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