Volcán Tolimán, Lake Atitlán Guatemala
– 3,158m (10,361ft). January and February 2019
At the beginning of this year, for the lunar eclipse, I found myself joining a voyage along with 5 guys and 3 dogs, up an inactive volcano way up into the sky. We called ourselves the Fellowship of the Toliman eclipse.
The hike could take 4 hours if you had a stomp on – it took us about 7 to make it there (considering one of us was also ill with a parasite). I’d done a reading from my Goddess Guidance oracle deck that morning and was reminded to ‘take my time’, so I was in no rush. I’d found quite the piece of tree that served as my staff and aided me along the journey on the way up.
We packed bread, fruit, raisins and snacks for the way up. After getting a truck into town and stocking up, we walked up a flight of stairs and then came to a dirt path. Men came down past us from the fields, sticks of wood piled on their backs and balanced by a strap on their forehead. They were always smiling and said good day to us. We were in awe at their sheer strength as they clearly did this most every day of their life.
The first part of the hike was flat – and very, very hot. Trees shaded us to begin with, then we were out in the open plains where the farmers were going about their work. We got off to a steady start and made our way across these flat lands.
Then we got to the base of the mountain – and the real hike began. Suddenly, the incline increased massively an luckily, the path was laid out for us as a trail. The workers became fewer the further we went. We’d stop every now and then for a rest and some water, but mostly kept a steady pace to keep the momentum up and us making progress on the massive feat that was this volcano.
We happened to have one of the most epic people with us for the journey – Mateo, who guided people on hikes as his day job back in Canada. So spirits were kept high and we were enthused the entire time, looking forward to reaching the peak.
When we began to wane, miles up towards the peak, we put some music on for the last leg of the journey. The steps were becoming steeper and the forest becoming much denser. It was beautiful. One thing that has stuck with me since climbing this epic feat was how my heartbeat drummed in my chest – my heart had never felt so strong before.
7 hours later (it’s hard to put a journey so long into conciseness) we got to the top. 3 of us had stopped and 3 of us had raced onwards through to the peak. They came back to help us with our stuff – we were so close. As we reached through the trees, the views of the other mountain conjoined and the lake below blew me away. It was astounding.
We set up camp by a pine tree, checked out the view from different angles on top of the volcano and sat down to share beans. The night went on with us singing, sharing stories, sat round the fire, exploring and spinning fire poi. As the moon became eclipsed, the outline became red and the night plunged into darkness, stars everywhere.
Quite the way to bring in the new year, I must say.
The next month, Koadi had fallen in love with the mountain so much that he had decided to go back up and live there for 5 days, drinking and filtering the cave water to survive with rations. He was offering a tattoo on the mountain for anyone who made it up there whilst he was staying on his pilgrimage.
So, we set off again. This time 2 of us and this time, the landscape had changed drastically. The farmers work the land so much that it was almost unrecognisable. We were depending on my sense of direction and memory to get us to the top this time. Safe to say, we got lost.
This time we went off the beaten path, made a diversion and went through the dense forest in an attempt to make it to the right peak. We found two large feathers along the way – beautiful, brown and black striped things that were lay out in a V as though they were placed there especially for us.
A fog came on thick, with a cloud overhead and soon we were almost lost to the grey. We had to call it a day and set up camp in an unrecognisable place – though there was a fence nearby, so some sign of human activity. Fireflies buzzed round our fire that night as we put music on and relaxed under the stars, the fog finally clearing and shedding some light on our camp place.
The next day, Mischa felt perhaps we should make our way back, but I had a feeling going back the way we had come would get us just as lost once again – so we plodded along. Then lo and behold – we came across the steps we had lost so long ago! This time, they were different, and by the time we made it to the top it turns out we’d made a huge loop around the mountain and come out at the other side, on top of the other peak. On this peak there was a huge crater, and we pitched our tent nearby it. Koadi had left by the time we reached the top, so no tattuajes on top of toliman for us.
We conducted a cacao ceremony in the crater (see Cacao post) then went and ate food round the fire, music on, dancing into the night.
These two hikes were hikes of my life and it’s difficult to put into words just how magical and awe-reaching they were, so I suppose you’ll just have to take my word for it… in a word, enchanting.