In Search of Ancient Mayan Civilizations

As I sit down for my final breakfast of banana pancakes and maple syrup, Pati presents me with a bad ass Xela t-shirt. It’s got all the major city landmarks on it and references the football team, Los Chivos, The Goats. Looks like it’s going to fit like a dream. Pati asks me to write a little passage in her book alongside the numerous other guests of the past who have written in it.

I flick through the book and I’m amazed by how many other students over the years have experienced Pati’s hospitality. It’s a real mix. But this arrangement dates back to 2009. Maybe there is a book pre dating this and it’s staggering to see how many have walked through Pati’s front door. Well if anyone is reading this and they want to go to Guatemala and learn Spanish then ask for Pati! Ella es legendaria!
In my best Spanish I thank the family for having me, for being patient with me and apologising for only speaking in the present tense for the last two weeks. On my very last day we covered past tense in school and I wish I’d tackled this earlier just so I could speak in a different tense. It became very frustrating talking about the past in the present because I didn’t have the knowledge. I tried explaining this numerous times but I never really knew if they understood me. Speaking in public and at home is not scripted and moulded like at school so I always felt a little shift in confidence outside of my safe haven of study. But this is the real world and I’m now equipped to carry on learning and talk with a bit more fluidity. Just not in el futuro right now!

I continue my letter by thanking Pati for all the amazing home cooking, by saying how lucky David is to have a wife who is such a good cook and a special note for the kids. I thank them for making me laugh and smile every day and wishing they grow big and strong. Sadly i did not get to say goodbye to the kids as they were out celebrating Independence Day. I hoped Julian especially was going absolutely mental with excitement about not being in his pram!
Pati left the house to join the rest of the family. Although making bangers and mash for the family hadn’t quite happened, I’m blaming it on the Independence Day celebrations which kind of took over the city from Wednesday evening and hadn’t stopped come Friday, I wanted to thank Pati and the family for having me stay in their house and keeping me fed and watered. I’m sad to say goodbye, they’ve been incredible, and beyond patient with me during periods where my studying seemed to reap no new major developments. It really was a pleasure to live in their little home and experience how La Gente live.

I went in search of a florist. After a few hours spent strolling about in the sun I found a florists outside the cemetery. I picked a bright bouquet of four or five different flowers that looked and smelt nice. I took them home and searched for a vase. I couldn’t find a vase big enough, maybe I’d gone over the top with the bouquet. I filled a saucepan with water and placed the flowers in it and left them in the sink. Hopefully Pati could find something suitable for them.

My next task before leaving Xela was to give my favourite restaurant on planet earth one final visit. Sabor de La India got my hard earned cash one last time. I went for my tried and tested favourite of Fish Nandu and parratha, such a hearty combo! I saw this as a final hurrah and recognition that this city had given me the perfect start to my trip.

On demolishing the feast I ask for the bill, “la cuenta por favor,” whilst performing the universally recognised hand signal of signing a piece of paper. Some how I’m short by about QU20 so i have to walk back to the house to get more money and return. A bit embarrassing but not a big deal other than it takes about 40 minutes and I’m in danger of missing the last bus to Panachal and Lago Atitlan.
I collect my stuff from Pati’s and start the walk to the bus station. It starts to rain. I arrived off the bus with my ruscksacks front and back in the rain and I am leaving in the same fashion.

Sadly I did not get to trek from Xela to Lago Atitlan. It appears I’m travelling during the off season. There just aren’t many other tourists around in which to do these treks with and consequently the cost of doing that trek solo is silly money so I decide to take the chicken bus, save some money and take on another trek at a later date. There’s plenty of volcanoes to conquer in this country, I can’t take them all on!

The bus terminal is hectic, proper dusty and just full of people bustling all over the place. Everyones shouting Spanish at me, “donde vas, donde vas,” it’s coming from everywhere. I’ve got no idea who to speak to. It’s the most chaotic scene I’ve experienced since dealing with an overland train strike in London months before. Eventually some guy guesses my destination. Lago Atitlan is about 130kms south east of Xela, it’s well on the gringo trail so an obvious guess. He gets me on the right bus at a mark up for himself I’m sure. I’m on the chicken bus and I’m ready to settle down for the ride.

