Monthly Archives: September 2014

Climbing to the Top of Nariz del Indio (Saturday, Sept 13)

Hiking to the top of the Indian Nose – A local landmark

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It really does look like a face in profile.

We woke up early on Saturday morning to be ready for a 3:45 am departure to be able to make it to the top of Nariz del Indio before sunrise. Mingo, our guide from last week, was supposed to meet us at the entrance to Corazon Maya. We walked around for a while waiting for him. We had decided to give up and go back to bed if he didn’t get there by 4:15. He showed up at 4:10.

We walked to the town center to catch the “Chicken Bus” that would take us to the start of the hike. We picked up Mingo’s brother along the way. Mingo explained that he was taking another group of people up to Volcán San Pedro today, so his brother was going to take us up to Indian Nose. We were pretty disappointed, but at that point, we weren’t keen on going back to bed to try this with another guide next week. I’m not sure what we will do about next Saturday.

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The hike isn’t all that long or difficult, but to get to the starting point, we had to take a “Chicken Bus” from San Pedro around the lake for about 1.5 hours. We didn’t travel all that far by the crow flies, but it takes a long time on the really bad roads and the very hilly terrain. Plus we stopped regularly to pick up more passengers.

The roads are difficult to describe. There are incredibly sharp turns. One required our driver to back up to be able to make the turn. The driver would honk before the blind curves in hopes of avoiding any accidents. I can’t imagine living along the bus route. The volume and frequency of the honking is hard to ignore. The road climbed and dropped for most of the trip. Add in the infinite number of potholes and areas where the road has broken up and it is a slow but exciting journey, especially in the dark. Sorry there aren’t any photos of the Chicken Bus we rode in, but it was dark.

We got off the bus at a nondescript street corner. There weren’t any signs or anything showing where to go or even a place to hire local guides for the unprepared tourist. We followed a steep cobbled road to the end and then down into a serious wash. You could tell that an incredible amount of water went down this track. There were significant deposits of garbage and vegetation over slick clay and deep (for me) puddles. Plus, did I mention it was still mostly dark? Both Jon and I slid or fell several times. I really regretted leaving my fingerless gloves at the bungalow this time.

Finally, we started down what finally looked like a trail. The trail was mostly along corn fields, one of the major components of the local diet. The trail was pretty muddy in spots and very slick in a lot of places. During our crossing of the only deep muddy spot, I slid off one of the rocks through it and proceeded to get my feet & pant legs very muddy.

The rest of the way alternated between walking up or down along the edges of cornfields and going up steep stretches in woodland patches. The route was criss crossed by lots of other trails. Much of the clay areas on the trail had been cut out to provide sort of steps. It made me think about how long this area has been occupied by the indigenous people. To me, it seemed like these trails had been around for a very long time. People had certainly been climbing up to the top of the nose for a very long time.

We finally reached the top just a little bit after sunrise, but because of the clouds, you really couldn’t tell. We watched the clouds move around and the sun finally peek out. It was really beautiful and well worth both the early morning start and the hike.

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There were two groups of people at the top of the nose already. One group consisted of students from a Spanish language school based out of Antigua. There was also a trio of European women that weren’t interested in any of the rest of us.

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We compared schools with some of the people in the first group. It made me really appreciate all the work Jon did to choose Corazon Maya as our school. We are currently two of six students studying at Corazon Maya. Our classes are held in little huts in a peaceful quiet garden setting. In contrast, the people we met from Antigua were just a few of the fifty students at the school in a busy and noisy city setting. Plus, San Pedro is a lot less expensive than Antigua or Guatemala City.

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The city in this photo is San Pedro la Laguna, the place we are currently residing.

We hung out for a little while longer after the other people had left. I took a few more pictures. While we were at the top, we saw the area with patchy clouds through to very cloudy. It is interesting how quickly it changes here.

Our travel back was different. I was really not looking forward to climbing back up that wash especially without gloves. Jon tracked both our journey to the Nose and our return trip. About halfway back, our guide took us along a different route. It meant we missed the deep muddy spot, the difficult wash and even the very steep cobblestone road. I really appreciated missing all of that stuff this time, but I felt certain that the only reason we went through that stuff in the first place was because our guide really didn’t know what he was doing.

After the hike, we wandered down to the market in the town. It was quite lively and we enjoyed walking among the stalls. It was interesting how many recognizable or unknown foods and products were being sold. The market was really busy with people selling everything from several different types of dried fish to vegetables to new or used clothing to shampoos and the like. We did pass by one butcher and I heard chickens clucking softly. I still wouldn’t be willing to buy any of the meat I saw much less knowingly eat it.

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I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked. Some people didn’t want me to take a photo of them or their stalls. My Spanish has improved significantly, but not to the point where I felt competent to convince them to let me take their photo. Our guide’s English wasn’t up to the level for me to even explain to him what I wanted.

We didn’t wind up buying anything. I do plan on buying a traditional Mayan women’s belt (faja) and maybe an apron (delantal). I would love to buy the fabric that makes up the traditional Mayan wrapped skirt (corte), but the decent quality ones are likely to cost me more that what I would be willing to spend, especially considering the gringo mark-up. If I thought that I would would wear it around frequently once we get back in the states, I might consider spending the money, but I think that is unlikely. Plus the skirts require a great deal of skill and practice to properly wrap and wear.

Once we finished up with the market, our tour guide seemed to be at a loss for what to do next. The next “Chicken Bus” wasn’t expected for another half hour. I wasn’t feeling all that great and didn’t want to eat a heavy meal before embarking on the rough roads.

