Out for a walk beside the Ottawa River in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada!
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Heading to Nova Scotia around August 1st.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hiking the Guatemalan highlands (day 2)

Day two of our six day trip is actually our first hiking day. (Check the previous post for day 1!) We were told that our first hiking day would be not that difficult, with a distance of about 13 kms (8 miles). Only one problem with that.

Remember a few days ago when we did the difficult hike up the Santa Maria volcano? Turns out that our legs had not yet completely recovered from that abuse! However we set out anyhow, in the hope that the person driving the nails into my calves would soon stop! Ruth's legs were not as sore as mine, but I had a tough day.

Kevin, hiking out of town with our group.

Our wakeup call was at 7:00 and breakfast at 7:30am. We had pancakes and syrup with a fresh fruit plate. Stefani and Ruth (both gluten free) had eggs and potatoes. We left the hostel at about 8:15am and it didn't take long for the uphill battle to begin. In fact, by 8:45am we were starting to get well above the town of Nebaj.

Starting to clear up and perfect hiking weather!

Heading out of town. Nice lush greenery!

The differences in scenery as we hiked was spectacular. At times I thought we could have been in Ontario, and at other times somewhere in British Columbia! When we passed through villages though, we knew we were in Guatemala!

Somewhere in Ontario?

Kevin and Ruth. Somewhere in British Columbia?

Three of our fellow trekkers...Lacey, Gitt, and Sara.

Before we get on with more photos, I'll tell you a little about our group. There were twelve hikers and three guides. The oldest of our group was Rick, a 61 year old guy originally from Idaho. Rick was in great hiking condition, and in fact used to be a guide with Quetzaltrekkers about eight years ago. Next were Ruth and I at 51 years old, then Ha, a single gal from California at 37, and then Tim, a fellow from New Zealand who was 33 years old. We didn't really write down ages, but we're fairly certain the rest of the group were all in their 20's. In total, we were 9 girls and 6 guys.

Lots of livestock along the way. Ruth, saying hello to Mr. Pig!

By 11:00am, we made it to a rest stop in the village of Acul. Our guides, Ollie, David, and Lindsey had given us strict instructions not to photograph any of the locals without asking first if it was alright to do so. And to never photograph any children without asking the parents if it was okay. Because it was our first day out, we were all a little hesitant to do so. Having said that, we DO have some wonderful photos of the Mayan people who live in these hills and who don't see many tourists. But you'll have to wait another day or two!

Having a break under the tree in the village of Acul.

Just the other side of the village of Acul, we stopped at a beautiful farm that seemed a little out of place in the middle of nowhere, Guatemala. We were there to buy some cheese, and it turns out that this guy's grandfather had come from northern Italy in the 1920's and started this farm. Now it was a fairly well off operation.

Hiking up towards the cheese farm.

Next door to the cheese farm is this gorgeous property. Hard to believe that not far away are villages that don't have any electricity yet!

Heading from there, we stopped for lunch. After lunch, it was pretty much an uphill climb as we gained about 1,000 feet in altitude to our overnight stop.

We followed this dirt road for quite a while.

Up, up, up!

We were doing okay, but Ruth and I were definitely slower than most of the others on the uphill sections. My calves ached with every step and the pack was heavier than anything we have hiked with before. Still, we were enjoying the beautiful scenery but looking forward to the end of the day!

Finally, a short gentle downhill section. More "up" to come though!

Beautiful views by 3:00pm.

Finally, around 3:15pm we arrived at the village of Xexocom. This village does have the rough dirt road leading to it, but the residents have no electricity. There are 15 families living there, a total population of around 60 people. They have a schoolhouse though, and we stayed in the schoolhouse for the night.

Our accommodations for the night!

If you thought our night sleeping in the hostel was basic, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Now, speaking of basics...you are going to learn how these Mayan people with no electricity bathe themselves. Each family has a "temescal". A temescal is essentially a sauna. They have this tiny little building where they build a fire inside. When it becomes coals, you get inside and mix the hot water that sits beside the fire with some cold water and you wash yourself while inside this sauna. These temescals have been used by the Mayans for over 1,200 years!

We were all invited to try out the temescals of two of the families in this village.

Ruth, getting out of the temescal!

The schoolhouse, and our washroom facilities on the left which were actually fairly decent with flush toilets!

Next, we were having dinner in the houses of the people whose saunas we had just used! One group of us went to Juan's house, while the rest went to a house across the road.

Dinner by candlelight because there isn't any electricity in this village.

With the flash, you can get a better idea of the inside of Juan's house. 

We had beans with fried eggs and tamalitos with a rice drink called atole. It was delicious!

After that, it was off to bed. Why so early? Because we were getting up at 4:00am (silly o'clock!) to do the steep 87 switchbacks up the mountain behind us! Yikes!

It was a little chilly. We were now at 7,200 feet (2,200 metres) altitude. We had hiked a total of 12 km's (7.5 miles). 

Here's a link to our route if you're interested... http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/view/176076860


  1. Great chronicle!!! I was touched by the simple existence of the villagers there. Can hardly wait for tomorrow's posts.

    1. Sometimes keeping things simple is better. Glad you are enjoying the trip with us.

  2. Fun following your adventure, I have a friend that goes to Guatamala several times a year with a dental team and the God's child project. She has fallen in love with the people there.

    1. The people here are very friendly, it is hard not to love them.

  3. Sounds like a great experience, too bad about the pain in your legs thou.

    1. The first day of hiking was the worst, after that the legs started feeling better, tired but better.

  4. What a great adventure. Good to hear your legs are feeling better. You should be in great shape by the end. On the trail map, what do the red and blue sections indicate?

    1. Ah, good question. The mapping program shows the path as blue when you are following a road and red when you go off the road.


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