I leave about 4pm. The weather is glorious. It strikes me that the sky is extra blue, bluer than any sky I’d seen before, the clouds are whiter and the landscape greener. The colours here feel heightened. No need for any filter here.

I’m happy to stare out the window, it’s some of the most dramatic and picturesque scenery I think I have ever driven. I’m oblivious to the fact the driver is travelling at an insane speed round tight bends which if ill judged leads to us falling off the side of the mountain and a lot of dead chickens!

As the sun sets and my visual stimulus and distraction is removed I start to feel pretty unsafe! I’m sat right at the back of the bus and every time the driver takes on a sleeping policeman style hump in the road it’s like he goes at it even quicker in a bid to throw me out of my seat and through the roof of the bus! It’s a giddy 4 hours. I could be sick easily. I have to hold onto the chair in front of me to stop myself sliding out the opposite window when he goes round bends. I really don’t know how the wheels stay on this bus.

Every so often a guy appears over my shoulder from the back door. The bus is still travelling at a ridiculous speed. The only way this man can make it to the rear of the bus is by climbing over the top of it whilst it’s travelling at nearly 80kms per hour. Surely there are safer ways to make delivery of goods out the back of the bus. Like waiting for it to stop, walking to the back where the door can be opened safely and without having to hang onto the roof of the bus as it travels at frightening speeds round dark bends.

Eventually we arrive at the final stop and I’m questioning whether for my next journey I should upgrade from a QU25 chicken bus to a premium QU60. I like my life and for an extra £3.50 I can keep it!

As soon as the bus comes to a halt I’m straight out the back and pleased to have my feet stationary and off that bus. It’s 8pm and it’s dark. Panachal or Pana as it is generally referred to is the largest town surrounding Lago Atitlán. It’s just a long strip of shops selling fake trainers, deep friend tacos, empanadas and churos. I’m a big fan of churos so I break as soon as i smell the crispy little dough sticks. For QU5 I have myself some piping hot fresh churos straight out of the deep fat fryer smothered in chocolate sauce. I deserve it, I’ve spent the last four hours not knowing if I’m going to see the light of day again. There are times when breaking veganism is allowed. This is one.

I locate the cheapest hotel I can find and crash for the night. The following day I am making the small boat journey to the hippie town of San Marcos across the lake. I wake early and am keen to get on my way. Pana offers very little other than churos!

This changes as I walk down the main road towards the port and the street is lined with small stalls selling unbelievable locally produced threads. Burning Man 2017 flashes before my eyes! I love the Mayan clothes, so bright and colourful and intricate in detail.

All of this stuff would be perfect Burn wear. Practical and eccentric! This place is dangerous, I could spend a fortune on all this clobber and churos. It’s so early into my trip, I need to refrain from buying more local clothing. Financially it’s not in my budget, I don’t need any more clothes and my bags are full, they will not accommodate any more Mayan garments. I make it to the port without putting my hand in my pocket! Quite an achievement.

The lake is absolutely incredible. Majorly beautiful. It’s massive and surrounded by three giant volcanoes. I’m instantly blown away and excited to stay here for four days.

Lago Atitlán is made up of many little villages surrounding the circumference of the lake. Little speed boats ferry passengers between each port. I pay QU15 for the 20 minute boat ride to San Marcos.

I arrive at San Marcos and head up a narrow path way to the town centre. As I walk up the shaded path I notice there are little bill boards with hostels, small businesses or independents advertising everything from permaculture courses to ten day silence retreats. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in this little village.

I head to the far end of the village to Hostel Del Lago and book myself into a dorm for four nights. It’s a class little hostel with a mega decking area that looks out across the lake.

It’s about 11am and the weather is heating up nicely. I decide I’m due some chill time and have a little doze on the pontoon. I wake up feeling a little guilty for not doing anything or having major plans for the day. I try and snap out of it and get back to sunbathing. My days are generally so packed with things to do and places to be that when I don’t have these pressures my head is confused by relaxation.

