Steaming volcano and a beauty contest

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
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Trip End Nov 04, 2008


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Where I stayed
Posada Don Valentino, ask for room 101 its the best

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Today I (Vero) have the pleasure of creating this entry, as David and Marcos got up at 5.30 to take a bus to the volcano. I just could not bring myself to another very early morning, and we did "do" volcanoes before. So, if the guys come back with fotos of actually flowing lava, I will enjoy those.

Instead I had another calm and hearty brekkie in the lovely courtyard of "La Condesa". Then, walking around a bit, I discovered the reason why our bus was two hours late yesterday. It got stuck in a city that had "desfiles de chicas": The local colleages vote each for a girl to represent their school, a sort of beauty contest. Before that, the families take the girls around town with their cars or horse cariages. The names of the girls are written all over the cars, the girls, aged 9 to 14, are dressed up as little princesses and pose and either the roof or front of the car. The whole family is squeezed in the car, and shout out the girlīs name for her support.

Personally the best one was "Vanessa Desiree Elivia de Garcia Fernandez Ktchia Francesa de Tonia" (that was her short name).

Talking of how to deal with teenaging girls, yesterday we were stunned by another phenomenon: We were forced to watch a terrible techno video in a place that serves tasty burritos. There was this guy dressed up (or rather dressed down, as he was not wearing very much) as an "Aztec" and painted in gold. In Latinamerica, the 15th birthday of girls is a big event, so the father of that girl in the video had obviously organised and paid this "Aztec warrior" to perform for his daughter and her friends in a nightclub specially booked for them. All the young teenagers had baloons and were smartly dressed (the 15 year old girl had a dress very similar to a very expensive wedding dress).
So he was jumping around, chanting "I give you... Sex, Drugs and House", approaching this girl, and as a highlight lifting his little skirt and showing his bare bottom. It was hilarous, we screamed with laughter along with some other tourists in the bar, but we were wondering about how on earth did they get the idea to hire this guy for a 15 year old girl? Clearly no one understood what he was singing, but then, the bare bottom and his body language said it all. We guess the father will be upset when she gets pregnant next year...

Must be one of those cultural differences again, in Europe or US this guy would be charged with sexual assault of underaged....

With regards to the volcano trip, we got on the small bus shuttle at 6 a.m. which was on time for once. As with all the tours around here, if there is a seat available on the van, they will fill it up...so 14 was the lucky number making the ride quite uncomfortable.

The bus takes one and a half hours of curvy roads until San Francisco de Pacaya where the walking starts. Although it took the group just over one hour to get to the top that was mainly so the slower ones could catch up and take a breath. The way up can easily be done in under an hour, and the path is quite prepared for low level trekkers.

For the most unfit there is always "horse taxis" at the bottom and following groups just in case someone changes their mind.

The groups arrive at the base of the volcano and climb 100 metres to recent lava rivers, but not to the top as its way too dangerous without proper equipment and climbing skills. At the top the heat coming out from the lava rocks is quite amazing, and in certain cracks once can observe red lava 1 metre downwards.

For responsability minded europeans this part of the trip is way too risky. Basically the volcano erupts every few months and creates a new river of lava just where the tourists are poncing around taking photographs, the floor is not as stable as it looks, and the heat just 1 metre under the groups is deadly if anyone were to fall into one of the larger cracks. But money has to be made and tourists are dumb enough to think "if its done, it must be safe"...it simply wasnt. Its a question of time before something happens.

Anyway, after taking some pictures and watching how the guides burn some leaves and branches we started our descent. Most young gringos take bags of marshmellow to burn them there...thinking they are terribly original, but given it is stated as "a thing to be done" in the travel guides...its far from original. We managed to be a bit more creative and cooked 2 hot dogs, 1 uruguayan t-bone steak, a couple of potatoes and had chocolate fondue for dessert. Sadly we didnt have time to boil the water for tea.

The best part of the tour was actually the descent. Our tour guide "Antonio" who only managed to talk at the end to say "tip is good for me" took us down a route which he said "not all the groups come down here". We later found out that all groups go down our path unless they have people with walking disabilities or extreme tiredness.

The descent (as you can see from the videos) goes down quite a long hill of volcanic sand. With a bit of rythmn one can basically ski or slide down it which proved to be of great entertainment value.

Little else to mention about Antigua where we spent the rest of the day as there is little to do except eat and drink. We did bump into our French / American friends at the volcano so all met for dinner at a Thai restaurant which was a big disappointment.
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