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Best sunrise ever seen

Saturday, October 21st 2000

We had been told that the temperature at the summit was usually around -5°C just before dawn, and we could believe it as we emerged from the tent at 5.30am to find an awesome view before us. Pre-dawn colours filled the sky, towns and villages glowed far beneath us, and a mighty plume of steam rose gently from Volcán Santiaguito. A continuous jet-engine roar could be heard from the volcano. Our friends with the fire came over to make sure we were up, and we watched with them as the stars disappeared in the rising blue of the sky. It was a perfectly clear and still morning. The effort of carrying all our camping equipment up here had been rewarded.

We could see Guatemala's chain of volcanoes stretching away in either direction: as far as Mexico to the west, and to Fuego and Acatenango in the east. Between us and those two were the volcanoes around Atitlán. It was only a week since we had been at the top of San Pedro, and I still felt like I owned it as I looked back at it from here. It was a truly beautiful moment when over this awesome scene the sun appeared and the temperature slowly began to rise. To make the moment perfect, Volcán Fuego chose that moment to erupt a small cloud of ash.

I walked round to the west side of the summit, and saw the perfectly straight-sided shadow of the volcano stretching away to the horizon. Then I climbed onto the very peak of the volcano to get a better view, and I could see my own shadow stretching away into the distance as well.

After this incredible sunrise, we walked over to the south side of the volcano to look down on Volcán Santiaguito. It was incredible to look down on, and hear, this erupting volcano while 100km away we could see another volcano erupting at the same time. We sat there for a long time enjoying the view. At 9.30am, though, the peace was shattered when a group of climbers arrived at the top. They were out of luck, getting just a few minutes of the view we had been enjoying for hours before the clouds rolled in below us. We had seen what we came to see, and so we packed up and set off on the trek back to Xela.

As on the way up, we took it slowly, and after almost three hours we were at the bottom of the steep section. Here we rested for a while, and had a chat with a farmer who was on his way to his fields. He was very friendly, and talked to us for quite a while, asking us where we were from, what England was like, what the weather was like, whether there were farmers in England, what tools the farmers used, and what the word for 'Machete' was in English. Then he headed off to work, and we headed down. After another hour's walk, we were back at the road, from where we got a bus back to town.

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