The food at the hostel is top draw. The beetroot salad is massive and at QU30 is a bargain. I order a side of beans (classic Central American black beans, not Heinz) as I’m worried my diet is lacking a solid protein intake. I also order some scrambled egg. I’ve decided to be a little looser with this veganism diet so not to fade away.

I then make a plan of what I’d like to do during my stay. I should certainly get some Spanish lessons in. There’s loads of adverts around the little town offering language services. I’d like to trek Volcán San Pedro which sits right in front of me as I look across the lake. I’m intrigued by all the permaculture talks and courses going on, San Marcos appears to be a real hotbed for self sustainable living and I’d certainly like to equip myself with some knowledge in this field. I’d love to have my own plot of land which I could live off one day.

An introduction to permaculture is being held at the Fungi Academy so I make my way up the steep mountain sat behind San Marcos village to find out more about the course. It’s a beautiful walk up the mountain side. I’m getting a sweat on. I get lost several times, there aren’t really any signs to this place. I come across a path with what looks like a mushroom painted on a rock. I’m in the right area. There’s a guy a little further ahead so I call up to him. Leon the German confirms this is the path to the Fungi Academy. We walk up together chatting. He’s a funny dude with good potential to grow a blond afro. He arrived in San Marcos expecting to stay one week but six weeks later he’s still here living out of the Fungi Academy.

We arrive dripping in sweat. It’s properly high up in the forest. Leon introduces me to a few other people staying there and then shows me around. It’s quite big with three levels from which to check out the view. The views across the lake are top draw. Leon introduces me to a guy who is running the project and we chat horticulture. He’s knows a way for recycling absolutely everything. He’s interesting to chat to. After about an hour or so he asks if I want to stay at the academy. The cost being a small QU25 contribution to food everyday. Everyone cooks for each other like a big family. I like the idea of spending my days up here catching rays, reading, writing and studying Spanish. Other than cooking occasionally I’m not quite sure how I’d contribute to the running of the place. Looking around I’m not quite sure what anyone is contributing really. It’s just a really cool place to spend your day and at a fraction of the price of staying at Hostel Del Lago.

Leon and a few of the others are trekking up San Pedro, the following morning so I agree to walk with them. It’s getting dark and I do not think I’ll be able to find my way back to the Academy tonight so I am happy to stay the night at Del Lago and nail their mega menu and meet the guys the following morning for the trek.

I settle down to eat a big fat vegetarian burrito at Del Largo on the decking. There is a ridiculous electric storm covering the whole sky line. In view are three volcanoes, Tolimán, Atitlan and San Pedro and there are bolts of lightening going off over the top of all three one after the other, it’s pretty incredible and beats sitting in front of the box after a hard days work back in London.
A little band set up for the nights entertainment and they play what sounds like traditional Guatemalan music with a modern dancey twist to it. It’s really cool and within 5 minutes of playing half the hostel are up dancing. I get involved because it really is fun music and my feet want to dance about to. I have no trouble dancing sober to these Latino grooves. The trouble will come when I venture into more hard core salsa territories. You need some actual skill to dance salsa. I’ll be sussed out as a fraud in seconds!

I get up early to meet everyone for the trek. Leon and two others from the Fungi Academy are there and four others, Mehdi, a French guy, his girlfriend Keristien a US national, Christian a Colombian and Donna an Ozzy who I’d actually met in Xela and then bumped into last night whilst dancing about at the hostel.
We all set off together stopping for rations at the local market. Bloody hell the markets are cheap. I’d say about a quarter the price of the super market. We eat loads and stock up on sustenance for the three hour trek to the summit of San Pedro.

Two of the guys from Fungi Camp disappear within minutes of the climb, they are that quick. This leaves Leon and the four others. After about 30 minutes Leon complains of a bad knee and makes his way back down. We have left what I call the Dream Team. We proceed to the top of the Volcano stopping occasionally for Keristien who has an allergy to the hostel cat where she is staying. Conversation ranges from turtle sex and how long a 2.5kg pizza would be. It’s a demanding trek but the entertaining convo makes for easy work. The trek up flies by and we are rewarded with a beautiful view.

We stay at the summit for about an hour. Donna whips out some really nice Guatemalan chocolate.

