Audrey and I were finally able to make it out of Copán Ruinas. We boarded the Hedman-Alas bus and headed back to Antigua. We desperately tried to go directly to El Salvador rather than back to Guatemala. Much to our dismay, the shuttle from Copán to San Salvador was “out of service” (if you can call it that). Out of two vehicles, one had blown up two weeks prior and the other was driven by a drunk. At least that’s what our host at Via Via Hostel told us. We opted to go back to Antigua and figure things out from there.
We made it to the border crossing without a hitch. Leaving was much less terrifying than entering. Immigration took our Honduran visa, stamped our passport and we walked across the border to Guatemala.
I turned around to get a quick picture of the “Bienvenidos A Honduras” sign and continued into Guatemala. One Guatemalan entry-stamp later, I boarded the bus with Audrey and continued to Guatemala City. From there we resumed our journey to Antigua. We met a guy named Jonathan from the Netherlands who was also traveling to Antigua. We quickly made friends with him and decided we’d all try to stay at the same hostel.
It was nearly 9 PM when we arrived back in Antigua. Of course it was pouring down rain. Exhausted and drenched, we hired a taxi to take us to a hostel a friend in Copán Ruinas had recommended. Dubbed the name “A Place to Stay,” it was simply that… a place to stay. Moldy, smelly and Lord knows how many cats were running around that place, we decided to go back to the familiar Holisitco. The owner spoke perfect English and understood everything we were saying; he didn’t take too kindly to us opting to go somewhere else. Rather than let us gather our belongings and put on our jackets, he kindly kicked us out into the rain.
We flagged down a passing tuk-tuk and went to Holistico. It was quite an experience stuffing the three of us and all of our luggage into the back of a tuk-tuk. Rain kept splashing up the side and our feet were drenched by the time we reached Holistico. It was full. (Later, we discovered it was not full, but the night guard either did not understand our request or he wasn’t allowed to take new reservations after a certain time. Either way, we had to go somewhere else.) We went to two other hostels with no luck.
Finally, we went to Casa Cristina, a hotel that Audrey had stayed at with a friend when she first visited Antigua a few weeks prior. It was just past 10 when we arrived, and the tuk-tuk driver told us that he could not take us anywhere else. Apparently after ten, the government does not allow taxis or tuk-tuks to be on the street. It was this hotel or bust. Cold, hungry, disheartened and exhausted, we rang the doorbell. Thankfully they had two rooms left.
Casa Cristina was absolutely lovely. For $15 per person per night, we had hot water, a room to ourselves and even a television. Honestly though, at that point, we would have paid $50 each for a place to stay… except at “A Place to Stay.” Heh. The three of us then went to a small tienda and bought chips and cookies for dinner (they don’t have an abundance of food options), and called it a night.
The following morning, Jonathan and I booked a tour to Pacaya Volcano. We were the first people the shuttle picked up, and I quickly realized I had forgotten to swap my flip-flops for tennis shoes. Oops. I literally begged the driver to swing back by Casa Cristina so I could grab my tennis shoes. After picking up the rest of the group at their various hotels, he begrudgingly stopped back at our hotel and I ran to get my shoes. It was a good thing, too! Not only is Pacaya an active volcano that has lava hot enough to melt the bottom of your shoes, it is also quite a hike at more than 8,000 feet – not fun in flip-flops!
After the hour and a half shuttle ride to the volcano, we arrived and met our guide. Then the fun began. We started the two mile hike to the top of the volcano.
Need to use the toilet on the way up? No problem, there is a little outhouse for your convenience.
The views are beautiful.
There are panoramic views of three other volcanoes in the background: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. I’m not quite sure which one in the background of the photo is.
Our lovely group at one of the viewing platforms. It may not look like it, but we were all catching our breath! Pacaya is quite a hike. Not to worry, if you get too tired on the way up you can always hire a horse to take you to the top! There are varying stories on horse “taxi” prices, though. Some reviewers claim that horses get cheaper the higher you get; others claim that they charge more because they know hikers are exhausted. Ultimately, none of our group got on a horse (going up or coming back down), but there is zero shame in riding one – that hike will kick your butt!
Continuing up the volcano, it looked like it was going to rain. Nonetheless, we were undeterred. :)
A few minutes later, it started to pour. It rained for the remainder of the hike up and down the volcano, but we continued on. This is of Jonathan and I at the top of the volcano.
It was so hot, the rocks literally burnt the bottom of your shoes. You can see steam and lava once you near the top of the volcano. However, it was pouring by the time we reached the top, so we all huddled inside a small touristy hut located there. At the hut, you can buy souvenirs that raise money for the children whose homes were destroyed in the eruption of 2010. As more groups started to get to the top , the more packed that little hut became. So we decided to forgo the shelter and attempt to roast marshmallows.
One of the perks of having a guide was having her carry the marshmallows. She passed out sticks and marshmallows and I made an effort to roast. Although I was not very successful, my marshmallow was slightly toasted – extremely impressive since we were in the middle of a torrential downpour.
We enjoyed our soggy marshmallows and headed back down the volcano. Going down was surprisingly as difficult as coming up. The loose rock was made worse by the rain. With unsteady feet, we tried to make it down the volcano without slipping or hurting ourselves. After victoriously hiking up and not killing ourselves coming back down, we all piled into the shuttle bus and headed back to Antigua.
The following day, Audrey and I bid Jonathan farewell and planned our next journey. We bought tickets to El Tunco, a small seaside village in El Salvador for the subsequent day. Check back Friday to hear all about our journey into El Salvador!