Some minutes past six in the morning, the van arrived with a friendly driver and a local tour guide. Three French people were already tucked in, ready to commence the ride to the base of the Volcano Chicabal. Already when we left Xela, we could enjoy a magificent view. A huge smoke cloud was visible from behind the volcanos, it was Santiaguito erupting.
The hike commenced with about half an hour uphill walking. Our legs were still somewhat tired, but our guide Romeo walked at a slow pace to assure we wouldn’t go out of breath. After hiking up the volcano, we descended on a staircase of about 550 steps into the crater which contains an immense lagoon. The hike is classified as one of the easiest in Xela, that was clear when even I with my awful physical condition arrived an hour later at the lagoon.
The lagoon is a religious place where locals come to pray and to offer flowers to the gods. White flowers meaning hope and red flowers meaning a search for love. There are 20 altars around the lagoon, all used for a different purpose, one for example being to pray for wealth. They represent the 20 Mayan days.
Our lovely guide Romeo continued to talk about the 150m (492 feet) deep lagoon and told us about the reunion of the clouds which takes place every day at around noon. Two clouds come from two different sides and reunite above the greenish water. The local people believe the clouds relieve the communities from their sins.
When returning to the base at about ten o’clock in the morning, we met a lot of friendly locals who where descending into the lagoon to pray. It makes the place mistifying and gives a real image of the lives of the local Mayan people. The hike up the crater was a tiny physical test and on descent I didn’t do any favours to my knees. It was all worth it though, as we had enjoyed an astonishing view at a mystifying place and had experienced a piece of local culture on the way. Part of the money spent goes to the local families who live around the volcano, so you’re definitely helping by practicing this kind of tourism.
At around eleven, the minivan was back in Xela and we had still the whole day to do other activities.
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