We discuss going to The Yoga Forest for the 4pm session. Some of the guys have been up there and are raving about it. I like the idea of this. However by the time we get back down all anyone can think about is food so we go to The Fifth Dimension and demolish an insane amount of food. I blitz about QU90 on a smoothy, veg curry and an apple and cinnamon pie! All really really nice and well received after the slog of climbing this volcano. Yoga does not look like happening today although we discuss meeting for an early morning session the following day. I enjoy these guys company and thoughts of bumming around at the Fungi Academy disappear.

The next morning I rise at 5.15am to make the trek up to The Yoga Forest with the guys for meditation and yoga. True to form we get lost so have to get a tuk tuk some of the way. We arrive just in time for the meditation class.

As we are guided through the thick jungle vegetation the studio becomes clear and the view from within is off the scale. It has to be the best setting on the planet for practicing yoga. It truly is an incredible space. I’m absolutely blown away by it.

We settle down for meditation which is run by Noel, an American girl. I pretty much fall asleep. Not sure if that was the purpose of the session but when it ends an hour later I’m feeling pretty chilled and ready for some Hatha yoga. First I need to visit the bathroom. Wow wow wow! There cannot be a better place in the world in which to do a poo. I could have sat there all day and not got bored of the view! Sensational!

I am conscious that the class is about to start and there are another seven people waiting for me to finish before we can start so sadly I bring matters to a close and make my way back down to the yoga studio.

At the start of the class Noel asks us to set an intention. I want to have fun. The class was brilliant and it’s the most fun I’ve had doing yoga. I’ve not laughed this much doing yoga before. Mehdi next to me almost threw himself out the window performing a head stand, I head butted the floor in slow motion trying to move from crow into headstand and just generally it was really enjoyable with a great energy throughout the class. To cap it off Volcán Fuego erupts in view. It’s unlikely I’ll experience a yoga class quite like this ever again!

The 2 hours comes to an end and we are invited to breakfast. This morning just gets better and better. We are served up a monstrous breakfast of fruit salad, porridge with apple and cinnamon, scrambled egg, beans and pineapple tea. When it’s finished, more gets served up, I must have eaten about three full plates. The chef is a local Mayan lady and I thank her for her great cooking. “Tu eres buena cocinera, quiero la comida, es mí favorito restuarante en el mundo!” She laughs. But it’s true. The food is made with so much thought and love and it comes through in its taste. It brings me great happiness! It’s 9am and I’ve been up nearly four hours, what an incredible start to the day. I feel a great sense of achievement already.

To stay at The Yoga Forest it cost $40 a day. That includes all meditation and yoga classes (three classes a day in total) and three vegetarian meals a day. Based on my morning at The Forest I can tell you that is the bargain of the century! Whilst it’s well outside my travelling budget I will 100% be back to do a two week yoga retreat here because that is unbelievable value to stay at one of the most stunning location I have seen on my travels ever. You could stay anywhere on the lake and be blown away, it’s that beautiful, but The Yoga Forest is extra special. This can’t be trumped I’m sure of it.

We walk back down the hill and are met by a random heard of goats.

Keristien has found a really cool apartment on Airbnb right on the lake which between six of us works out at about QU90 per night. With our own food I don’t reckon this is going to be much more expensive than staying at the hostel so I am massively on board hanging with the guys for two days and nights in our own pad.

The Dream Team are all pretty health conscious and into their food. We make a shopping list and between us we go off and buy everything we need for the pad. Mehdi is a chef back in France so I’m looking forward to tasting his cooking.

The apartment, Paxamax, near Santa Cruz, is slick! It’s got the lot, a massive kitchen, a terrace with hammocks, a ping pong table, a sensational view of the lake and most importantly a hot shower!

We are treated to an incredible sunset across the lake that evening.

We spend the evening cooking. Keristien serves up a bad ass veg curry, whilst Jonathan, Christian’s younger brother, does a mean guacamole to accompany the nachos for the entrée and I do a fruit salad for desert. Everyone tucks in and enjoys the evening at our palace.

