This past week was possibly the most amazing experience of my recent travels!
I took a 6-day trek from Nebaj to Todos Santos Guatemala with QuetzalTrekkers and a phenomenal group of 10 other people from around the world. All profits from the volunteer-run tour company go to an hogar (a home for homeless children) and a school for street kids. That´s all fine and dandy, but Henry, a 13 year-old kid from the hogar came with us and it really helped us all to realize that because of the volunteers and trekkers Henry has people from all over the world to raise him, provide for him, and support him (in every sense of the word). But here are the details of the trip:
Day One→Had pancakes and fruit salad at the QT office before heading to Minerva bus terminal to catch a chicken bus (on which I saw a girl with gold stars set into her two front teeth!) to Santa Crux del Quiche where we got a microbus to Nebaj. In Nebaj we went to the marke to pick up food for the trek, walked to the beautiful cemetery where the sheep were grazing, and hung out at Popi´s Hostel. We had a delicious spaghetti dinner and then bomb coconut cream pie and soy icecream! Don (the owner of Popi´s), who actually does phenomenal work in the community, also chan-smokes like nobody´s business and has a dark yellow stain in his moustache around his mouth.
Day Two→After a night of pouring rain at the hostel we woke up to no electricity (which was obviously not a big deal, because I didn´t even notice until I realized that the candle.lit breakfast was not for the romantic ambiance), and had another delicious pancake and fruit breakfast. Then we headed out of town throught beautiful farm land in the mist and a little drizzle of rain towards Acul, where we picked up cheese at a factory owned by an Italian couple. Acul is actually called a "model town" because during the civil war it was one of many villages that were burned to the ground, and when it was rebuilt it was done on a grid to look like a more "proper" town, which was used to house displaced families from all of the other ruined villages. It was used as a model to show other countries to try to prove that the civil war wasn´t as bad as people thought, and to show a good example-although, as we know that was total B.S. So... we had a really nice lunch next to a stream running through hilly farm land. Next we walked on through Xexucap to Xexucam, where we spent the night in a shelter. We had a temescal (a traditional sauna built of mud bricks, used to bathe in) and then dinner (rice and beans, with a hard-boiled egg) at a local family´s house.
Day Three→Up at 3:30 to make it up a very steep hill before breakfast with the sunrise. We ate delicious mosh and then continued upward (it was our day of highest altitude gain). At the top we really knew that we were in the highlands-it kind of looks like a Guatemalan Ireland-sheep, goats, stone walls, and huts that the locals live in. Chuatuj was up at the top and had a scary dog. Anyway, we headed on for a beautiful lunch under a huge tree in a high valley then to the tiny (tiny means a couple of families spread around) town of Chortiz where we had a trailmix break. We cam down a little ways off of the ridges we had been on to stay in Canton Primero. This town was an experience! We slept on the sidewalk thing around the school, which has broken windows and is full of trash-and currently in use. The the local men started showing up and staring at us (and we of course couldn´t understand what they were saying because they speak local mayan dialects), and after about 25 men were gathered near us two sheep walked in with bells on their necks, and we couldn´t help laughing at our situation. It turns out we came on the night of their town meeting-Awkward! Anyway, we had a nice spaghetti dinner and watched the full moon rise (which did include Juan mooning use as well as the actual moon).
Day Four→Waked the rest of the way down the hill Canton Primero is on to Río Pericón at the bottom of the valley for a mosh breakfast and stares from the local women. Then up the other side of the valley, where it flattened a bit, and then we went up another hill lovingly refered to as "the bitch." Beautiful views of the valley and families herding their sheep. We walked along the top of the ridge and were painfully serenaded by a man´s painful singing on the other side of the valley. The we went down into San Nicolás where we finally found a store to buy lunch supplies at, and climbed up a hill on the other side of town for lunch (this hall called "the hill of terror"). Delicious sandwitches-beans from a bag, the cheese from Acul, pica más, ranchera sauce, and tortrix-Guatemalan fritos!
After walking down the toeher side of the hill we caught a pick-up from La Capillanía to La Ventosa. Just imagine:11 gringos and their backpacks in the back of a Gutamenalan pick-up. We had been hpong for a dump truck, but no such luck-Oh well. In La Ventosa we stayed with Guillermo, who has terrifying stories about the civil war, but his famil was very generous. We had another wonderful temescal, then mashed potatoes and tortillas for dinner.
Day Five→Rice and beans for breakfast, and more in the backpack for lunch! We started that day off headed up to La Torre, the highest non-volcanic point in Central America, where Bobby read an awesome poem he had written about the trip, and we made hot drinks. Then we went down, down, down, through absolutely beautiful forrest with great fock formations and then down some more into farm land on the way to Todos Santos.
Todos Santos was absolutley beautiful! All of the men still wear their traditional clothing-amazing red-striped pants and woven collared shirts. We all walked around and enjoyed town and it´s genuinely nice poeple. Then a woman fed us an unbelieveable chicken dinner!!! Yum!
Day Six→Made the trip back to Quetzaltenango in a microbus-and got a flat tire of course. It really was an easy ride though, and then we all had choco-bananos (chocolate dipped frozen bananas with crushed peanuts) before relaxing for the rest of the day.