Sonntag, 2. März 2008

El Volcan De Pacaya

At Upstart I met Christoph Salzmann. He started there as a Trainee. When I was there he was Animo-Operator and began learning compositing-applications like Shake and Combustion. Now he is at the Weta-Studios in New-Zealand as Digital Effects Artist and he was there working on stuff like "The Lord of the Rings", "King Kong" and currently he's working on "Narnia II".

In summer 2000 he and his girlfriend Silvia prepared a holiday-tour through middle-america. They intended to start in december and to voyage for eight weeks. Surprisingly another good friend of mine from Berlin, Klaus, aimed to do the same trip at the same time. He also decided to start his tour in Antigua in Guatemala with a one-week spanish-school. So I came up to join them.
As the time came, we all went to Guatamala then. After a few days of learning, Klaus school (we weren't on the same language-institute) proposed to make a sithtseeing-tour to one of the four volcanos around Antigua: el volcan de pacaya.

We started our climb from a little village at the buttom of the volcano called San Francisco, where our ciceroni were already waiting for us. As I was (and still am) in a not well trained physical condition, my compaignons were already descending while I was still climbing up the volcano. The last person who was passing me on his way down was one of the ciceroni who told me, I should follow him, because soon there will be dark and strong wind and clouds will come up. The volcanos peak was over the clouds.
I said, no problem, I just finish the climb and have a short view in the volcanos abyss and then I will return as soon as possible. So I continued the ascent while the guide was leaving me downwards.

I hit my little spot, thought that it was great and worthed the pain and started immediatly my descent.

But it was to late. By running down, the clouds were already rising and it started to get dark. The view got increasingly worse and I couldn't see the path anymore, that we were coming up. The area was that vast, that it was hard to make the right decision were to go along. I knew it was somewhere down there, I had to go left, but you couldn't see were that was, so I started walking fastly downwards, nearly blind trying to decide to do my leftturn at the right moment. But I passed the path and got too far away from it in the wrong direction. I turned around but didn't know where to go back because all you could see were clouds in the darkness. I didn't either see where the way could end if I continued ascenting, because the clouds and the darkness now were everywhere. So I decided to stay. I sat down on the hanging boulder of the volcano-ashes, tried to hide my face behind a little rock, that was lying beside, to save it from the cold storm that started icing over my body and put one foot on another tiny rock beneath to avoid to glide off into the nowhere. That was at 5.30 pm. in december. The sun would rise at 7 am. So I only had to wait 13.30 hours in the icewind. Great expectations!

Down in San Francisco they were waiting for me for a long while already and my friends got very nervous. So a small team decided to climb back up and to search for me. As they did so for more than an hour, it was impossible to find someone in this vast area and with this bad sightconditions. So they decided to go back to Antigua and to continue the search early next morning with a rescue-team.

I did not know anything about that. I was only thinking about how to survive the night and how I will get from here back to Antigua. Two days ago we met some young guys from Guatemala-City who told us, they intended to camp on one of the four volcanos but they changed opinion because the rumor was taking the round that there were lions and tigers in the area who escaped from a wildlife park and already attacked people. With these thoughts I tried to calm down a bit and waited for the first lights of dawn.

And they came. And it was incredible. I was sitting there nearly on the top of a volcano in the middle of Guatemala watching over the awakening land. Wow!


After that i started my descent. As the boulder was very slippy I fell down many times and got blessed all over skidding on my but and knees. But finally I past the first plants, partially burnt from eruptions. From a seared tree i snaped off a small branch and used it as staff. And I felt a little bit like the man from the mountains. The way got greener and the day got warmer and I felt my freezed-out body coming back alive. It became a little jungly and I passed a huge turd. I thought, this one does not look like a donkey's one and so the rumour came back into my mind. But the next problem already kept me to concentrate on: thirst. I hadn't drink for 24 hours and it started becoming a problem. But there was no water around, no pond nor creek. After a while of staggering through the woods i had to sit down very exhausted and despaired. I was close to fall asleep, the sun warmed me and as I hadn't slept the whole night, the fatigue and the dehydrogenation were lurking. I was afraid if I fell asleep now I might never wake up again. So I arised and continued my walk, searching for civilisation and water.