The next day we wake to Mehdi cooking up some pancakes, beans, eggs and a potato and onion medley. There’s fruit salad, granola and yogurt as well. All in all it’s a breakfast which rivals The Yoga Forest! The morning view across the lake is not bad either.

We are running low on rations for the final super so after lunch Christian, Jonathan and I make the boat ride to Pana to pick up some more food bits. The Colombians stop for a banana split and some Tinder. I go to the super market and tick off most of the shopping list. We potter about trying to get the last few missing ingredients. It becomes very noticeable the Colombians like to amble about very slowly. I’ve got one eye on the clock because the last boat is at 5pm and we are running dangerously close to this. I still need to book my bus the following day to Lanquin.

I book my place on the bus and we make our way down Guatemala’s most dangerous street for my wallet. This time I don’t manage to curb my unrational thoughts of buying everything I like the look of. I spot some brightly coloured shorts and ask for the price. QU180 was the response. Seems steep, that’s £18. I spot another pair I like, these are QU80, so £8. In a moment of rashness I ask for a deal on both pairs. I don’t need two pairs of Mayan patterned shorts! My bag is full of shorts. My proposal is QU250. As soon as I’ve said it the Mayan lady serving me says yes. I’ve already realised that my negotiations offered a pretty poor saving on my part. My deal saved me QU10. I could not back track now. I handed over QU250 and I’m now blessed with two pairs of shorts which I’ll probably wear once in the desert of Black Rock City before donating them to someone or losing them.

It’s belting down now and I realise we are well past 5pm and my dithering has meant we may not make it back to our villa with all the rations. Luckily there is still one boat making the journey across the lake and we get majorly lucky.

We enjoy one final night together and eat like kings. The Colombians delivered a superb Thai veggie curry! Well played guys!

The following morning I commence the savage eight hour mini van drive to Lanquin to meet Tara and her two friends, collectively self titled as Las Tres Empanadas. I’d met Tara on New Chums Bay beach in New Zealand last Christmas and she was travelling Central America with her two friends. Our paths crossed nicely. This journey was particularly rough because the whole journey was laden with pot holes plus I was unfortunate enough to to get some weird fold down seat with no real back rest let alone headrest. I felt like a new born baby with no neck muscles being thrown about for eight hours.

Eventually arriving in Lanquin I made my way to Zephyr Lodge which is situated at the top of a massive hill. This place gets rave reviews. It’s a cool place, has incredible views and an ace pool. Be warned though once your in your wallet get rinsed! The fourth night free offer sounds good but you will only smash another QU300 on food and booze staying that extra day. Clever, very clever Zephyr. Highly recommend the vegetarian curry on maximum heat level 4. I had it three nights on the bounce because it was so nice and the rest of the menu is pretty poor.

This is the view from my dorm.

We are here to visit Chemuc Champey which is close by. The day trip involves an hour or so of caving which is really fun. Carrying a candle above your head whilst trying not to drawn is quite hard! There’s a massive river running through the national park and we spend some time messing about on the rope swing. I absolutely loved this and somehow fluked a nice forward dive twice.

We then make the small sweaty trek up to the viewing point of the main attraction, Chemuc Champey. It’s a series of cascading rock pools. Maybe four or five of them and from a height they are all different colours and really cool. The back drop is impressive too. The pools run between a deep gorge in the mountain side.

We then go and swim about in them for an hour or so. It’s good fun and a great end to a wicked day. Guatemala keeps delivering natural wonders.

I spend the next day chilling by the pool and trying to do some Spanish study. I’ve not really spoken any Spanish for the last seven days. I’ve been well and truly on the gringo trail and am starting to feel guilty for not conversing more in Spanish. Have I forgotten everything I learnt the previous two weeks?

The following day I travel to Flores with the girls. It’s another eight hour journey. This time we have the mini van to ourselves and I get the luxury of the front seat, head rest and all! We all sleep pretty much the whole way. This is plain sailing compared to other journeys.

I’m heading to Flores to meet up with the Dream Team again and get off the gringo trail by trekking for 6 days in the thick jungle in search of El Mirador, an ancient Mayan civilisation site. The ruins were discovered in 1970 and date back to 150ad. That predates the more famous Chichen Itza in Mexico by at least 450 years.

