[this is the exact post from the day after the ‘event’ btw…]
The Volcano Drama (warning..this is gonna be long!)
((MIND YOU: I’m going to take the self-deprecating, humorous approach to this tale so that I can type without crying …. If you want to read between the lines and understand the fear and exhaustion present…feel free….))
Sooooooooooooo…..Anyone who comes to Antigua with half-a-brain in his heads visits the ‘active’ volcano nearby.
We have tempted our boys for the last several months with this..er..um…’field trip’.
Trey, especially, has (or..now…HAD) a certain fascination with volcanoes. He was truly excited to see lava….
Unfortunately for us, we woke up bored Thursday morning.
We decided to be ‘Parents-Of-The-Year’ and take the kids to the volcano. We already knew there was a 2:30pm tour leaving each day to go see the Pacaya Volcano.
READ THIS SECTION CLOSELY:
Jim had already talked to a touring agency. He had explained the ages of our children. He saw their agent license number…He saw their pretty transport vans…He saw their office…He talked with the owner..the owner met several of our boys days before this event….
THE OWNERS SAID FOUR-YEARS OLD COULD DO THIS EXCURSION…”The baby might get heavy on the trail…but not problem”….. (you will laugh at this later….)
So we arranged to go on the 2:30pm excursion yesterday afternoon.
After a SURPRISING 1.5 HOURS in the van…..(w/5 kids who didn’t know they were going to be driving this long..but they did great) and seeing some of the most severe poverty I’ve ever witnessed during our drive through rural villages to the volcano…
oh..and…have to make 4 passes to travail a very steep, muddy, and wet section of the mountain whereas the owner and her twenty-something year old daughter and the local men of the village had to push our vehicle through….NO…they would NOT let Jim or the other guy on the tour with us help…
But..alas….(seriously..ALAS…not HAPPILY…not MERRILY…but ALAS) we were there.
Jim and I eyeball each other…Hhhhmmmm…this looks different than we’d expected.
Lots of 7 and 8 year old villagers selling large hiking sticks for 5 quetzalies…But we thought…It’s okay!
We’ve know of MANY people and children who climbed Mt. Pacaya to see the lava..They did it …We can do it! We are the Cockrums!!!
“those” people might not have been there in the dark, it probably wasn’t raining buckets every 15 minutes, it most likely wasn’t rainy season where the trail had become ankle deep with mud the entire way, and they -more than likely- had common sense and didn’t dress their children in shorts. yep. shorts. what. was. I. thinking.
So…We buy sticks and sheets of plastic from the local boys (the plastic because it was raining hard and we, of course, had not brought the appropriate gear..who would have thought one would have needed a poncho on top of a mountain during rainy season in Guatemala? I know. It’s obvious to most but we have lost many brain cells over the years due to incessant whining of children, international travels, morning sickness, homeschooling, Ebay rules, friends (hehe), family (ever hehe’er)…so…it wasn’t so clear to us…)
We start up the MOUNTAIN. Jim see’s a sign…
“Peak: 2.5 kilometers”…well..thanks to second-grade homeschool math..I KNOW that 2.5 kilometers is NOT a hike that four year old can do ..ESPECIALLY not in rain…ESPECIALLY not in mud…and ESPECIALLY not with their Momma carrying their baby sister in a sling on her back…
So..Jim and I, intelligently (cough), reassess the situation.
“Maybe we are in over our heads?” says Andrea.
“Yep, I think we are. There’s no way Zane and Tye can walk that far in these conditions and there’s NO way you can carry Aven that far UP a mountain. Should we just wait in the van?” replies Jim…
Then, suddenly, a cute village boy appears with a horse. (Note: it’s common practice for those of less than stellar physical abilities to ride a daggone horse up the trail to the top…)
“Tu quieres un cabello por tu ninos guapo?” the sweet village boy ask? (AKA: Do you want a horse for your handsome children?”
Jim and I reconvene. A horse or two will solve this problem…right? Trey REALLY wants to see lava, we’ve paid $200 bucks for this excursion, we are in the middle of no-where in Guatemala…
We decide to …. just do it!! Woo Hoo!! We are SO awesome!!!! A large family won’t keep us from climbing a daggone volcano!!! No way! We are the Cockrums!!
So….I GET ON A HORSE…WITH AVEN IN MY SLING…AND ZANE IN FRONT OF ME. Yep…a horse.
We continue UP.
I am at the point of tears…but refusing to give in b/c Zane will hear me. The stupid horse does NOT like me.
She’s stopping in mid-climb…snorting…cussing…stomping…I -honestly- felt like doing the same back to her but I was afraid she’d endanger my children’s lives.
Has anyone ever tried to wear a 19 lb, sleeping baby in a sling while holding on ferociously to their 4 year old to keep all three of you from falling off the back of a mean horse while transversing UP a mountain? Well..if not…don’t. It’s not fun.
Eventually, we decide to put Trey and Tye on a horse too..It’s getting dark, Tye is tripping, Trey’s complaining..and then lo and behold….just for us (wink)….another adorable village boy appeared on the trail offering a “taxi” for our children…
((I need to say here that my precious, fiesty Aven slept through this entire event…even when the two of us get thrown off the stupid horse…keep reading for that…but I am so thankful for her sleeping b/c her crying would have been the end of me. I was WAY outside of my large living envelope and PURELY holding it together for my children..we were further UP than we were DOWN…so turning around seemed ridiculous..and up to this point the boys were fine….)
So, after at least an hour of upwards hiking, wind, huge raindrops on Aven’s face, Zane complaining about almost bouncing off the saddle, Chase lovin’ every minute of the adventure (but this will SOON change..keep reading), Trey reverting into some sort of trance on his horse so he doesn’t know what’s happening, Tye giggling about riding a horse… and Jim reconsidering the amount of life insurance he has on ME…
We know we are close to the top.
But…Chase and Tye’s horse (Chase and Trey took turns riding w/Tye) is pretty far ahead because it is being guided by a local boy and father and they are faster than me and my stupid horse…..
We ascend to the top…
We are awaiting the glorious moment of seeing LAVA!! A live volcano!! YES! We did it! We are the Cockrum’s!!!
When..boom…swipe…blast…arctic cold air sweeps up the shorts of my boys, rain bashes the said of our faces, there are no longer trees to shelter us…
Trey starts crying….He plastic, blue poncho is blowing so fiercely in the artic air I think it will tear.
Zane starts asking to go back to his “normal home” (aka Indiana)
WHERE IS CHASE AND TYE?
The top of the mountain is HEAVY with fog. I can only see about 20 ft in front of me each way.
I know, from my Mommy radar, where Zane, Tye, and Aven are….
My Mommy radar goes ballistic.
I don’t see Chase or Tye.
I look at Jim..”WHERE ARE CHASE AND TYE? WHERE’S THEIR HORSE?”…Jim says, “They are behind us..”
I reply, “I am positive they aren’t Jim…I know they were in front of us…”
in the meantime, everyone else on our tour is asking..”Where the heck is the lava?” and saying “This is crazy..We need to go back down..It’s dark, cold, and frightening up here…”
I start SCREAMING…”CHASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Zane senses my fear…(I know..another slot in the bad Mommy category) and starts crying uncontrollaby…..
Trey starts crying…..
Aven continues to sleep…how?…I will never know but Praise God for it.
“CHASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” I am SCREAMING. Looking around. Fog everywhere…Jim and I can’t see a path where the horse would have gone.
I IMMEDIATELY start thinking…how will we get a helicopter to this rural of an area to find them? How will the rescue teams get up here in time before they freeze to death?
Jim takes off …the daggone GUIDES freak OUT and go with JIm….
I am left with a screaming Trey and Zane…and a VERY frazzled tour group owner who is telling me to calm down…right.
“DONDE ES MI HIJOS????” I scream at here. “Where are my sons?”.
She tells me to calm down. Right.
I turn to the other guy that’s on the tour with us…a kind man from Romania who’s eyes were bulging out of his head at this turn of events…..
He picked up Zane to keep him warm and brought Trey to his side while I started back down the trail we’d come up….
I am screaming.
I am terrified.
I feel so stupid.
I am praying fervently….but I am so cold….I don’t even feel God’s warmth…My heart is already torn to pieces…
How could we have let this happen?
Why didn’t we ask better questions about the climb?
Why didn’t we just stay in the van when we realized we were in over our heads?
Is Chase scared right now?
Did the horse dart off?
Does Chase know enough about horses to turn the horse around to the right trail?
Is Tye okay or screaming?
Please don’t let Tye fall off the horse….
I go back up to the top where my Romanian friend is keeping a freezing Zane and Tye close to him….and where the (ridiculous) tour guides are waiting for Chase and Tye’s horse to simply..come back…
After about 10 of the scariest minutes of my life….
I hear Jim’s voice and see his flashlight (yes, we bought one along w/our hiking sticks and plastic sheets)….
“ANDREA — I HAVE THEM. IT IS OKAY.”
Never…ever…in my entire life have I wanted to fall to the ground and weep…but I wanted to then.
My husband had them…so that meant all was well.
It turns out that their horse guide, a younger boy and father, got confused as to which group Chase & Tye belonged with. They thought they belonged with a group further up the volcano than us.
So….they RAN the horse and my boys ahead…all the while Chase said he was SCREAMING for the guide to “ALTO”! (stop)…Chase knew it was a bad decision….Tye was crying Chase said.
The guide told Chase, “NO, tu Mama ya tu Papa is up”…Chase said, “NO!”..the man would NOT listen to Chase…
Chase kicked the guy in the shins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Go Chase!!!He’s been taught to use physical force if he or someone he loves is in danger…In his 10 year old head, he was in the most danger he’d ever been in…it was dark, completely foggy, the guide had separated him from his family, etc.)
Unfortunately, the kick had no affect.
The man continued until Chase and Tye’s horse reached the lava…
This is where Jim found them….approx. 4 footballs lengths away from where our ‘tour’ had ended….
I know God gave Jim a sense of where to go to find his sons….Thank you God.
When Jim led them back up to our spot, Chase was whimpering and saying “I was scared Mom”…and Tye was silent. Tye’s silence…terrifying to me as an adoptive Momma.
We all hug but realize we still have to get DOWN the stupid volcano.
Jim insists that Chase and Trey go down on a horse..a great decision but one that terrified the boys.
Picture yourself, as a kid, on top of a scary mountain, your Mom was just terribly upset, you’d been lost and then found, your brothers are crying, and it is dark…getting on top of a horse and going steeply DOWN HILL for an hour.
Chase and Trey were NOT happy about it but it was the safest idea.
Jim wanted Zane, Aven, and I back on our mean horse….I agreed b/c it was the only other horse there…the guide was trying to settle the horse (the arctic wind and rain are still slapping each and every one of us in the face…my boys’ arms and legs are shivering uncontrollably…Aven is sleeping?….)
The guide told me to get on…..Jim said, “Are you sure?” to him…The guide replied, “Bueno” (it’s good)…
And here’s my scariest moment…
With my precious daughter asleep in her sling, on top of a daggone mountain, in the cold and driving rain I, a city girl, put my now-completely ruined expensive tennis shoes into the saddle’s stirrups…
I pull myself (and Aven) up…swing my right foot almost of the saddle…
the stupid horse TAKES OFF.
My only recollection of the moment was a very slow thought…I thought to myself..”I must get off this horse”….
I remember pulling my foot out of the stirrup and bringing my right leg back all the while not letting Aven get crushed by the stupid horse’s back end as it took off…
Jim and I were breathless.
We’d reached our limit. Yep..we found it . Our limit.
Jim and I decided ‘no horse’ for me….I was TOO scared by then.
So….Chase and Trey went down the steep, dark volcano on a horse …
Jim CARRIED Zane down…an hour and a half hike in ankle deep mud….with a 43 lb son in his arms…
I CARRIED Aven down….and hour and a half hike in ankle deep mud…with arms to balance with b/c I was hugging Aven to me in her sling trying to keep her warm…..
and the Tour Operator carried Tye down as she walked right behind us….All the while we were talking to the boys telling them they were brave, we were on an adventure, etc.
I cannot tell you what I felt when my whole family was back together on solid ground at the base of the stupid volcano.
I felt relief.
I felt exhaused. ( I had carried Aven in the sling from 2:30 pm until 9:00pm….)
I felt stupid.
I felt humbled.
I felt glorious.
We all make it back into the tour bus….Our boys’ eyes are red from crying yet their mouths are talking non-stop about their bravery! They are right! THEY WERE SO BRAVE!!!!!!!!!!
Jim and I couldn’t stop telling them how proud we were of them and how, we as a family, took on a surprise challenge and conquered it….
Chase was telling of kicking his guide in the shin.
Trey said he was going to throw away ALL of his lava lamps when he got back to Indiana!! hehe
Zane said he did not like that…
Tye seems shocked and stunned but happy when we gave him chips in the van!!
Aven….woke up within two minutes of me getting off of the stupid volcano.
All in all, Jim and I learned that our family is strong …..
We also learned that people will say anything to get a dollar….a four year old -let alone a baby- should NEVER have been accepted for that excursion….
But…..We woke up this morning…still exhausted, still shocked, still stunned, but knowing that we stepped up when we had too.
So, if you know Chase ‘in real life’…You will DEFINITELY be hearing this tale from him when we get home!!!
As for the rest of us…well…we are just glad we lived!!!! hehe
I was in a glorious mood today and Jim said, “You are happy!”
I replied..”I am just stinkin’ glad to be off that stupid volcano and alive today!”
The tour operators ended up severely discounting our excursion (duh) and they even called today to check on the boys because they felt so bad (duh)…..
All in all…I might even do it again…
What did I just say?
No way No how would I EVER climb UP and DOWN a volcano without actually seeing the lava while carrying my 8 mo old in a sling and having my entire family drenched in cold rain for 4 hours..during which time we lost two of our sons for 10-15 minutes and I pulled from every resource I possibly had as a Mom and Wife to get down the stupid volcano without crying…
Although…I have secured a new pair of expensive tennis shoes from my grateful hubby … hehe!
told you it would be long