Our mandate for this Sunday was to conquer Pacaya, one of three active volcanoes in Guatemala. We arrived at the base around mid-morning where we met our guide, Roberto. He took us all the way up to the first peak along the trail at the edge of the treeline. From there, we could see the barren landscape that resulted from the eruption in 2010. Roberto told us about the thundering cascade of rocks and lava that he saw that day. The people had to evacuate their homes and leave their fields. For two years, farmers couldn't plant their crops under the mountain. Now, the fields are strengthened by the minerals that the lava deposited in the soil and the local corn, bean, and coffee harvests are back to normal.
Just below the first peak were several tunnels carved into the igneous rock. The black volcanic rock formed a three-meter-tall opening in the ground, nearly 25 meters deep! The team traveled to the end, facing the darkness head-on. The second tunnel was much taller, nearly five meters high with a few openings in the ceiling. At the far end, there was a smaller opening just the right size to climb through. Scott, Trey, and Riley flung themselves through the fissure. Next, Roberto brought us to a natural oven! We came prepared with hot-dogs and marshmallows and enjoyed our lunch, cooked over flowing lava. After our lunch break, we began our descent. Spearheaded by Roberto, our group swiftly made its way down the mountain. Incredibly, as we passed another group ascending the volcano, Emily was recognized by an acquaintance of hers! She’d worked with him in New York City, and he happened to be climbing Pacaya just as we were passing by and spotted her in the crowd.
Back at the factory, we finished Hercules and got plenty of rest to recover from our long morning.