I’m not actually aware of these facts when I set off, I only discovered this during the trek. I knew very little about what I’d signed up to. The Dream Team minus Donna and Jonathan wanted to do it and had done all the research, my outlook was if they were up for it then it must be good. I really had no idea what I was letting myself in for.

The Dream Team can be seen below during the five hour chicken bus ride to the start of the trek. All catching flies! Christian, Keristien and Mehdi.

Where to start with this!

Firstly I should start by saying it was horrific!

In a brief summary day one felt like we spent eight hours searching for Yoda’s swampy cavern in Star Wars. We spent hours wading through nearly knee high bogs verging on small lakes!

Regularly my running shoes would get sucked off my feet and I’d have to return and fish them out. This happened so many times it started to really wind me up. It quickly dawned on me I was not prepared for this in the slightest. It’s rainy season and all I have in my bag is a cagoule, six pairs of clean socks and a few pairs of shorts and t-shirts.

Three hours in and I’m really questioning what the fuck I’m doing here. Get me back on the gringo trail! It’s ok though, we stop for lunch. But it’s not OK as our guide Maria, a 62 year old Mayan lady, (cracking pins I will add for a lady of her age) produces from her back pack a bag of white bread and some of those cheese slices you get in the US which more closely resemble plastic than actual food. I’m so hungry I stuff about four in my face. But we are all looking at each other wondering whether this is a sign of things to come.

Five hours later we make it to base camp. I’m shattered. We all are. But it’s ok, dinner is due to be served up. But it’s not ok as Maria dishes up a pot noodle and a few tortillas. Tortilla is a dough bread cooked on a hot plate. It’s pure stodge. We look at each other again and it’s clear we are thinking the same. There must be something else, surely this is not dinner. Sadly it is.
We are exhausted and retire to our tent to sleep. It’s a two man tent at a push, not a four man. There are four of us. My feet and my head touch both ends. The French guy Mehdi is 6ft 2″, he’s really struggling to fit in the tent. The other two squeeze in as best they can. It’s a hot, sweaty and an uncomfortable nights sleep. I’m not sure I actually slept. The call to wake up at 5am is not well received! If I had learnt some Spanish expletives I would have let rip at poor Maria!

Sadly this pattern of nutritionless food and poor sleep continues into day 3. On day 3 we find the ruins. I’m so tired that I’m not sure I fully appreciated what I was viewing although the ruins were still being excavated by the archiologists so were mainly covered in plastic tarp. I’m hugely underwhelmed. Here’s the only two photos of note I took.

The trek is starting to feel like some sick experiment designed to see how a group of young, fit gringos respond to extreme jungle conditions for six days on a strict diet of bread, plastic cheese, those damn friolis beans that abound Latin America, tortillas and absolutely no fruit or veg.

Well my own conclusion drawn from the experiment is that I became angry, frustrated and unbelievably tired very quickly. I’d say I was a pretty fit person, I could run all day, but here I am in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle and I’m begging a 62 year old Mayan lady to slow down. I cannot keep up with her. I’m questioning myself here, I’m not far off 35, is this it, have I reached my peak, am I now on a steady decline or is it just the fact I’ve been fed next to nothing of any nutritional value for three days?

Its so ridiculous it’s funny. There’s moments of fun and laughter. Christian has a real talent for imitating the birds and monkeys of the jungle, they love him and as he whistles a pretty much perfect imitation back they respond. When walking in front of him I had no idea of whether it was him or the actual bird or monkey or whatever noise it was he was making. Christian also has a funny habit of singing lyrics to cheesy songs when he hears certain words or phrases which fit into these well known tunes.We have debates, it’s strongly apparent Mehdi doesn’t like the Army. Keristien gives me a great understanding of American politics and it’s complexities which I had no idea about.

Bed time was also quite funny. Delirious with hunger and tiredness we spend at least thirty minutes giggling like small kids on their first camping trip, about what I’m not sure. It it’s clear to me that without this group this trek would have been so much worse. At least the company is top draw.

