After 24 hours of straight travel I arrived at Tropicana hostel, Antigua, dead on my feet, at 5pm. I found somewhere for food and coffee – essential! But when I got back to my hostel everyone was gearing up for a night out. I tried to rally, throwing back some rum and cokes, and while I briefly flew the sugar high I quickly came crashing back down and flopped into bed. I made up for this poor show a few nights later when we had the ‘guess where this song is from’ quiz night, an extended happy hour on rum and cokes and I found out about Dirty Mexican shots. I honestly don’t know where we placed in the quiz, I was too busy in my makeshift ‘back to school’ outfit, getting the glitter topped up and fishing out more jelly (jello?) shots from the bar staff I knew – they were really good.
We headed out to a club nearby and somewhere in the night I was separated from everyone at my hostel and found myself with brothers from another hostel and a random Guatemalan (who I’m sure was gay, wore glasses and was extremely fun to dance with). We left at some point (no phone and no watch so I couldn’t say when) and headed to the infamous pool party. An empty swimming pool on the outskirts of Antigua where they hold illegal raves. We got there and clambered down into the pool, danced around for goodness knows how long and one of the brothers I was with got a van back to Antigua with me and got me back to my hostel in one piece (thanks buddy)! I didn’t feel very well the next morning and was woken up at 8am with Margarita shots that I was assured would make me feel better (they didn’t). Everyone asked where I’d gotten to the night before and when I said I’d gone to the pool party I was told this simply wasn’t possible as everyone had tried to get in, it had been closed down by the police and everyone had been turned away. So (still testing the ‘margarita shots will make you feel better’ theory) I sat in some confusion, perplexed by the fact I’d made up an entire night out in my head and trying to remember where else I could have possibly ended up, until someone appeared from another hostel and said we’d left the club a lot later and the pool party had been reopened. So I had made it – my body wasn’t thanking me for the experience though.
I tried to salvage the day by walking up to the view point in town but by the time I got there I was feeling desperately ill, managed a few snaps and headed straight back to bed.
I later discovered my buddy’s (Courtney) runners under my bed, I held them out utterly confused as to how they got there and heard ‘hey – are those my runners?’ I was worried Courtney thought I was trying to nick them and couldn’t explain how they’d gotten there but she just shrugged it off – maybe a cleaner moved them out of the way? It was only later (I guess once morning margarita shots were wearing off) that Courtney remembered when she’d made it back to the hostel the night before she’d first tried to go to bed in the kitchen, had to be guided to our dorm and tried to fall asleep in the wrong bed (mine). The only reason we didn’t both get a nasty shock when I finally made it to bed (or end in a cuddle puddle) was because as she’d tried to lean back against the wall (which her bed had) she tumbled out of my bed on to the floor. Having curtains around your bed is ace but mighty tricky when you’re drunk.
The next morning was the volcano hike – Acatanango. I went with three people (Tom, Alex and Carlee) from my hostel, picked up by a shuttle at 9am. We unloaded, got our food, tents and sleeping mats and were ready to set off when we realized Alex had wandered off. Having a look around I suddenly hear Carlee yell ‘Alex, stop doing shots with the cops, we have to go’. Our Cuban friend was doing shots of Aguadiente (yuk) with the police at 11am before the volcano hike – as you do. I’d been warned the first section would be hard, but I was not prepared for the effect the altitude would have. I fell behind very quickly and as breathing got harder, started to have a panic attack. In my defense I really do struggle with altitude and after a coca sweetie from someone on their way down and a brief argument with my guide I gave up my bag as he carried it the last 10min (to our first rest stop – how embarrassing). My whole group had thought I’d gone back down as I took so long and then laughed as they thought I’d paid the guide to carry my bag up – I was determined to carry it the rest of the way after that. The initial stage was difficult mostly because of the ashy terrain and it REALLY sucked but it quickly got a little easier and I managed to keep up with my group (albeit at the back). I was keeping up with a beautiful French couple and another of my favourite quotes of the day was (I’m not even sure how to write out a French accent) ‘see Sophie, I told you. 8 months of meditation would do you no good for travelling’. Maybe you had to be there.
We had plenty of rest stops, I had heaps of Oreos and suddenly made a lot of friends, and lots of banter (when anyone had spare oxygen) the guy smoking spliffs on the way up doesn’t count. I was SO thrilled to finally make it to our campsite where we set up the tent and quickly put all of our clothes on, which for me meant; yoga pants, sweatpants, ankle socks, Alpaca wool socks, a tshirt, an alpaca wool jumper, a hoodie, a rain jacket, gloves, hat and scarf. It may sound excessive but it is FREEZING up there and I was just about warm enough. We had fires going which helped heaps, it even got a little toasty. The views were magical. The erupting volcan Fuego was as loud as thunder but put on a fantastic show, and the stars were simply incredible. Sleep was not easy that night, it was pretty tight with the four of us, uncomfortable, and out of the fire it was cold – not unexpected but not the most pleasant camping experience.
A 4am wake up call had us all clambering out of our tents ready to hike the last bit of the volcano to reach the summit. You don’t really need to do this, the view is pretty much the same, but I had a personal vendetta against this volcano now and was determined not to let it beat me. It was absolute hell. Hiking in all of those clothes is pretty difficult (I’m sure it’s worse for, say, Everest – no clue how you manage that) but I felt a bit like the Michelin man trying to hike the steep incline and it’s one of those ‘one step forward two step back’ types of terrain that leaves you frustrated and close to tears as you try the quick little steps (dressed as the Michelin man). The views as we ascended (in the dark) were incredible. For the last little bit of the hike (I was really dragging my feet at this point and it was simply sheer determination to make it to the top driving me on – I can hike, just not well at altitude), a dog who’d given me a cuddle by the campfire the night before suddenly showed up at my side and hiked the last little bit with me. In case it isn’t clear I adore dogs.
We all went a bit loopy when we got to the top, happy we’d made it, posing, being silly, but it got cold very quickly and we didn’t stay at the summit for long. The way back down was such a joke. You could run down the side of the volcano as the ash is so thick, sort of like skiing with your feet. One thing I did find odd was how far up the vegetation grows on the volcano, and at the time we saw men carrying what looked like doors up to the summit. Apparently there’s now a little shelter there as some Guatemalans hiked the volcano against advise in January and unfortunately water leaked into their tent and they died (I believe they camped at the summit which is why there’s a shelter there now in case you are caught in a storm).
We broke camp and began the hike down. My mate Steph knew I wasn’t feeling great because after the first stop (and an apple which I half ate, tried to carry down with me but then fell over and had to throw it away) mentioned that I must be feeling better because I was chatting away. The way down was killer for everyone on different parts of their legs but mostly hilarious as everyone stacked it numerous times. I fell over four times, the worst of them was when I tried to keep my balance by running but then both feet went out from under me and I went flying. The guy from the French couple tried to help me up by grabbing the handle of my backpack, which unfortunately for me was clipped in around the front and meant rather than help me he was actually chocking me. Tom fell too many times to count, and by then end everyone was just yelling out the number of how many times they’d fallen each rest stop we took (a lot less than on the way up). It took under three hours to make it back down at which point I bought myself a very well deserved beer.
I have never been so happy to shower, and wash everyyyything. I went for lunch and more sight seeing with a girl from my group when we got back but perhaps should’ve had a nap. It was another big night out at Tropicana and even though I was covered in glitter and may or may not have had a few rum and cokes, by 11pm I was completely done in and went to bed. I wanted to be fresh for my next adventure to the lake to be reunited with my Carnaval babes! The American / English sisters!