After a few minutes I came to cornfield and I thougt this is my resource. I broke off one cob from shrub and peeled it. But the corns I uncoverd where dried-out and hard. These rare cobs obviously had been left from the last yield. They were inedible and had not one nutritious quality. So I continued my path delirously, when suddenly I reached the back of a little farm. On first sight the farm seemed empty. There was a ton filled with some kind of liquid and there was a tube lying beside of it. I went to the ton, hoped it was rainwater, put the tube into it and suck, so that the water ran out. I layed down and let it flew into my mouth. As I lifted my head two indigene children stood in front of me and as I watched them they turned and ran away. I felt looking like someone who came out of the wilderness, dirty, perished and with a long-grown beard (at least that was the way, they looked at me). I followed them in the house where they covered behind their mothers skirt. I told her my story and asked her if there is somewhere a bus that could bring me back to Antigua. She told me to follow the street and after a few hundred meters there will be a bus stop. From there I should asked again for further informations.

I had to cross the village to reach the busstop. On the way, a young man passed me with a two-liter buttle of coke. To reassure, I asked him, if I was on the right way. He asked me what happened. I told him and he invited me into his house to get something to drink and to repose a bit, while he wants to care for solving my situation. I followed him. His wife was just cooking a soup with some meat and vegetables. They seemed very poor. They had a small and very simple house with two rooms, one to sleep and one to cook and to live in. Outside there was a little garden. In the kitchen on the wall there were pictures from italien tourist places like Lago Maggiore and the young man said, one day he wants to get there and see these fruity beauty places. The meat was obviously the only they had in one month, as well as the coke. I drank half of it. They let me lay down in their marriage-bed. Aide was the bed of their little baby, who was chuckling and mumbling. So I reposed while the young mother was preparing the soup and the young father was making a few phonecalls.

About half an hour later she called me to come to eat. They didn't eat, they were just standing beside me, watching me. So I ate their only meatsoup of the month. It was very tasty.

Totally unexpected the door opened and three bomberos and a journalist came in, asking me if I was the lost german. The whole situation was very hectic, the journalist was taking pictures while the bomberos and rescue-men where checking my health. I had to lay down in the front-yard and the journalist had to take pictures while one of the bomberos was taking rescue-measures at me, grining into the camera, to become the hero of the day in guatemala. Then they put me into their jeep and drove me nearly a hundred kilometers from there through guatemaltequien highlands and dusty serpentines, passing hundreds of little villages where poor barfooted maya-children, chicken and dogs were running behind us. I don't now what was harder, my private waltz on the volcano or this kamikaze-flight to the hospital of Guatemala-City. But the guys were laughing and singing during the whole trip. Finally and seasick we arrived at the hospital. And with this, the most spectacular part of the adventure was over.
Nice to add is: After I got emergenceley supplied, I was sitting across from the hospitals front-door, waiting for my friends (who meanwhile got informed, to pick me up) with a few other people. Some where also waiting to get picked up, some where sitting there since hours as their business, with a begging-cup between their legs. Of course one of them started telling me his lifestory. Which wasn't that uninteresting. His father had big bakeries in North-America, behind the frontier of Mexico. But he preferred his cousin and threw him out of the house, because he felt in love with a girl, his father did not want to except. He could have stayed in las Estados Unidos but he decided to follow his heart.
Then a TV-team came up and asked if I was the aleman perdido en el pacaya. I said yes, and as I wasn't that fluent in spanish, the begger helped me translating, so that we could do an interview. The director of the TV-team was that inspired from the translator and the situation that he proposed a job at the tv-station to the homeless.

I thougt this is a brillant end of the story. At this moment a little bus arrived with my friends in it yelling and shouting for the reunion.

Two days later, we read in the newspaper, that one of the guides who was in the rescue-team crashed on his tourist-climp up to the pacaya and died.

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