The 3 day hike started at 6 am at the Hostel Casa Argentina were we had breakfast with the other 6 follow hikers and our two Quetzaltrekker guides Ben (from the Nederland) and Eeva (from Finland). The hike goes through the mountains from a smaller town 30 minutes by bus southeast of Xela to Lago de Atitlán. Day 1: 18 km, day 2: 18 km and day 3: 8 km (right picture, tracked with my Garmin Fenix 3).
Meet our group – the front from the left: Ben (guide), Eeva (guide), Verena, Jordan and Amy. In the back from the left: Mark, Nienke, Kervin, Camilla and Esben
The first day we reached the highest elevation on the trip at about 3000 meters.
Walking between fields that were farmed by the local people. Guatemala’s climate is great for growing corn, coffee, avocado and banana trees.
Meeting the locals on our way. Everywhere we walked the locals were friendly. Here Mayan dialects are spoken far more widely than Spanish, and over a dozen distinct groups dwell within the region, each with its own language and clothing. This is were the indigenous life follow its own rhythm amid fantastic mountain landscapes.
After 18 km of hiking we reached Santa Catalina, were we all joined a free yoga class, to stretch our sore bodies after several hours of hiking in the mountain. Jordan, who is an educated yoga instructor, guided us through some nice stretches for the back and legs. It felt so GOOD.
Picking a few berries before having dinner – some kind of blackberries but with more texture than the normal blackberries in Denmark
We didn’t expect to get a shower during the three days of hiking, but when we came to Santa Catalina, we got the possibility to try a traditional Mayan Temescal, which had room for 2 persons. The Temescal is a kind of sauna, but less hot. This is how it looked from the outside.
Inside there is one big pot (the black one) on the fire with hot water and a tub (the green one) with cold water. In the pot between those you mix the water so the temperature is right (left picture). Now you can take a bucket shower in warm water (right picture).
Esben making friends with the local dog wile drinking hot chocolate.
The next morning we got up and had a traditional Guatemalan breakfast: rice, beans and fried egg with coffee. Loading up on carbohydrates before starting on the next 18 km including “the record hill”.
The big challenge on the hike was “Record hill”, which was a part of “Record mountain”. After 1-2 hours of walking we came to “Record hill”, which has developed into a friendly competition where we all got the opportunity to challenge our selves. You have to climb “Record hill”, which is 400 meter in elevation, as fast as possible (with your backpack). I love challenges like this, because I love the feeling when I push myself and my body. Also I get really focused and there is nothing else on my mind, than to reach the top of “Record hill”.
Camilla 13 minutes and 20 seconds
Esben 14 minutes and 40 seconds
Everybody gave all they had – we are so proud of you all. Both Ben and Eeva (our guides) beat theirs records on “Record Hill” – CONGRETULATION! Ben 10 minutes 50 seconds and Eeva 13 minutes and 3 seconds. One our way down from “Record mountain” we meet men, women, children and horses carrying wood up to their homes in the mountain villages, just with a strap around their forehead. That really made me appreciate the more comfortable backpack I was carrying.
It got more and more cloudy, and at lunch we could hear thunder and see lightings. We all put on our raingear and not even 5 minutes past by before it was pouring down.
The small creeks turned into small rivers…
The locals didn’t have fancy raingear, but you don’t need that if you just have a machete and a big banana leave
It just kept raining and raining and raining… and after les than an hour our fancy rain gear could not keep us dry. So we found a banana leave, in the hope that it would keep us dry, but it was to late. We were all soaked.
We got to the homestay where we would spend the night, and everybody tried to dry the boots or shoes around the fire (left picture). As a surprise from the guides, we had marshmallows and crackers for dessert (right picture, Esben is showing off his perfect BBQ marshmallow in between to chocolate crackers).
We ate all our meals together. Some of them was prepared by Ben and Eeva (guides) or by the local family. Rice and beans – beans and rice, here served with chicken, corn tamales, vegetables and tomato sauce. Everything just taste better after 18 km of hiking and when you have good company.
On day 3 we got up at 3:30 am to walk to a viewpoint over Lago de Atitlán, where we would see the sunrise. It was partly cloudy when we got to the viewpoint, but the view was still amazing.
We settled at the viewpoint where we would have breakfast. During our time at the viewpoint volcano de Fuego had several bigger eruptions. In the left picture you can see smoke and ashes (the dark rising cloud) coming from volcano de Fuego in the right side of the picture. The eruptions varies in size, but these were some of the bigger eruptions, were we were able to se sediment rolling down the sides of the volcano. In the right picture volcano de Fuego is just above and a little bit to the left of my head.
It was time to leave the viewpoint and we walked through coffee plantations on our way down the mountain side. The coffee plants has to grow 8 years before the farmers can harvest coffee beans of the plants, and after 8-10 years the coffee plant is not fertile anymore. The process of growing coffee is an ongoing process of planting new coffee plants each year, to be able to harvest coffee beans every year.
We stopped at a viewpoint, where Jordan still had some energy left to teach us a new yoga position “a head stand”.
It was also at the viewpoint, that my activity watch ran out of power (Garmin Fenix 3) after 42,32 km of hiking, just missing the last 2 km. But here is the elevation profile…
The hike ended in San Juan La Laguna were we had coffee at a local coffee farm, where they dry and process the coffee beans from several plantations in the area.
After the coffee beans have been picked, it takes 16 days before the beans are ready to be grounded
We headed to San Pedro La Laguna in an old pickup truck. We had a great and well planned hiking trip. Thanks to all our fellow hikers in the group for making the trip memorable, it would not have been the same without you! A special thanks to our guides Ben and Eeva for all the small surprises during the trip, that made the trip a lot more than just a hike. We can recommend Quetzaltrekkers to everybody who visits Guatemala (Xela) or Nicaragua (Leon).
The 3 days of hiking was finished off with lunch by the lake… sorry no pictures, because we had to take the last bus from San Pedro back to Xela at 1:30 pm. A drive that is only 54 km, but takes 3 hours with one of the local chicken bus.
Back in Xela I (Camilla) had to recover from a bad stomach and a cold – but we still have one more volcano adventure here in Guatemala before heading to Honduras. We are in the rainy season for Central America, which means that it almost rains everyday. The rain typically starts between 2-4 pm, sometimes earlier. We have done some research online and found out that El Salvador gets more rain than Honduras during the rainy season. Based on that we took the decision to travel through Honduras on our way to Nicaragua.
The tourist sights in Honduras and El Salvador is alike, which made the decision of travel through Honduras easy to get less rain – because we will get more rain. Also by traveling through Honduras means that we have one less border crossing.