On our final day in Guatemala we took an excursion day to Antigua, famous in Guatemala for its well-preserved Spanish-Baroque influenced architecture. It is also famous for the number of tourists that flood through its streets, including service trip excursionists.
We arrived in Antigua after a long three-hour drive through the mountains, and right through two active volcanoes, and began exploring the city. The Central Park of Antigua is surrounded on all sides by beautiful Spanish buildings, none of which we got to explore (but put it on the list for next time.) We traveled to a local market where bartering was the key to success if your goal was to walk away with souvenirs AND money leftover.
Side note: In Guatemala, the currency is 7 quetzals to 1 U.S. Dollar, so you're already winning.
Things couldn't get much better, right?
Wrong. We had just gotten back to our hotel from dinner when we were politely informed that Volcán de Fuego, an active volcano only nine miles from where we were standing, had begun to erupt.
Now that's not something you hear every day.
Our team immediately rushed to the roof of our hotel to take in this spectacle. And it was truly something I will never forget. We watched as black and red smoke puffed out of the mountains and through the cloudy sunset. And we stayed on that rooftop until the sky turned black and the smoke turned to a lava spewing down each of its sides. The lava, which began as faint and dull, eventually evolved to a bright, molten liquid that drove out of the earth hundreds of miles into the air for all of Antigua to see.
To extend the greatness of our trip a few of the boys snuck out past curfew (don't tell our leaders) to grab some local beers and Cuban cigars for the group to enjoy. As we sat on the rooftop, laughing and swapping stories, I realized I had made a group of friends that I would never have expected. The only thing we had in common was this trip. And although I do not cross paths with all of my teammates back at school, I know that we all share a special bond that originated on this roller coaster of a journey.
The trip really couldn't have gone any better.
But we decided it had to. We all agreed to gather on the roof one final time to watch the sunrise. We watched as "The Volcano of Fire" was illuminated once again, but this time by the orange and yellow sunrays that were peaking over the mountains. We gazed in astonishment when a rainbow appeared over the hazy horizon. And we smiled as we realized how life truly couldn't get better than this.