Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hot Time in Guatemala

Alice admires the flowing lava

This is one way to dry clothes fast!

What do two 66-year old Americans have in common with a dozen Young Israelis?

Actually quite a lot. One they got over the fact that Alice and I were two to three times older than anyone else in our group, we walked three kilometers together up the side of an active volcano (Mount Pacaya, Guatemala), were pelted by torrential rains, stood on cooling lava next to a steadily flowing stream of red-hot lava (it put off enough heat to almost dry some of our soaking wet clothes), and then we hiked the three kilometers back to our bus in the dark, and for part of the way, through more rain.

Alice and I came out rather well, considering how heavy the rain was, since we both had thick ponchos that Alice insisted we take. I no longer thought taking them was silly, and I used mine in combination with an umbrella. The young Israelis had neither ponchos nor umbrellas, and soon were totally soaked. However, when our guide asked us if we wanted to take a break under a shelter and wait for the rain to stop, we all voted to press on.

The rain finally did abate just before we got to the lava fields, and never became heavy again on our way back through the dark.

It was almost 8PM, when we got back to the trail head. As we waited in a small cafe to get back on our bus, we exchanged many stories. Mine were about the heavily pro-Israeli slant of Strong Ox etc., particularly during the Israeli-Hezbollah (Lebanon) War. Alice handled the personal and religious issues: the young people were secular, but believe in God; they had just visited the US - San Francisco, Tahoe, Yosemite, the redwoods, San Diego, and the Grand Canyon; they ate all kinds of food, including pork, and noted that an Orthodox Jew could not do their travels, because they would starve.

After an hour traveling back on the bus, it was almost 9PM when a police roadblock stopped us and informed us: "Pasa no." As the driver turned around, the significance of the earlier heavy rainfall struck us; the rain hadn't fallen only on the high slopes of Mount Pacaya. We realized we would be on the bus at least another hour before getting back to Antigua and our hotel rooms, showers, and warm, dry clothes.

And food!

Just as despair became deeply entrenched in our wet, cold, starved group, we got to share another experience. Our bus driver pulled into a Burger King on the outskirts of Guatemala City, and we all hurried in to order Whoppers with cheese, french fries, and Pepsis (Supersized). More lively chatter soon returned, and when we reboarded the bus all were remarkably revived.

Soon we were back in Antigua, and our bus driver distributed us among our hotels. I grabbed a quick shower and fell asleep, and Alice took one of her liesurely hour-long baths.

We woke up refreshed, with no pains except regret that our shoes were still soaked, and that the volcanic ash had blackened our pants legs and socks. We hope the hotel laundry can work miracles on the pants, although I doubt my white socks will ever be white again.

On to the next adventure!
(I hope our shoes dry fast)

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