Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Xela to Lago Atitlan: Part 2

My posting rate has certainly slowed down since returning to real life.  By real life, I mean helping Cara with wedding to-dos, copious amounts of laundry, and feverishly catching up on Downton Abbey.  Here's the much-anticipated second installation of our trek with similar copying and editorializing about my GI tract as Parte Uno:

We wake at 6am and gather our things before heading to a local comedor for a big breakfast of eggs, rice and tortillas. Then it´s ‘packs on’ to start the morning´s hike out of Ixtahuacan along the spectacular Nahualá Valley. 

I woke up at 6 am (after having woken up at approximately 10pm, 12am, 2am, and 4am as well) feeling like I must have tread marks all over my face from the giant bulldozer than ran over my head.  I felt weak and was completely disinterested in food and water, a sure sign of illness for me.  My skin hurt. I told myself that if I made it through breakfast without vomiting that I was going to try to hike.  I kept down some rice and a tortilla somewhat tenuously.  As it turned out, another girl who had gotten sick overnight as well and a couple Canadian girls, one of whom started complaining about her back hurting within 4 minutes of beginning our hike, decided to bail and get a ride to our evening destination; I was very tempted to join then and for sure if Tyler hadn't been there, I would have.

When we reach the bottom of the valley, we take a break beside the river and contemplate the second and final major uphill climb of the trek, this time up the other side of the Nahualá valley. The first half of the climb has come to be known as Record Hill - current record: 9 minutes (in case you want to try and break it). Most of the group, however, is likely to climb up at a slightly more relaxed pace. Once at the top we can all wipe the sweat off our brows and enjoy our reward: a panoramic view of the expansive valley.

Fellow trekkers at the bottom of Record Hill.................and at the top.

The nice thing about hiking in Guatemala is that it is standard practice to estimate the length of the hike in time, not miles, and it always includes breaks.  As it turns out, for the first time in 5 weeks, I needed every second of every break.  Several of the guides and other hikers were riddle enthusiasts which, while my brain was nowhere close to being able to solve them, listening to other people ask ridiculous questions ("Was the cat an animal?"  "Were the lightbulbs wired conventionally?") to puzzle through them was a good distraction from my glycogen-less calf muscles.

"Record Hill" was even more hyped up by our guides than in the above description.  It's about a 1/2 mile section of trail that is pretty much straight up the side of a mountain.  Sitting at the bottom, I felt fevered and fed up with my inability to participate in the challenge-accepting that my fellow masochists were readying themselves for.  My amazing husband and I had a plan for him to go up briskly, drop his pack, and come back down to carry mine up the rest of the way.  So, I did what every good masochist would: popped an ibuprofen, started up the hill behind the record-attempters, insisted on putting one foot in front of the other, and refused to let my kind husband carry my pack for me.  Oddly enough, this combination of non-steroidals and self-abuse made me feel better and by the top,  I was housing Luna bars and offering riddles up to the rest of the group.*

We then pass through another highland-village, this one surrounded by acres of cornfields and filled with giggly children shouting ´Hola!´ at the funny-looking group of people walking past. We settle into a picnic lunch in the milpas on the other side of the village before hitting a steep, forested descent down to the Payatza River. 

Sadly, by lunchtime, my stunned pyloric sphincter and misdirected peristalsis made me feel ill once again.  I literally slept on a pile of branches in the shade while everyone else picnicked.  Tyler woke me, kindly still carrying all my water and group granola, and we started the last leg of our trek.  The scenery was my distraction in this time, fantastical like, as Tyler said, we were in James and the Giant Peach.

We spend the next 2 hours criss-crossing the forest-covered river before popping out in the village of Xiprian, where we spend the night. Here, Don Pedro and his family throw open the doors to their home, light up the wood-fire and cook us all a sumptuous meal. After roasting a couple of marshmallows with the kids, we once again unroll the sleeping mats and bunker down in the spare-room.

Needless to say, I was very relieved to arrive in Santa Catarina, where Don Pedro and his adorable family live.  We were greeting with chairs, licuados, and lots of smiles from the family.  I immediately plunked down a mat and my sleeping bag and took a nap in the 45 minutes before dinner.  I rallied briefly for dinner, which went down sluggishly and tasted better than it felt, but immediately passed out again afterward despite the fact that several people were still eating.  

 The crew at Don Pedro's home

Pineapple licuados...

Where we had dinner, where I slept immediately after dinner, and where everyone else went to sleep at a slightly more normal time.

Sadly, it meant that I slept through Don Pedro's grandchildren singing to us - luckily, Tyler captured it on video for our collective enjoyment:

The last segment of our hike featured two types of erruptions....more on that soon.


*That riddle I referenced: A man gets out of his car on a rainy day, walks into his apartment building, and takes the elevator all the way up to his apartment right away.  The next day is sunny, and when he arrives in his building, he has to wait in the lobby for awhile before he can go up to his apartment.  Why?

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