Thursday 17th November 2001

Antigua – preparations for the volcano assault!

Today has been a day of some frustrations, but also one with much laughter and amusement. It started badly: an attack of some mystery stomach upset caused me to suffer a sleepless night, one which was not helped by two very active lesbians in the hotel room next to mine!! However, I was up at a reasonable hour, and headed to the internet café Y tu piña (And your pineapple – unusual name!), where I met Luisa Zea, my friend and guide who is going to lead me on my coming two weeks of volcano climbing. Luisa has worked as a guide on Guatemala’s volcanoes for several years, and I know I am in good hands with her.

We spent much of the morning sorting out administrative matters, both by telephone and e-mail, and then we headed to a print shop, where we arranged to have two large photographs of the butterfly Drucina championi (taken by Mexican butterfly experts Javier and Roberto de la Maza), my target for the coming weeks, printed out, and then sealed in plastic. We intend to show these to locals in the areas where we think the butterfly may occur, in the hope that someone may have seen it, and may be able to advise us on where to look.

Luisa with the newly printed, and still wet, Drucina championi pictures

The sealing in plastic took longer than expected, and coincidentally, the song being played on the radio in the shop contained the refrain “Espera un poco más” (“Wait a little longer”), by Jose Jose, which caused much amusement to both us and the staff of the shop, as we waited “un poco más”!

The plasticated result

Finally, the pictures were ready, and we moved to a very beautiful shop and restaurant called Sabe Rico, or Tastes Good, where we ordered the sandwiches and other delicacies we will need for our ascent of the Volcán Acatenango tomorrow. While we were there, Luisa showed me the delightful garden restaurant at the back, and as it looked so nice, we decided to stay for lunch. Sadly, however, appearances were deceptive, as the rocket salad which Luisa ordered, specifically WITHOUT olives, arrived full of olives. She sent it back, and when it finally returned (after a severe case of “Espera un poco más”!), there was no rocket in it!! I ordered a pizza, which looked delicious, but it tasted of absolutely nothing at all. The restaurant has now been renamed, as far as we are concerned, “Sabe a nada”, or “Tastes of Nothing”!

Part of the garden of Sabe Rico

Luisa in extreme frustration over her salad

Our next task was to drive to the small town of San Miguel Dueñas, where we were due to pay the $50 for permission to drive up through a finca to begin the ascent of Acatenango. Somehow our instructions were mixed up, and we first went to the Finca Tempixque, where Jacqueline, Marvin and I had been on my third day in Guatemala, and had been given a spontaneous tour of the orchid nursery, but this was not the place where we were supposed to be today.

We retraced our steps, and finally arrived at the Finca San Sebastián, which was indeed the right place. This beautiful finca is right below the slopes of Acatenango, but the weather, which apparently had been perfect during the two weeks I was in Ecuador, looked very poor, the upper halves of both Acatenango and Fuego being completely lost in thick, swirling cloud. We can only hope that tomorrow and the day after will be better.

Luisa pointing towards the volcano Acatenango, its head lost in cloud

Self with Drucina championi in front of the old house at Finca San Sebastian

On the way back through San Miguel Dueñas, we stopped at a discount clothing store. I was in search of a fleece (temperatures drop below freezing high up on Acatenango, and we are due to camp), and Luisa was in need of a dress for her cousin’s wedding, which is coming up this weekend. My quest was highly unsuccessful at first, with me first rejecting a bright yellow one (what birder would be seen dead in a yellow fleece?!), and then finding that all the others were either FAR too small, or massively huge…finally, much to the amusement of Luisa, I plumped for the yellow one, which I got for 15 Quetzales (about €1.50)! At least, if we need to be rescued from the volcano, I should be visible to the helicopter pilot!!

Tonight, if the weather clears, we are due to drive up out of Antigua, to a hotel called Earth Lodge, where we hope to watch the meteorite show that is supposed to occur. Luckily, as we joked, even if we see no shooting stars, if I wear my bright yellow fleece and run across in front of Luisa, I will be able to play the role of a shooting star!!

The volcanoes Fuego and Acatenango with their heads in the cloud

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