Altitude & Alcohol… I always regret the combination, but when Jeremy and I stumbled onto six of the most LIT Guatemalan dads at base camp, we couldn’t refuse their boozy orange liquor. Neither could we soon resist hooting and hollering every time the nearby Volcàn Fuego erupted in spectacular displays of tectonic pyromania.
On day 4 of the quarter life crisis trip, Jerry and I scaled the 3,976m/13,044ft high Acatenango Volcano in southern Guatemala.
While most hikers hire guides for the trek for ease and safety reasons, we rolled the dice and decided to scale it on our own. With no private shuttle to the trailhead, our only option was to take the locals’ form of high-class, high-style transportation: the chicken bus.
Bus drivers across the world could learn a thing or two from chicken bus drivers, who drive at roller coaster speeds over curvy mountain passes. I swear, riding in a chicken bus is like watching your gamer buddy expertly play Mario Cart, except the vehicle is a broken-down recycled American school bus and you’re in said vehicle – packed in sardine-style with 150 curious Guatemalans. With every blind mountain curve, you’re holding on for sweet, sweet life. I watched in amazement as the bus helper (two people work on each bus: the driver and a helper who collects bus fares and puts luggage above the bus) jumped out the back emergency exit, climbed a ladder, and brought down some heavy passenger luggage – all done at 55 mph!! He could make a killing in Las Vegas doing stunts like that.
That’s all a long way of saying, it was fucking amazing (and cheap).
So the chicken buses get us to the small village of La Soledad, where we start our ascent towards Basecamp. Along the way, Jerry turns into Korean Arnold Schwarzenegger and 5 hours later, these two “chinos” – all Asians are Chinese in Central America – are partying it up with 6 Guatemalan dads and their kids at Basecamp.
Nearby Volcàn Fuego, the most active volcano in Central America, erupts with fiery explosions of molten Earth. Sitting there at 11,000 feet up in the air with our newest friends and drinking the Guatemalan equivalent of triple sec, I realized that the Quarter Life Crisis Trip had begun in earnest.
I stayed up the rest of the night taking photos of the volcano. Just as my eyes would start to close, Volcàn Fuego would blow up in bright red fury, jolting me awake enough to take one last photo.
Night photography is pretty hard, as any one who’s taken a low-light picture knows. It was further complicated by the challenging conditions of being at high-altitudes (headaches all the time) and a very dynamic subject & environment (volcanoes vs. star photography for example).
The hours I spent shivering in my sleeping bag aiming my lense at Volcàn Fuego we’re all worth it:
The life of an amateur adventure photographer is equal parts pain and pleasure. It’s damn fun, and you find yourself in the most spectacular moments at the end of long journeys. If you’ve ever wondered what the behind-the-scenes of my photography looks like, here’s the most accurate description:
If you like the photos you see, please consider donating a cup of tea to fuel my photo expeditions, or better yet, buy some high quality prints to hang up in your home, office kitchen, or yes, even on your bedside table 😉 All pictures from the Trip Blog are available for order with free shipping to anywhere in the world.