Pacaya 2015

Mateo and I climbed Volcano Pacaya in February 2013 and I remember the trip as rigorous and hard. Something I was proud to have done, which I never needed to do again. Until this past July, when Mateo and I rented a house in Antigua with 10 other people–four adoptive families from the Bay Area, friends all–who really, really wanted to climb Pacaya this trip back. In fact, climbing Pacaya was the Number One item on their wish list of Things to Do in Guatemala. Pacaya was a must. We couldn’t leave without climbing it!

Good sport that he is, Mateo agreed, and talked me into accompanying him. I’m so glad he did. This time we hired a guide on-site–a family of guides, actually: a young mother and her son, and her mother, the boy’s Abuela (see photo above), and various helpers–who led us up a gentler path than the one we traversed in 2013. The family of guides came equipped with horses, two of which members of our party chose to ride. The rest of us soldiered forth, walking sticks in hand, until we reached the summit. Marshmallows were roasted, and piles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches consumed. Before we headed down, fistfuls of sweet vanilla cookies were scarfed, rightfully earned.

The day was misty and overcast,  the gray sky threatening rain. We finished before the deluge, victorious.


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8 Responses to “Pacaya 2015”

  1. joan underhill says:

    Dear Jessica,

    I am seeking an honest opinion.

    My 23 year old daughter is eager to club Volcano Pacaya. “My Girl” is physically fit and enthusiastic. Her 68 year old mother, on the other hand, is not physically fit and is apprehensive about a potential climb.

    Honestly, I would not feel validated riding the horse up the Volcano. Truth be told, I would feel very sorry for the horse who had no choice in making this ascent.

    What do you think? Do you think I could manage the kinder and gentler path you pursued on your second climb?

    I will be in Antigua between December 6th to the 9th, after having spent a week with Mayan Families in Connie Turvey’s group. We wanted to see a few attractions and experience more of the culture before returning home which explains our few days in Antigua.

    Many thanks for your thoughts.


  2. Jessica says:

    Hi Joan:

    Ooh, you’re asking me a tough question. Had to mull this one over.

    Here’s what I think: Connection is the purpose of our lives with our kids. Not perfection. Do the climb. Rent the walking stick, wear sturdy shoes, hat, etc. Carry very little.

    The hardest parts are the beginning–steep–and the end–unsure footing over the lava and one more steep uphill out of the lava and to the downhill. The rest is a steady, gradual ascent.

    Tell the guide you want the easy path. The gentle path. And then move at your own pace with the walking stick.

    Worst case scenario, you turn back. No shame in that. You tried! That’s the important piece, and what will be meaningful to your daughter. The guides travel in pairs, so one can take you down if needed. The volcano is well-patrolled by guards, so the hike in either direction is absolutely safe.

    Going up with a group–a range of skill levels–helps, too. Maybe enlist some of your MF group to go with you?

    The weather will be perfect in December. Lucky you!
    Let me know how it turns out. Good luck!


    PS: Bring marshmallows!

  3. joan underhill says:

    Dear Jessica,

    Oh My Gosh!!!! Thank-you for your timely and poignant response. You are absolutely right! “Connection” is the key. Actually, I am looking to lay down some happy memories for my daughter to savour long after I have left this world.

    Even the worst case scenario sounds O.K. It sounds safe – a “win/win” situation for us.

    You may recall that I had written you a while back after a search had revealed that my daughter’s adoption was fraught with purposeful deception, by several people. Our searcher deemed it impossible to find her actual birth mother since we lack her true name and my daughter’s birth family name. The results of the search were beyond disappointing for “my girl.”

    Our upcoming trip is all about “connection”, for the two of us, but equally important is Ali’s potential connection to her roots, her birthright , her culture.

    One last question. How much tip do you suggest I give to the guides who lead our climb? Yes, we will bring marshmallows. (thanks for the tip)

    Many thanks,

    AKA- Alis mommy

  4. Jessica says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip with lots of good memories. That’s what it’s about. Not being fast or first or even successful. Just being together, and experiencing new things. Bravo for going!

    I remember your falsified paperwork. I’ll restate here that the discovery of deception in the form of fake identity is devastating. Everything we thought we knew, we don’t know. Even the name we held onto is wrong. The place. The realization is its own special torture. Especially for our children, who are innocent in all of it, yet must suffer the outcome of not knowing. I’m so sorry.

    Have you tried different searchers? F + V? Some searchers may succeed where others failed. Also, with the new RENAP system, names get entered into the database. The name might be wrong, but connected to a person who is real. (if that makes sense.) Different searchers have specific ways of ferreting out information.

    I wish I had better answers. Again, I’m so sorry.

    I tend to err on the side of over-tipping when in Guatemala. The adults in our group each tipped 100Q as I recall, and our guides seemed happy with that.

    Buen viaje! ~

  5. joan underhill says:

    Dear Jessica,

    Pursuant to your question “Have you tried different searchers?” regarding our birthmother search. We tried S. first. It was S. who discovered the fraud. S. felt there was nothing more to be done and withdrew her services.

    Then I approached F & V. I sent all the paper work, (adoption papers, various reports from the court social workers, doctor, etc, as well as all information from S’s report) to V. After perusing my documents with F, they came to the same conclusion as S.

    I think both searchers gave me their best advice, However, knowing what I know now, I think I might have been more successful if I had sought assistance from F&V first.

    I sent an unrequested cheque in the amount of $50.00 to V. as payment for examination and consideration of my documents. This was the same fee requested by S. in addition to the cost of her search. F&V NEVER cashed my cheque. That spoke volumes to me,

    On a happier note, I am pleased to share our good news. Tomorrow, my daughter will walk across the stage at Brock University, Fall Convocation, to receive her degree. This achievement is totally her glory. She studied hard, wrote countless essays and managed her time effectively.

    I have only one regret. My regret is that my own mother will not be sitting in the chair beside, watching this precious milestone unfold. My mother had great faith in my daughter and was so good at seeing the bigger picture. Many years ago, she told me this day was coming. As usual, she was right.

    Lastly, I told my daughter that I would be accompanying her on “the climb”. (Volcano Pacaya) She was so-o-o happy! I shared your suggestion that I “carry very little.’ Ali is adamant that she will carry my water and any other items for me. She has the strength, stamina, and desire to do this for me. So, this sounds good to me. (a genuine plan)

    Thank-you, Jessica, for sharing your wisdom. I will be in touch upon my return.


  6. Jessica says:

    Congratulations to Ali! That is a huge, enormous accomplishment! Such great news!

    Thank you for the summary of your interactions with S, F+V. All sounds right and familiar.

    You both will treasure the experience of Pacaya. I look forward to hearing your story!


  7. joan underhill says:

    Hey Jessica,

    We are back from Guat. All went well. I will give you the information of our Volano climb, shortly. Is there are E-Mail that i could write to you and not have my comments available to anyone who reads you blog.

    Merry Christmas. Both of our Christmas experiences are so blessed because we have these precious children from Guat to experience this special occasion with us.


  8. Jessica says:

    Wonderful! And welcome back!
    You can always reach me at jessica at mamalitathebook dot com.
    Look forward to hearing about the trip. ~
    Happy holidays!

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