemala (September 21 - October 1, 2010)

From Antigua, feeling very rested and relaxed after nearly 2 weeks, we rode to the nearby town of Alotenango to begin our climbing adventures.
Alotenango; Volcán de Agua looms above

Padre Nelson at the Catholic Church opened up a room for us to spend the night, as there are no hotels or any other option in Alotenango.

Jeff, Jason, Mike and Craig, all ready to head up Volcán de Fuego

We head out of Alotenango at 4:30 AM to begin the climb; seen from the lower slopes of Volcán de Fuego, this is Volcán de Agua at sunrise, bean rows in the foreground

As usual, we went without a guide.  (Explanation: guided trip = low adventure and following somebody else's agenda, in addition to the expense).   As a result, we got lost 4 times on this day; here we are righting ourselves while passing through coffee plantations on the mountain's lower slopes.  

Heading up the trail, the summit of Volcán de Fuego in the distance; from here we erringly followed firecutting trails up the mountain aways and were lost again.

back on track, we stopped for lunch in this wash

many campesinos passed here, mostly loaded with firewood

our campsite the first night on the mountain, Volcán de Agua in the distance

we witnessed numerous and sporadic eruptions on Volcán de Fuego from this campsite

Volcán de Agua jutting above the clouds, mid-morning

...heading up through spectacular cloud forest...

at 2700 m (approx. 8100 feet), we made camp on one of the only flat spots on the entire climb.  In this photo we are collecting water off of Jeff´'s tarp in a mid-afternoon rainshower.

we named this devil's claw, which comes from the fruit pod of a native cloud forest tree!

the view of Fuego from our campsite.  Throughout the afternoon, evening, and night we witnessed numerous volcanic eruptions, spewing hot lava and glowing boulders into the sky, which would then tumble thousands of feet down the mountain, directly across from our camp.  These eruptions would be preceded by loud rumbles, and would often start off enormous landslides, which would roar in an avalanche of sound down the mountain.  These awoke us with starts throughout the night.

We started climbing some hours before the predawn (exact time unknown as none of us had a watch), but Jason and Craig turned back due to stomach problems and backache, respectively. 

now high on the slopes of Fuego, Mike and Jeff witnessed an amazing sunrise over Volcán de Agua to the east.

Mike as we approach Fuego in the first rays

a rainbow was spotted in the distance, direction Lago Atitlán.

early morning colors on Fuego

in the distance can be seen Volcanes Atitlán, Tolimán and San Pedro, which border Lago Atitlán (our next destination)

Jeff with Volcán Acatenango in the background

this was as far as we dared to climb on Fuego, at this point a mere scramble to the summit (3765 m) and the highly active crater.  We knew from watching the previous days' eruptions that we were definitely in the fallout zone of volcanic ash and rock here.

starting down, direction Volcán Acatenango

sugar peanuts were a main energy source for this climb, here in the saddle between the two peaks

shortly thereafter, eruption of Fuego seen from the flanks of Acatenango (!)

Jeff solo, in a misty whiteout on the summit of Acatenango, 3975 m (about 13,200 feet)

... wildflowers seen on and near the summit of Acatenango...

the forested slopes of Acatenango, fire-scarred

Our descent returned via the same path, which took us through amazing cloud forest features, some Dr. Seuss-like (above), others dwarfed and enchanting (below)...

Mike shows off some mud collected on the descent

back in Alotenango, a funeral procession in the background, re-conversion to bicycle travel underway in the foreground

Jason dubbed this the pimpest grill in Guatemala
back on dirt, climbing out of San Miguel de Dueñas

...a fantastic, rough and muddy descent to Acatenango, in the rain...

our waitress at a comedor in Acatenango.  She is 13 years old.

 shortly after leaving Acatenango Hurricane Matthew hit pretty hard, bombing us with endless rain, cold wind, and difficult cycling conditions.  So much so, that we stopped outside a small village at the onset of night and asked for a safe place to spend the night.  This village is called Cerro Alto, near Patzicía, and we ended up staying with this family for 2 nights while the ferocious rain never abated...

 ... we were given shelter, and we were fed:  fresh corn tortillas and beans...

...then we got involved with making tortillas, which normally only women do in Guatemala.  Above is the corn in the cooking process, after which it is ground at the mill, and below we are making tortillas with this corn:

 we have a good teacher.  The woman of the house used to work at a tortilleria in the capital city, and has been making tortillas every day for over 20 years.

 Craig shows the curious family members the tortilla-making photos

 the men of the family engage in making religious music with a keyboard, bass, and electric guitar

 roasting elotes (fresh corn cobs) to eat for dessert

 our hosts and us

 the kids of the family

 we finally got a break in the weather, and started out towards Lago Atitlán once again.

 bridge out...
... no worries

...getting close to Panajachel, we found numerous landslides had closed the road.  Pictured here was the worst of them... we had to carry our bikes over the landslide, which was loose, muddy and crumbly both above and below, and was still very much active and unstable, as the rain continued.  We scampered across warily, adrenaline flowing, while locals gave us a wide berth...

 arrived in Panajachel, we were hosted by fellow cyclists Nancy and Matthew, who belong to the Warm Showers hospitality network for cyclists (rare in Guatemala).  They cycled from British Columbia to Guatemala in 2009-10, arriving many months before us in Guatemala, and at this time Nancy was working as a school teacher and Matthew was engaged in permaculture projects, such as this one.  Pictured above is Matthew with his backyard aquaponic system, which will eventually feature a closed system of garden vegetables and fish, with the fish fertilizing the vegetables, and the plants in turn cleaning and returning the water to the fish.

 We found time to make vegan pizzas.  These are 1) basil pesto with roasted red pepper and roasted garlic, and 2) broccoli pineapple jalapeño with red sauce

eating pizza with our hosts in Panajachel

 Jason shows off his Snuggy, which he has just sewn in half to function as a sleeping bag of sorts

 Jeff built a new framebag for his bike while in Panajachel, this one sitting behind the neck and above the top tube.

1 comment:

James said...

Big respect to you guys and what you've acomplished so far on this amazing journey. Keep it up!

Best wishes from Barcelona.

James del Espino