3:40 o’clock AM. “Wake up guys, time to climb up!”. Have I slept at all? No, probably not. But I am gonna rock this last leg of my trip. I am getting up.
I had the chance to postpone a possible highlight till the end of the trip: climbing the 3976m high volcano Acatenango. It’s nog only about this volcano, it’s more about its neighbour: Fuego, the active one. So on the previous morning, I find myself in a bus full of fit people, everyone is excited. When we drive towards the start of Acatenango, we can see Fuego erupt big time. Even the guide is overwhelmed and tells me that this is highly unusual. We might not even be able to make our way up, since massive eruptions like these are dangerous. Even though I am confident again after Nepal, I don’t want to end up in the middle of another natural disaster! But let’s just see how it goes. Cause everything changes always.
The first two hours are said to be the worst. I think I already agree after 5 minutes. It’s damn steep and everyone keeps on sliding away in the volcanic sand. The rented backpack they gave me is broken so it doesn’t fit properly and the winter coat that came with it is too small. Above of my own weight, the sleeping bag and matrass are dangling on my back too. Am I doing this? Yes I am. We reach the first stop and have to sign a paper to declare that it’s our own responsibility if Fuego’s eruptions get worse and we will be harmed. I ask the guide how big the chances are. He is easy about it and says that if the wind changes, we just have to come down as soon as we can. Okay, let’s do this.
It takes 5 hours on a tough trek in a beautiful surrounding. The sun is out, the rest of the group seems nice and I am eating my snickers bars again.
What else could I wish for? Well, a horse maybe, to ride on. My god this is tough. It’s cold and steep. Two girls in the group have given their backpacks to the guides because they couldn’t carry it anymore. To me, that feels like failing and I just try to keep on breathing. It works. Everything is temporary, even this exhaustion.
Around 6PM we finally reach Base Camp. We set up our tents, make a fire and cook are cup noodles. The full moon comes up above the clouds on the left side of our view and the stars shine bright above us while Fuego keeps on coughing up bright red lava from the inside of our planet on the right side of our panorama. It’s smoke is black and looks like giant mushrooms.
The total view is incredible and I can’t pick where my gaze is going. We burn marshmallows, take sips from the bottle of Guatemalan rum, sing songs and keep on “wow-ing” about Fuego’s eruptions. It is so insane and so unreal to be here and to see all of this. Life is just perfect and I keep on pinching myself. This is why I travel. This is living life to its fullest and I love every bit of it.
Later on we try to catch some sleep in our tents, I share one with six guys. I really can’t sleep, I am extremely cold and still trying to take in all the beauty that I have seen tonight. It’s just all so amazing!
The next morning, only half of the group gets up at 3:40AM to go up to the summit to see sunrise. The guide told us last night that girls usually don’t go up. Well, screw that. I can do this. There is one other girl that is brave enough and I am grateful that I am not the only one! I am in the back of the group constantly, to be honest, I am the last one, but I have agreed with myself that I’ve won this competition already anyway. It’s dark, the trail is even steeper than yesterday and I keep on falling down, trying to crawl my way up. I have to take a break every two meters since it is so exhausting at this height. I keep on telling myself that with every step I take, I leave something behind that I don’t want to take home with me. But I find it hard. It’s not that I want to quit, it’s just that I want this hard struggle between my feet and the volcanic sand to be over.
And then, almost at the end, the first few rays of sun make their way through the clouds and I can see the top.
For some reason, the sun seems to be my saviour, and I make my way to the top while I hear the guide shouting at me from above: “Anna, you are almost there!”. And I am. I take the last steps with pride, a shitload of pride. I can’t believe I have made it. The guys high-five me and I feel like the queen of the world. I am super proud of myself and extremely happy and excited. The smile on my face is big and bright and I can’t stop laughing and yelling.
The view is stunning. The clouds and the sun make a perfect painting together with the several volcanos we can see from here, including the still erupting Fuego.
It is perfect, just perfect. More than perfect. I let the sun warm my frozen body and I just sit here for a while, still with that huge smile across my face. I am so proud. So thankful.
I have made it. Not only to the top of this volcano but also across 6 amazing, challenging, unique, interesting and tiring months. It’s been truly inspiring and I have loved every minute of it, good and bad. Ups and downs together make the best mountains. And I apparently just love to climb.
Thank you Acatenango. Thank you world. And mostly, thank you people. It’s been an amazing journey.