The insect repellent stops being effective. The mozzies savage any body part they can get into. The head hand ears being really annoying. Red ants take a fancy to me. I struggle to sleep with the constant need to itch my legs to relieve the irritation. Luckily Keristien like a true American is loaded up with meds. I take a trio of anti inflammatories and muscle relaxers and I sleep blissfully only to be woken at 5am again to get up for what I think is breakfast.

As it turns out we are going to watch sunrise off the top off one of the big ruins, El Tigre. I can barely walk, the tablets still want me to sleep, I still want to sleep. To make matters worse there is no sunrise, it’s super cloudy. Chin up, a breakfast of spaghetti awaits us on our return. I manage to eat a plate and then go back to bed for about 10 minutes before we set off again.

At this stage I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone, I am not myself, the food situation has well and truly stripped me of all energy. Every time Maria speaks to me in Spanish I can’t make out a single word. I can barely mange any words in English. She must think there is something wrong with me. Luckily Mehdi does not stop talking the whole way and provides her some conversation.

The original plan was to do a 6 day trek. The fourth day was to be spent walking 4 hours to another site, Macbek, and then 4 hours back to base. The final two days would be spent walking 13 hours back to catch our bus out of the jungle. No one entertains this idea for a second. We start the trek home on day four knowing we are cutting this trek back by a day.

It’s a long two days which feels like it is never going to end!
Along the way we see some cool monkeys. I particularly like the blue morpho butterflies which are really amazing. Much bigger than normal butterflies and bright blue. I love the way they glide and then flutter their big wings a few strokes which seems to take them off at some random angle, it never looks like they know where they are going. I also like the giant crickets. They are bright green but when they fly they have a red undercarriage which is visible in flight. It’s really colourful. Like the blue morpho they are terrible at directing themselves, they constantly fly in to me. There’s also a lot of dead ones on the jungle floor. Had they flown into a tree at speed and knocked themselves out cold?

On day 5 we do see foot prints of what looks like a Jaguar according to Maria. That’s as exciting as it got. The mosquitos and other insects and bugs nibbling away at my body outweigh the enjoyment of this sporadic wildlife.

Alas, the trip did not turn out as expected but I am very grateful for sharing it with such good company. I’m sorry if I moaned more than is humanly possible. Without the three of you I think I might have just curled up and let the mozzies have their way with me so thanks for getting me on the fun bus back to beautiful Flores.

I therefore have some big big recommendations for anyone considering the trek to El Mirador;

  1. Do not use the same agent as us operating in Flores. They have two companies in the town with different names but are are owned and run by the same cowboys. Avoid at all cost Green Jungle Tours. I can’t recall the name of the other outfit but I’m working on it so no one else has to experience the above. On returning from the trek we went straight to the agent to ask them what happened to all the food and to get a refund for the last day where it was physically not possible to walk due to their cost cutting profiteering ways. It was a real push to get them to acknowledge their error. It required Keristien to loose it with them! Eventually we got them to pay for our respective onward journeys. I really didn’t like the people who worked there. Your best mates when taking your money but nowhere to be seen when they mess up. This is no way to run a business and I hope people are wise to them. Cesar especially was an absolute coward who basically left the discussion immediately and went and hid round the corner.
  2. When you do find an agent that is reputable make sure you know exactly what they intend on feeding you for the duration of the trip. Being vegetarian means exactly what it says on the tin!
  3. QU1350 is probably on the extremely cheap side so if you get a deal of this value again make sure the agent commits to decent and nutritional food.
  4. Do not do this trek in rainy season! It’s brutally muddy and the majority of the ruins cannot be viewed beneath tarp.
  5. Wear good walking boots, not running trainers!

So as to not end on a sour note and imprint the idea that I am a miserable, ungrateful old man, I have arrived at the beautiful city of Antigua where I will stay for a week or two studying Spanish. This is the view from my hostel. To the left is Volcán Agua, then as you work right it is Volcán de Fuego (fire) and Volcán de Acatenango. Fuego has erupted seven times since I have been here! I hope to trek Acatenango and get an arial view of an eruption soon!

Next instalment will be shorter and full of cheer and happy volcano trekking stories!
Peace out brothers


One Comment Add yours

  1. Hilary says:

    What a fantastic time you are having. Wonderful. Xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s