26 August 2012
The tall trees no longer surround us; we are only surrounded by shrubs and bushes. As we crest the hill, we see someone from our group, who informs us that we have successfully reached the top. Through steep terrain, rock and dirt, and the sun beating down upon us, we’ve reached the top of the Santa Maria volcano
The alarm clock awoke us at 5:15 AM, the earliest we’ve been up so far this week, and probably the earliest we’ll get up this semester. The 12 of us from our group of 14 were picked up by the vans at 5:45 AM, and we were off. We were told it would be hard, but we were determined to climb this volcano. We were surprised when the hike leader told us just after getting out of the vans, that there would be a one hour walk to the base of the volcano. True it was one hour, but it was not a walk, where I come from in Upstate New York, it would surely be considered an incline and something that would be called a hike.
It challenged us; steep inclines, slippery mud and dirt, rocks, and the occasional mule’s deposit confronted us along the way. Also, we started the hike at around 7,500 feet (which I’ve never lived at before). The elevation began to take its toll early on–labored breathing and thirst effected us all. Motivation did not cease though, through support from one another, we found the will to continue to take each step. Not to mention, the higher we rose, we began to see the clouds lingering over Xela. The fog that surrounded us in the walk to the base of the volcano was parted by the sun peaking through every now and then, as well as the views of Xela.
Hiking this volcano was one of the hardest physical exertions that I have experienced in quite some time. With each step I heard my breathing, the beat of my heart, the pounding in my head, and the dryness in my throat and mouth asking for water. The view from the top of the volcano–cloud formations, fog coming and going, the view of Xela and the surrounding area, and distant sound of a volcano erupting–was surely a great sense of gratification for the challenge we had overcome.