On The Road: Lava rocks - the most natural of barbecues

Geology got interesting today, really interesting. Today I got to the business end of the cinder and pumice slopes of Pacaya volcano in Guatemala. Oozing gnarly orange lumps from weak spots like an old, metal toothpaste tube, the red-hot lava smashed and bounced down the slopes, spinning shrapnel firebombs off at frightening speed.

I perched on comfortably warm (but uncomfortably jagged) rocks that were formed only a few days ago, while nature's show just bubbled away nearby. Up the slope, a fellow trekker jabbed a walking stick into a crevice, pulling it out charred and glowing with embers. Downhill, a couple of English girls fresh out of university were melting marshmallows. How cool is that? Or do I mean hot? One clubbing-age woman yelped, "lava rocks!" Eventually, I suppose.

Without warning, a new crack appeared. Lumpy, grumpy lava bulged out. A crash, a crack and a massive slab liquefied and slid downhill. A wave of heat travelled the 100 metres between me and this most natural of barbecues. With it arrived a slightly worrying thought. Was I sitting on something similar?

With dusk, the bright orange of the lava intensified. In the valley below, the lights of Guatemala City and beyond that those of the original capital, Antigua, slowly awoke.

La Antigua Guatemala (the Old Guatemala) is a living tribute to colonial architecture, all precisely aligned cobbled streets with single-storey buildings of pastel shades. Hiding in secluded courtyards, travellers munch and slurp through menus and language students gorge themselves on verbs and vocab. Antigua is the Spanish-learning capital of Central America. It was devastated in 1773 by earthquake, so the city authorities upped sticks to ugly, sprawling Guatemala City. Many of Antigua's great churches, convents and monasteries are still in ruins.

Around this town, the volcano of Agua gently puffs, while Acatenango and Fuego look peacefully on, for now at least. In the coming days, exploring the Guatemalan highlands and Lake Atitlá*will provide some unforgettable memories with the volcanoes a permanent backdrop. But for now, Pacaya's playing her tune, singing her song. I'm very happy to be here to listen.

Footprint's 'Mexico & Central America Handbook 2009' is now available (£16.99)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor