Peyto Lake, Alberta.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Ruth is in Calgary, and Kevin is in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Nova Scotia on August 17th.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Paricutin Volcano

In 1943, a farmer was working in a corn field when he saw the ground start to crack and steam, and a fissure broke open. By the next day, lava had been flowing out of the fissure, and  there was now a cone the size of a house. This was the first ever recorded human witness of the birth of a volcano. The Paricutin Volcano continued to erupt for nine years until February of 1952 when it stopped as abruptly as it began.

There were two villages buried in the lava flow over the 9 years of eruptions. The church in one of the villages was overtaken by the lava.

We walked from the hotel down to the gas station where we had learned we could take a bus to the town of Angahuan where you can hike to the church buried in lava. It cost 20 pesos ($1.52) for the 40 minute bus ride. When we got off the bus, we were approached by men trying to get us to rent a horse to take us to the church, but of course we turned them down in favor of walking and exercise.

You have to walk through the town of Angahuan to reach the Ecotourism Center. Here, there is a small museum, and cabanas for rent as well as an area to park your motorhome if you decide to drive on the rough cobblestone road. Probably better suited for small campers and we're glad we decided not to take Sherman up there.

Our first view of the volcano.

Notice the steam still rising from the smaller cone. Paricutin is actually two volcanos.

We sat and had a snack once we reached the Ecotourism Center.

The total hike to the buried church from the highway was 4.5 kms (2.8 miles) each way. There is a couple of food stands near the church, and a local Indian lady insisted we try her home made blue corn tortillas with some avocado and salsa. It was so good, we told her we would come back after we visit the church.

The church was surreal. What a fascinating place to visit. The main facade is still standing, as is the back part of the church where the alter would have been. Nothing in the middle is left.

Made it to the church.

Only the one steeple was completed.

The back wall of the church has been turned into a shrine.

This is the rear section that is still standing.

This is the front section. I had to do a panorama shot and stitch it together to get this picture of the one complete steeple and the one unfinished one.

At one section, you can climb down into one of the lower rooms. I love this kind of thing!

Ruth, the lava, and the steeple.

60 years later, there is now some vegetation starting to grow out of the lava field.

When we were done exploring the church, we went back to the indigenous lady for some lunch. This area has a lot of native people, and they have their own language although most of them speak Spanish as well. She listed off a whole bunch of different food she would make us, and we said we would like to have a some quesadillas and a grilled meat plate with beans. We shared the food between us, and we were stuffed. With one beer, the bill came to 80 pesos ($6.08) for a great lunch for the two of us.

Making our lunch, with fresh blue corn tortillas.

She brings her 14 month old daughter to work with her...she's having a nap in the hammock.


On the hike back out, we came across a little old man carrying a big log on his shoulder. He was looking pretty tired, and we asked if he wanted some help. So Ruth grabbed one end and I picked up the other and we carried his log up the fairly steep hill back to the Ecotourism Center. We stopped several times along the way, and gave him some water to drink. He said he was building something for his house and these logs were the best ones to use. He had gone into the forest and cut it down and needed to carry each one back to his house. not sure how many he needed to get, but this one was a lot of work for him!

He had been carrying this log by himself! We stopped and talked to him for a while. We found out that he was 8 years old when the volcano erupted, which means that he is now about 77 years old. We are so glad that our Spanish is getting good enough to be able to communicate with the locals. It's still pretty broken, but we can get our point across and usually understand some of what is being said back to us!

At the top of the hill, we sat and rested with a couple of other fellows who were sitting there. The old guy who had the big log is on the far left.

Walking back through town. The native ladies still wear traditional dress in their day to day lives. The men are allowed to wear Jack Daniels t-shirts!

Another great day. We're going to have to stop having so much fun!

Yesterdays hike, 9 kms (5.6 miles) return.


  1. great day..great hike!..nice story about the volcano birth and the log carry!!..
    you two are having way to much fun!!

  2. HI guys! Don't know how far it is from here, but Sal's grandfather used to be able to see the volcano shooting up fire when he was working towards the back of the field here. He told us several times how amazing it was to see.

  3. Again, nice history/local flavor lesson. all the places you have been have not seen any industry (other than the mezcal)
    How are most of the people in the villages/towns employed...cant all be farmers.

  4. A very interesting story of the volcano and great pictures today. You a full day, interacting with the locals, a great looking lunch and get your exercise as well.

  5. I so envy you. We wanted to do that hike but I was not up to it then, probably not now either. Thanks for sharing in so much detail, great post.

  6. What a neat blog story today! I so enjoy how you walk/hike, learn about each area you are visiting, mingle with the locals, and do all the things you do without spending alot of money. I'm learning so much from your blog. One can't help but love your spirit for adventure!

  7. What a fascinating place to visit. It won't be long and you'll be fluent in Spanish. No better way to learn language than the immersion method.

  8. It's so amazing that the black rock was once in a liquid state!
    It must have been disappointing to not only have the work stopped, but completely buried by a volcano. (Man, I'd be some upset!)
    Very kind of you to help the old Dude. I totally "get it". Not that easily done in the big city however. People are too suspicious and figure you're up to something.
    Mind you, I have been known to thwart the odd pick-pocket.

  9. Walking in the lava is a challenge - at least for us. much fun to explore. That was great of you and Ruth to carry that log. Pay it forward!

  10. FANTASTIC! When you said you were going here, I was so looking forward to his post. I LOVE the photos. The header picture is BEAUTIFUL.
    That was so wonderful of you two to help the that gentleman. You made his day!
    Thanks so much for sharing all your adventures. Paul and I talk all the time of how Blessed you two are to travel this way. I don't have the guts to do it...LOL

  11. Wow thanks for the report on the volcano, I remember reading about it in Geography in high school. love to see it myself someday, bet you made the old guy with the logs day. Glad you had a great day, Be safe out there. Sam & Donna.

  12. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Awesome commentary, as usual. Should be working for National Geography.

  14. I always read and enjoy your blog but I have to say I really enjoyed it today. That's a fascinating story about the volcano. Helping out and talking with the locals is so great! I'm learning so much from you two and we would definitely like to do it ourselves one day.

    I'm curious what you use for guide books. You always seems to know what to see and where to go.

    Thanks! Grace

  15. What an amazing place you visited; and what a great day you had.

  16. Wow! What a great post on a great day! Loved learning about the volcano and seeing the church. Great story about the man you helped. Priceless experiences!!

  17. Neat. Another place to add to the places I need to see in Mexico.

  18. Great post. What interesting places there are around North America and we can get to see them all! Good photos.

  19. We just wanted to say thank you for all the fantastic comments about our trip to see the volcano and the site of the buried church. It was a truly amazing day and we are glad to have been able to share it with you. It sure topped the day off to be able to give that old guy a hand with the log, I think he was totally amazed to have a couple of gringos help him out like that.

    There were a few questions in the comments today that we will try to answer.

    Barb and Sal...I am not sure actually what the distance would be as the crow flys but I am not surprised that Sal's grandfather was able to see the fire shooting up from the volcano. We were able to see the Colima Volcano in the distance, so we definitely think he would have been close enough to see the fire spouting out.

    Donna W...It depends on where we are. Many of the big cities have industries just like in the States. There is also tequila, all kinds of fruit. Here in Uruapan the big industry is avacados (the biggest producer in the world) there is also sugar cane. In the small communities, there is definitely lots of farming. They also do ceramics, copperwork, woodwork, weaving and porcelain. Lots have little stores and restaurants and of course tourism, both for Mexican and foreigners.

    Grace...We have an older Lonely Planet book on Mexico, the Churches camping Mexico book and Kevin does lots of research on the interent. Also if we are talking to locals (couchsurfers when we stay with them) can also be a wealth of information. We enjoy doing things that aren't always on the normal tourist list.

    Kevin and Ruth

  20. Ohhh that header pic is just amazing! PARADISE!
    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  21. I was there in 2005. We were with a group and about 12 of us hired horses and rode to the volcano and church. So cool to see, and a very unique experience I think. We stayed in a big old house in town and had lovely home cooked meals. It has always been one of the highlights of my times to Mexico.

    1. Sounds like you had a great experience. It is nice to be able to stay with the locals, they are wonderful people. We loved our day there and were just in awe from the experience, it was so surreal.

  22. Hi there! I know this is a few years ago now, but y'all sound like our kind of adventurers. We are very experienced hikers but it's hard to tell whether we should listen to people who recommend guides for this trip or if that's a recommendation for less experienced people. Not having a map makes me nervous... but it sounds like y'all hiked without a guide. Is that true? Was it hard to to find the volcano? We should be there in a couple of weeks.

    1. Hi Hillary, glad you stumbled across this post. as you said it is a few years old now and we don't know how much things have changed in that time. When we did it we did not use a guide but we only went as far as the church, we did not go all the way to the volcano itself so not sure how easy it is to find the route over the lava rock. We had no problems finding our own way to the church. First you have to make your way through town, you may need to ask at the central plaza for the road going to the Ecotourism Center once you find that the path way is just to the right. If I remember correctly there were a couple of times we came across an intersecting path but we always took the one that was most traveled and had the most horse poop. ;-) I think almost anyone can find the church especially if you are an experienced hiker. As for the volcano itself we can't say. Having said that the volcano isn't small you should be able to just walk towards it, coming back may not be so easy as you wouldn't have that focal point.


We love hearing from you! Please take the time to leave a comment...