World Travel Tales

Volcán Pacaya, Guatemala

Walking on Lava

Getting this close to lava is quite an experience. First of all, it's hot! Even on a cold, rainy evening, it's pretty easy to warm up when you're standing on lava rock that was literally flowing a few hours ago.

Location: Volcán Pacaya, Guatemala

Camera: Nikon D300 with 50mm f/1.8 lens.
Settings: ISO 500, 1/80 sec at f/2.

Volcán Pacaya, Guatemala

Sunset from Volcán Pacaya

Volcán Pacaya is one of the most climbed volcanoes in Guatemala. It's also one of the most active.

You're able to walk right up to flowing lava, and often hikers (myself included) end up burning their shoes and melting cuffs of synthetic hiking pants. Guides will bring up bags of marshmallows for their guests to roast over the open lava.

The hike is often done later in the day since the glowing red lava is more spectacular in the dark. From the high vantage point on Pacaya, you can look across the cloud covered valley and catch the sunset behind Volcán de Agua.

Location: Volcán Pacaya, Guatemala

Camera: Nikon D300 with 50mm f/1.8 lens.
Settings: ISO 800, 1/200 sec at f/1.8.

On a chicken bus somewhere in Guatemala

Baby Backpack

Many Guatemalans use local buses for daily transportation since it's cheap and the cost of car ownership is quite high for many who struggle to get by on very low daily wages.

They're nicknamed "chicken buses" because you're often sharing the bus with chickens or goats or just about any other animal you can imagine. There is a team of people working on the bus - the driver, a cash collector, and a roof-jockey, who is often up on top of the bus taking cargo from passengers and securing it for the ride and then passing it down when the passengers jump off the bus.

These buses are mostly old dilapidated Blue Bird school buses exported from the USA when they're no longer deemed safe for the road. Once in Guatemala, they undergo extensive cosmetic surgery to make them appealing, often with shiny chrome bumpers and elaborate paint jobs, but almost never any mechanical upgrades.

On more than one occasion I was in a bus screaming down a steep mountainous road on a bus that couldn't slow down because it was overloaded with people (and animals) and could barely make the corners.

The Guatemalan women carry their babies in a blanket tied around their back. This little baby was eyeing me the whole time.

Location: On a chicken bus somewhere in Guatemala

Camera: Nikon D300 with 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.
Settings: ISO 200, 1/160 sec at f/4.