Read this if you enjoy ranchera versions of Hotel California, if you like climbing volcanoes at 5am, or jumping off climbs into ancient Mayan lakes. Or read it for the secret location of the best burrito place in Guatemala or perhaps if buried somewhere deep inside you too have a sense of adventure and a little bit of energy.
A sense of adventure and a little bit of energy. That’s all lonely planet listed under the prerequisites to climb Volcano San Pedro, one of the three that rises up from Lago Atitlan. Somehow, I doubted that was all it took as the lake sits at a little under 1600m and the cumber, the top of the volcano is buried by a heavy cloud layer at 3020m. But, after three weeks of smog, and Guate City, I was ready to get out. And an invitation from Tommy, a friend I meet last weekend at the beach, to get some fresh air helped to seal the deal.
The trip worked out well into my workplan. This morning I had to be in Aldea Nimasac to start working to implement the Cerise Questionnaire (a questionnaire that works to measure the social performance of microfinance institutions) with Asociación ASDIR, another microfinance organization in Guatemala. And Aldea Nimasac is a part of Totonicapan which lies an hour away from Quetzaltenago (nickname Xela): so I caught a ride with the executive director of FAPE´s family to Xela on Friday, and made my way to the Lago Atitlan from Xela with Tommy early Saturday morning.
We got to Panajachel, the largest town on Lago Atitlan, (by the way, I was originally going to name this post something along the lines of traveling to places I can´t pronounce but decided to go with the Tolkien quote to reflect my journey as a wandering Kiva fellow) on Saturday and immediately made our way over to San Pedro which lies at the base of the Volcano. We took another lancha (small transport boats on the lake) to San Marcos—home to more foreign hippies than Guatemaltecos, and make our way to some cliffs that Tommy discovered the last time he was there.
We hiked past half a dozen long-term meditation centers and yoga places and finally got to the cliffs rising a good 12m out of the lake (for all us Americans a good 35ft). And jumped off into the warm waters of Lago Atitlan.
On the way back, we stopped at Moonfish for some burritos. Possibly the freshest, tastiest burritos in Guatemala (perhaps California as well). I had a falafel burrito (don´t laugh there is a huge Israeli community around the lake) with homemade salsa, super fresh veggies, homemade tortillas and the best falafel I have ever had (yes, better than Israel). All with the best cup of coffee I have had since Colombia: the coffee plants grew out back and they did all the drying and roasting of the beans on site! French pressed for maximum deliciousness. Needless to say, we returned the next day for some breakfast burritos and nachos—that for sure would have topped Lily´s in Malibu if they had bacon.
Fast forward to 5am. I dragged myself out of bed and threw on my Merrills. We still couldn´t see the top of the Volcano San Pedro, but having located the trailhead on Saturday, we grabbed our headlamps and made our way through sleepy San Pedro to begin our ascent. At the trailhead two natives stamped our hands and made us aware that it was 100Q a piece to climb the mountain with a guide. “And without one?” we asked. “The same.” I panicked I brought only 50Q for a meal after, but Tommy thankfully had enough. I thought they were going to send us the 300m down to the town to get the money if we didn´t have it.
I´ll let the videos tell the story of the climb as I was a little too out of breath to say much. 1400m is a way to climb and most of the time it was stairs straight up. The climb was even a bit harder because I was coming from Guate City. Thankfully, we had homemade banana and chocolate bread that we bought in town for around a dollar waiting to be consumed at the top.
And now, I´m here in ASDIR. Over the weekend, the combination of the climate change and being around some people with the flu caused me to be a little under the weather today, but I´m hoping it gets knocked out by some good sleep and some delicious caldo de res a little later today.
Until next time, your wandering Kiva Fellow.