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My Most Difficult Hike in Guatemala: Santiaguito Volcano

Published July 28, 2020 in Guatemala - 0 Comments

In 1902, the Santa Marta Volcano in Guatemala erupted.

It ended up being one of the bigger volcanic eruptions in the 20th century.

An eruption that ended up killing about 5,000 people (but likely more).

In the aftermath, the skies of Guatemala were black for a tiny bit.

And the effect could be detected even as far as San Francisco, California.

But another result of the eruption?

The eruption ended up creating a new dome that today is called Santiaguito Volcano.

Which is a volcano that is quite active to this day with consistent amount of activity that even tourists end up here quite often.

And who are those tourists?

One of them would be almost a decade ago.

When I was spending a few months in a Guatemalan city called Quetzaltenango.

And I decided to get into hiking different mountains and volcanoes around Guatemala at this time.

Mostly as a way to explore the countryside and the immense natural beauty that this Central American country has to offer.

And also to explore a new hobby of mine that I still enjoy to this day.

So let’s dive then into that journey where I end up hiking to Santiaguito Volcano.

And not just within a far away distance from the eruptions as most tourists do…

But where I actually hike to Santiaguito itself where I get within a quarter mile from the crater.

Let’s begin while I use my photos of this time to remember this journey better.

Hiking to Santiaguito Volcano

It all began with some hiking company picking me up at the place I was staying at.

Which, by the way, was some homestay where I lived with a Guatemalan family for these few months that I was in Guatemala.

They end up picking me up at around midnight more or less from what I remember or sometime late at night.

And they ended up driving to some hostel where they picked up some young Australian couple.

The man spoke Spanish pretty well from what I remember but his girlfriend didn’t speak any Spanish.

Then we also had our Guatemalan guide who would help us get to Santiaguito.

Afterwards, they drove us to some area that was either a very, very small town or a village.

We walked through that place late at night and then began the actual hike.

By this point in time, I had already hiked a handful of places in Guatemala and was getting used to the exhaustion from hiking.

And this hike, at the start of it, was very easy and smooth from what I remember.

Except there was a point at which I almost fell of the trail and the drop would have been a bit high up.

Maybe enough to kill me or at least harm me a good deal.

Basically there is some part of the hike early on after some walking past the small town or village.

Where you are walking on a normal path and then you start walking downwards from what I remember.

And the part where you are walking downwards was quite muddy from what I remember and there were some parts of the hike that the guide had to cut through from what I remember with a machete or something.

And the part where I nearly fell off was around a corner where you turn right on a more or less narrow trail during the middle of the night on a muddy path.

Either way, the journey goes on.

And then there was a part of the hike that was a bit different.

Where we had to basically to slide down a bunch of strange rocks.

It wasn’t really possible to walk down them while standing up because the descent was very downward and the rocks were a bit slippery from what I remember.

But because this slide had some sharp edges, it basically put a hole in my pants.

And there was a part where I ended up sliding down way too fast and hit something hard.

You can see the part I am talking about with this photo I took below here.

It basically shows what the area looked like when we were hiking back to Quetzaltenango when there was more sun.

But regardless – we get to the bottom and kept going.

The only other part of the journey I remember at this point was a pretty normal hike…

And then, instead of descending, we had to start moving upwards until we got to a point where the ground was basically sand from what I remember.

Here’s a photo below to show that part of the hike from what I remember. The ground anyway was a bit different by this point.

But this was by far the easiest part of the hike at this point compared to everything else.

At any rate, we finally get to the end of the hike where we are relatively close to Santiaguito and all of the activity that it brings.

And also all of the natural beauty of the area.

Given that we were set to be here for I believe about 8 hours more or less…

We all decided to take a nap for about an hour until the sun was up.

At that point, we were able to see better some of the natural scenery around us, including these photos I took below here.

Notice that someone wrote "Candy" or "Cindy" in the rock near the bottom?

And also we can’t forget the Santiaguito Volcano.

The main star of the hike!

So here’s some photos below here that I took of Santiaguito Volcano.

