As my last act on my final full day in Antigua, Guatemala, I decided to climb a volcano. Actually, the decision was made a week or two before. I had solicited the opinions of a few people. None of them said that it was difficult; however, as I’ve learned before, opinions are based on the person’s own experience. What may not be difficult to you may be difficult to someone else, and vice versa. So, what the heck, I decided to try it.

For the week before, I started climbing Cerro de la Cruz, Hill of the Cross, each morning. It’s only an elevation 250 feet, or about 25 floors. Not a big deal. Had no idea how much elevation gain there was at Picaya, but I had a feeling that it was a lot more … and I was right!

When we arrived at the starting point, I checked my Fitbit to see how many floors I’d climbed thus far, 9. Our guide advised us that it was a steep ascent, gaining about 1,300 ft in elevation over 1.8 miles. For the mathematically inclined that’s 1300/9,504 ft, or a 14% grade, or about 130 floors up! I don’t know if you’re familiar with those rode signs that say something like :Caution! 9% grade ahead, etc, but let me tell you, 14% is a hell of a grade! Further, the guide recommended the use of what he called “Taxis naturales”, or natural taxis, in other words, horses. He said: Many people start of thinking, I don’t need a horse, but decide later that it’s a good idea, about the first stop. No one decided to take a horse.

Up we went. Not that I had any illusions that my daily walks of 6 or 7 miles would help me much on such an incline, but, in the end, I think that it did. Up we went. It was a cold, and windy morning, but why was I sweating? A quick check of the Fitbit: 30 floors down, or should I say up, 100 floors to go, first rest point! I don’t need no stinking horse! Onward! 20 more floors, a rest. Pouring a bit of sweat. Still don’t need a horse, but maybe they aren’t “stinking horses”. 50 down, 80 to go!!! Upward! Starting to drop out of the middle of the pack and falling to the rear. Damn it’s hot! 80 floors! Only 50 to go! Crap! Can I walk 50 more floors on these legs? Yes! I can, but not at this speed. These guides do this every day and this 2 MPH pace is pretty tough on a 14% grade.

Behind me a few of the “taxi drivers” are encouraging me take the taxi, but I’m still a little stubborn … but just a little. I can do this! 5 more flights. 85! Only 45 to go … TAXI!!!

I had had a conversation with Thomas a few days earlier and we had been talking about acceptance. When I mounted the horse, I looked at him and said: Thomas, this is acceptance! I believe that I can make the climb at my own speed, but not with the group. Onward! Within minutes of my mounting the horse, another person decided to take a ride for himself. As it turned out, we only lacked about 15 minutes of climbing, but I’ll tell you this – 15 minutes walking up a steep hill would be a longggggggggggggggggg time!

When we reached the summit, I checked the Fitbit, 140 floors, so 131, start to finish! It was cold at the top, my sweat did it’s job and cooled me down quickly, very quickly! They asked if I wanted a horse for the way down. I told her: No thanks! La gravedad va a ayudarme bajar el cerro (Gravity will help me down the hill) – She laughed.

In Guatemala, there is a store everywhere, including on top the hill! I took a few selfies, enjoyed the view, the wind, and the top of the mountain. I was glad that I went, glad that I tried the climb, and just quite thankful to be able to do it. There’s more, but that will have to wait until the next post …

It was an East Coast kind of year
Another hill you say?

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