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Antigua & Volcano

Sunday, Febraury 9, 2003

This weekend was incredible. Yesterday, we climbed Volcano Pacaya. I don't think that words can actually do justice to what was seen and experienced. The hike up took almost two hours in total. Through the woods, up and around a mountain. It was really hot. However, as we got closer to the bottom of Volcano Pacaya, it drastically got colder. I went from a tank top to a long-sleeved shirt. The hike up and around the mountain left me winded. However, that was nothing compared to the upcoming, harder hike of the actual volcano itself. We reach an area where there is grass all over. We can now see,in full view, a volcano way over yonder. Is THAT the volcano that we are going to climb? That thing is HUGE! It cannot be it! It is! Here we go....

We near the volcano. Black ash, soot, and rock that is so soft. It was even softer than sand. It made walking on a straight portion tough and challenging. But, we have yet to begin to climb the actual volcano. We go over what seems to be a big hill. If this is a challenge, how on earth will we make it up the ENTIRE volcano? There is NO way! By now, the wind is blowing fairly strong. My hair is blowing all over the place and thankfully, it was in a pony-tail or else I am sure that I would not have been able to see. As we are now looking straight up at this huge volcano, each step is pretty tough. You take a step and your foot is always liable to sink in and fall right back down leaving you right where you started. Each time you lift your foot, you are leaving yourself vulnerable because only one foot is planted in such a forceful wind. I thought that I was going to blow right off that volcano!

We hike strenuously up approximately two-thirds of the way when there is a break. Yeah, a break, but NOT the summit. We plunge back onto the trek upwards. We get more and more tired as the wind only gets stronger. I thought for sure that I was going to tumble the whole way down. Finally, I hear the whistle of our guide. I can see him too!!! Almost there. Although it is not only EMU students, but also 20-30 more random people, everyone is full of support and encouragement for every single person reaching the summit. I have never felt the close comradery of a stranger before. But, I now know it is awesome. What an accomplishment. I felt like I was ready to tackle the world next!

Throughout the whole hike, I see God everywhere. I have not always been the strongest Christian but that is the only thing that I see. This place is absolutely gorgeous! I have never seen anything like it. But, from 2,0000 meters up, it hits you like a ton of bricks (or is that the wind?). God intended for this volcano to be here. He created everything. I, along with EVERY SINGLE ONE of my fellow EMU students on this cross cultural conquered it, whether we thought we could or cound not. We did it together!

-Erica Gunden

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