Ever wondered how to climb a volcano with your kids. This is the Guatemala edition. If you are looking at conquering some fears then keep reading.
Full disclosure. I’m not fit by any stretch of the imagination. I like to think I am. I like to think that because I no longer live in NYC and have a hectic life that I therefore have more time for Yoga and wellness. But in the time allocated to do Yoga, sometimes I just drink coffee, or eat cake 🙂 Point being I’m of average fitness and deluded in my physical abilities most of the time. I am also incredibly scared of heights. When it came to climbing a volcano I wanted to do it SO SO bad but for once I had to be honest with myself, could I do it? More importantly could I do it with a 12LB kid strapped to my back. I googled it. I found exactly 1 you tube video. This was not reassuring. Caution to the wind I booked a day trip to climb mount Pacaya near Antigua, Guatemala with my kid. I spent the following two nights not drinking wine and doing at least 25 minutes of Yoga. I was ready!
Mount Pacaya is one of 29 active, dormant or extinct volcanoes in Guatemala. We had just spent some time staring at the picturesque peaks of Atitlan and Tolima on Lake Atitlan which you can read more about here. If you’re looking for a volcano to climb then Guatemala seems to be a pretty good place to try it. Antigua is ringed by 4 volcanoes, Agua, Fuego (still erupting), Acatenango and Pacaya. Acatenango is by far the most challenging I’m told at over 13,000FT elevation and 4000m high it takes some hiking. Most people tend to overnight here to watch the sunrise. I felt like this was just one step too far for me. For one about the warmest piece of clothing Oscar had was a hoody. S0 Pacaya it was all 2552 m of it.
The bus drops you off at the base and you are greeted by a number of horse wielding guides and children selling hand tooled walking sticks. My particular tour already worked with an experienced local guide. I would of course recommend you do your research and go with a reputable tour that also offers this option. We tied our laces and set off. The horse caravan seemed to come with us so if at any point you did want to chicken out and jump on a horse you could. This was reassuring. The hike is through woodland and is very beautiful and humid, the path is well-marked and in places stones have been laid to help you on your way. There weren’t any sheer drops to tumble down which me and my fear of heights were so scared of. I was very aware of my mental attitude and my fellow hikers so I stuck with the guide and ignored the laggers. I hunkered down and worked out a rhythm that suited me and listened to the bird song and nothing else. I didn’t really talk to people which I’m sure seemed rude but made the whole experience much easier for me. The hike took just over 1:30 minutes and was totally manageable. There are steep parts but they soon balance out. The reward is just spectacular. The sense of achievement was unbeatable and as a solo, traveling mum I really felt I had nailed it!
WHAT YOU NEED
WILL POWER – bucket load
WATER – bottle load
A BABY CARRIER
That’s it. That’s really all you need.
STEP BY STEP – How to climb a volcano with your kids. The Guatemala edition.
I have an incredibly comfortable baby career which you might have heard of in previous posts. It’s an Aprica purchased 2 months before Oscar Chang was born and I use it to this day (he is 18 months old). Oscar walked some of the way especially when we were on the volcanic rock which he loved. He also insisted on walking to toast the marshmallows in the lava. What a surprise. Yes we actually toasted marshmallows in molten lava. Totally amazing and not just for Oscar.
We started our hike in the morning around 9AM so the temperature was cool for Guatemalan standards although I was glad of my bandana (don’t mock!) which stopped the suncream sweat rolling into my eyes during the harder parts of the hike. I wore yoga pants and a tank top and was glad of the leg length on the pants when it came to the horse riding. Yes, Oscar Chang insisted on getting a horse and I could find no reason to disagree. The decent was really easy and the horse ride less than 5$. He loved it so much that he fell asleep on the horse (don’t worry moms I got on there with him)!
Do bring a big bottle of water and a light picnic, you will be glad you carried it. The small hut (pictures below) and benches nestled in the dried out lava valley are mesmerizing and you really do get dehydrated in the humidity and altitude. Oscar was drinking almost twice what he would in a normal morning.
The views are stunning and the whole experience is so exhilarating and life affirming I’m not sure that this post will ever do it justice. I just hope it encourages you to try it. Have you ever done something that you never thought you were capable of with your kids? I would love to hear your experiences too. Please feel free to comment below…