Our tour guide suddenly flagged down a passing minivan full of people with produced strapped to the top. He packed both Jon and me into the front seat with the driver. We disembarked in San Juan, only about halfway along the route back to San Pedro.

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Our guide then stuck us in a tuk-tuk already occupied by a generously proportioned local woman in the back. So Jon and I squeezed in the back with her. Our guide sat on the jump seat next to the driver. Needless to say, the last bit of the journey is not high on my list of things to do a second time. She seemed very nice, but a tiny motorcycle engine is not designed to haul five people plus the tuk-tuk body over the steep hills and endless potholes. Things that were unnoticeable on the ride over in the bus were now big enough to swallow the wheels of the tuk-tuk requiring a lot of swerving around to avoid them.

We finally made it back to San Pedro. The other passenger departed. While we were driving though the center of town, we wound up behind a religious procession. We decided to get out while we could. We wandered around the local market had a little breakfast before heading back to our bungalow. We went down to the lake to clean our clothes and ourselves. The rest of the day involved just hanging out and wandering into town for dinner at Resturante Indu, a great little Indian restaurant.

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Climbing Volcán San Pedro 

In summary, it requires a difficult 4000 ft ascent to reach the top. You have to leave early to make it there before the afternoon clouds roll in. It is well worth it. The views from the top were spectacular.

Our trip started with meeting our local guide, Mingo, at the entrance to Corazon Maya School (where we live) at 5:30 am. It actually wasn’t much of a problem getting up since I had woken at 4:30 the last couple of mornings. Those who know me well know that I’m not an early bird ever.

We took a tuk tuk to the entrance of the park. Tuk tuks are three wheeled motorcycle engine powered tiny taxis that are the easiest was to get around in San Pedro. Whatever you do, if you come here, don’t hire a rental car. If you can find a parking space, your car will just sit there.

The entrance is not much to speak of.

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There are a few informative placards, but otherwise just a place to disembark and go to the bathroom before heading up the trail.

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Jon and Mingo

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It was only just getting light when we started up the trail. We passed through numerous corn fields and coffee plants. They won’t be ready for harvest until our winter, Guatemala’s dry season. They views were pretty fantastic.

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It was a very long walk up. It was about 3.5 miles to reach the top, but we climbed about 4000 feet to get there. We stopped at a viewing platform at about 1.5 miles into the hike.

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The conditions of the trail varied significantly. I’m glad it hadn’t rained the day before.

The views were great when we could see out beyond the trees and corn.

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We were passed by a few hikers with guides. By the time we got to the top, there were a couple of other groups up there. The views were truly spectacular.

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I was feeling a little sick. The heat and humidity combined with the climb meant I drank a lot of water. I attempted to take electrolyte tablets, but didn’t keep up with the amount of water consumed. I ate a little banana bread (the locals sell it in town) and a few other snacks. I rested and watched the scenery. After a bit I was doing well again. About that time, the clouds started to come in.

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I was a little worried about the climb down. One thing I’ve learned is that going down a steep climb can be as tiring and slow as going up. We made it down without any problems. I drank a lot less water on the way back to keep from making the same mistake again. We took another tuk tuk from the park’s entrance to get us back to the Corazon Maya school.

The biggest problem when we got back was trying to decide what to do first: bathe in the lake or go back out to get some lunch. Getting clean won out after a few snacks at our bungalow.

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Thursday Night “Convivio” Night At Corazon Maya

Actividades
Jueves: Convivio – preparar una comida tipica (tamales)

Jon and I were taught to make traditional Mayan tamales last night. We had a great time. 

We started with peeling boiled potatoes by hand (tricky and very messy). Then mashing them into a dough. The dough was kneaded until soft. A liquified fresh salsa (mostly peppers) was poured into it and kneaded a lot longer until uniform.

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 Jon and I cleaned palm leaves and tore them to the right size. Next, we put a large spoonful of dough on the leaves and added chicken (some with bones), dried fruit, red pepper strips and one tiny chile. We folded them into bundles. They were transferred into an enormous pot  with hot water at the bottom. The pot was placed on the grill surface over a wood fire. 

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While we were waiting for the tamales to steam, almost everyone played Spanish word bingo several times. The winner received a large beer. I won once, but it meant I had to read out the next round.  It was a little nerve-wracking. 

The tamales were really great. You ate them with a fork picking out bones and prune pits and the tiny chile. I ate one of the tiny chiles and decided I wasn’t going to do that again.

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September 1 – travel to Guatemala

We had a very early start to the day today, getting up just before 4am and leaving the house by 4:45 to catch our 6:20 flight to Miami.

The baggage conveyor was out of order at the American Airlines desk so things were a bit backed up, and the unfortunate desk agents were getting quite a workout lugging bags to carts at the end of the counter instead of just moving them to the conveyor right behind them. Emily and I are each checking one bag this trip.

This journey will be my second test of the Osprey Waypoint bags (and Emily’s first). I wanted a bag that I could carry on my back instead of carry by hand, and the Waypoint converts into a very decent backpack and has a detachable daypack on it as well. Very nicely done and the Osprey’s all have unconditional lifetime guarantees. The convertible luggage wouldn’t be great for a long trek, but I would be fine taking it several miles. The idea is something that works well when taking public transport where you might have a bit of a hike after you get off the bus, etc.

Once we get to Guatemala our plan is to take a private shuttle to San Pedro la Laguna. More expensive than using the public transport, but it was iffy that we would be able to make all the connections to actually make it to our destination on the day of arrival, so we are splurging for the private ride.

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