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)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
Life and Style
The designer Veronica Etro (right) and her models enjoy the closing moments of her show during the 2015 spring/summer collections at Milan Fashion Week
fashionVersace at Milan Fashion Week
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

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week