The second photo below also, if I remember right, includes Santa Maria Volcano. Or I suspect anyway that is what the bigger volcano in the background is here.

Upon arriving to this area also, I felt accomplished in a way for completing this hike.

In hindsight, I could definitely see why most tourists wouldn’t do it since it was very exhausting and a bit more difficult than any other hike I did in Guatemala.

Either way, we start getting ready to leave this area when the Guatemalan guide asked us where we are from.

This was the first time we started really chatting with each other.

I told him I from the Chicago.

Even though I am actually from Iowa but most people down here don’t seem to know what Iowa is and get confused.

So I usually just go with Chicago since it is close enough and most know about it.

And he responded “oh estados unidos, un Americano.”

And the Australian man responded that they are Australian.

To which the Guatemalan guide nodded and responded “oh cool but what part of the US is Australia? Close to Miami, LA or NYC?”

And the Australian guy, who understood Spanish when his girl didn’t, looked a bit confused.

And he looked at me for a second and then to the guide and responded kindly “No, it’s not near NYC or Miami. It’s very far away.”

Now the guide nodded again and went “ohhh, so like close to Chicago where he (meaning me) is from?”

 And the Australian guy chuckled in a kind way and went “no, no, it’s a country. I’m not American.”

Of course, it’s all somewhat humorous I guess this type of scenario.

From what I have seen, it’s not too uncommon to encounter a European or an Australian or maybe some other white dude who is not from the US to be confused as an American.

It’s apparently common enough in my experience and can be annoying for those who actually are not American.

But the Australian guy took it well and joked about it with his girl as we began our hike back.

Here’s a view of the start of our journey back to Quetzaltenango.

Walking over the sandy part of the trip, it was all easy.

But we had to descend over some giant and unstable rocks.

Which, on the journey upwards to Santiaguito, I accidently hit my knee pretty hard on one of them as I couldn’t see very well in the dark.

But now it was even worse as these rocks were not very stable and it was harder to descend.

But then we kept walking….

And going mostly upwards for the remainder of this hike as we were doing a lot of descending initially.

And it was quite exhausting!

The trip back to Quetzaltenango was actually a lot harder than the trip to Santiaguito.

Perhaps because we hadn’t really slept much either and I didn’t eat anything so far.

But also because now we are going upwards instead of descending.

And then we hit those same rocks as mentioned before.

Which you can see again here.

Going up on those walks was nearly impossible for me by this point as I was basically all out of energy…

And also they were slippery as hell.

At the start, I was able to stand up straight…

But then basically because of how slippery they were, I and the Australian couple had to get on our knees and basically crawl our away up.

Though the Guatemalan guide had not as much difficulty getting up – he’s been doing this a bit obviously.

But there got a point where I simply couldn’t get any higher up because I kept slipping on the damn rocks.

The Guatemalan guide then descended a tiny bit to where I was and helped pull me up to the next part of the ascent.

Where basically you would have to crawl more or less to different parts of the ascent where there were plants that were easier to step on and not anywhere near as slippery.

Finally, we get to the top…

And really the hike from then on was easy sailing.

A little bit more of an ascent until basically the hike leveled out and it was no more ascending for us!

And we ended up walking past through that small town or village area once again…

Where we had a vehicle for us ready to take us back to Quetzaltenango.

And they dropped me off basically a few streets away from where I lived.

Of course, I had a major hole in the back of my pants due to the hike over the rocks…

So I walked back quickly so nobody would notice how foolish that would look.

And finally, the trip was over.

Suffice to say, I definitely took a nap the second I got back.

And that was the journey!

By far the most difficult hike I had ever done in Guatemala.

But it was definitely worth it.

Not only because I did a hike that most of the tourists never do.

And not only because of the achievement of doing it.

But also the amazing scenery and getting to be up close to a volcano that has had an interesting history in this part of Central America.

At any rate, was definitely worth the experience.

My only suggestion to anyone doing this hike is to do it wearing pants that you don’t care about.

And bring some food also because you will need it for the energy on the way back.

And if you have something to say, leave a comment below or reach out to my Twitter here.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Matt

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