Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hiking the San Pedro Volcano

View of Lake Atitlan from near the top of San Pedro Volcano
San Pedro Volcano from Panahachel

I went on a hike up the San Pedro Volcano.  The lake is at a pretty high elevation, so hiking can be difficult because of a lake of oxygen.  7 students and 2 guides went.  It took an hour just to get to the bottom of the volcano at the visitor’s center.  Another middle-aged guy, Roger, and I were going really slow.  He was slow because of the altitude; me because I’m out of shape.  We started from the school at 6:30 am and at 8:30 arrived at the “mirador” – a viewpoint 1 km from the visitor’s center.  The entire 2 hours were uphill, but not too steep.  Roger and I decided we had gone far enough, so one guide stayed with us and the other took the rest up to the top.  After ½ hour, Roger and I were ready to continue up.  We came to another pretty good viewpoint and continued, slowly, up the hill.  After we had gone about 2 km from the mirador and 1 km from the top, we thought about it and decided we had really finished our hike.  We were at that point going up at a very steep angle – kind of like going up steps in a house, sometimes more steeply than that.  We were very happy with our progress and within ½ hour the rest of our group came back to our position.  We all walked back together although the pace was a little bit fast for me – I got a blister on the way down.  No knee pain, fortunately!  More pics...

Kayaking Lake Atitlan - a beautiful, but dangerous trip

Lake Atitlan is about 50 meters higher than at its low point of a few years ago.  An underwater landslide has blocked the outlet, so things are flooding.  We just entered the dry period, so the water might go down for awhile, but it is expected to continue rising until the outlet unblocks itself.  There is evidence that the lake level could get to be higher than many of the homes or even whole villages.

We started our kayak trip at around 8 am but were not really prepared for hiking or for a guide that would walk off and leave us behind.  No warning was given about the diving platform, either.  Although the kayak trip is fun, Gary injured his sternum when he jumped into the water at 7 meters up.  It took at least 5 weeks for the pain to completely subside.

We walked around a bioreserve (which is where the diving platform is).  It was beautiful but we should have worn at least tennis shoes instead of sandals.  Not only that, but the bioreserve guide seemed to be in a hurry - twice he walked off without Gerry and I and we couldn't find them.  Eventually he found us, but we weren't very happy with him.