Section 1: The Volcano
One of our bucket list items is to see the various Wonders of the World. Now we can cross our second Natural Wonder off that list: Volcan Paricutin.
This volcano literally sprang up in a field in 1943 and destroyed the two nearby towns. One of which was San Juan Parangaricutiro (now known as Old San Juan). The lava destroyed the entire village, but left the altar of the church intact.
Getting to the volcano requires a 2 hour horseback ride from the nearby town of Angahuan. Once there, it’s another hour to the top then 2 hours back. Luckily for us, the horses we had made the trip interesting.
My horse was a mix between a honey badger and Jesus. I called him Gargles. Erica’s horse was stubborn and did whatever it pleased. Mostly, this meant eating flowers. I called her horse some variation of the following names: Pokey, Fatty, Piggy, Wobbles, Milkshake, and Buttery Nipple. Both horses had been named by their owner, but the names were in the indigenous language of Purepecha and we decided to pick out names ourselves.
Gargles and Milkshake knew the trail to the volcano very well and need little guidance. However, there were multiple paths so much of your job was just keeping them going the same way. The horses were also very accustomed to walking on the sides of the roads/paths to allow for cars to get by. This made for some very scary moments when walking inches away from the edges of cliffs.
Gargles, being the classier of the two, liked to lead the way and take the high roads when available. Buttery Nipple, however, felt inferior when not in the front and would trot until he was returned to the lead. Additionally, after each attempt to pass, Pokey would nip at Gargles with his big ugly horse mouth. But it was fine because Gargles was very forgiving.
Fatty often lost the lead as he would stop to each anything that appeared even remotely edible. No matter how much Erica tried to keep him going, Piggy did whatever he wanted.
While sitting aloft my great beast, I knew I was safe from any danger. If a snake would have made the grave mistake of wandering in our way, it would be his last because Gargles don’t care. He would trample the snake and eat it for good measure. Wobbles, on the other hand, had about as much coordination as the Bad News Bears in their first game.
Valiantly, Gargles brought me back to town safely and with my ass mostly intact. I don’t really know what happened to Milkshake and Erica. Frankly, I lost interest after about the 28th snack break. However, I did see Erica yesterday so I assume she made it back in at least a few pieces.
Section B: You’re Doing It Wrong
Here is a list of shit we didn’t do. Learn from our mistakes.
WEAR SUNSCREEN. It was such a pleasant day outside that we forgot that the sun was trying to melt the flesh off our bodies. We both received burns on par with some of the worst ones of our lives.
BRING A MEAL/SNACK. Including the taxi from Uruapan, you are probably looking at about 6+ hours before you come across any food (there are some food stalls in Old San Juan, if your guide takes you back that route). Luckily we had a couple pieces of candy to help Erica through her hypoglycemic moments.
WEAR A BANDANA OR SOMETHING TO COVER YOUR FACE. The ground is covered with very fine volcanic ash. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure it would help. This ash is very crafty. As you can see from the picture below, it managed to sneak past my shoes and socks without leaving a trace.
LEARN TO QUICKLY STAND UP WHEN YOUR HORSE BEGINS TO TROT. Your ass will thank you. Bouncing on a wooden saddle may sound kinky, but it isn’t as pleasurable as you might think.
BE IN SHAPE. Seriously. The guide stated that it takes about an hour to hike up the volcano because the path starts at about a 45º angle and gets steeper as you go. We learned on our way down that there are multiple paths. The ‘main’ path is sand so your feet slide down several inches before it becomes compacted enough to support your weight. If you can find one, we recommend hiking both up and down the volcano on a rockier path. A walking stick looked helpful as well.
Section Three: WINNING!
It’s a short list, but at least we weren’t total fail.
BRING WATER. Hydration is important. Men’s bodies consist of about 60% water, women 55%. That means we get 5% more of the water. Stop hogging it, it’s simple math.
WEAR APPROPRIATE SHOES. We were both pretty impressed with the first real trial we put our Trail Runners through.
Section Cuatro: What Does It Cost?
If you are wanting to check out Volcan Paricutin, here is a breakdown of the costs involved.
Cab ride from Uruapan: $250 pesos. You can get there by bus and save quite a bit of money, but you have to get up really early and probably take the bus home as well. Your ass will hate you after repeatedly being pounded by the wooden saddle. We gave our cabbie a pretty good tip and he gave his cell phone number to our guide so he could come pick us up when we were done. This was very helpful as we felt like death.
Horseback Guide: $300 pesos per horse and $300 pesos for the guide. Since there were two of us, our total was $900 pesos. You may be able to shop around a bit and save a few bucks, but be prepared to spend around that much.
Section V: ????
Section 6: Profit
It’s just that easy.