Central America | Guatemala – Nebaj, Guatemala
I feel like I just had a taste of a National Geographic magazine. I am currently in Nebaj, the highlands of Guatemala, and completed a three day hike in the mountains. Since I didnt want to hike alone with a Guatemalan male guide for three days in the wilderness, I met a frenchman, Sebastien,who also wanted to do the hike. We made an immediate decision and headed out an hour after meeting each other. We left Friday morning with our guide Santiago, a Guatemalan who speaks both spanish and Kiche, the indian language. When we arrived at Xeo 3 hours later, a small indigenous village of 20 extremely poor shacks, my legs were like rubber.
All of our meals were in the homes of villagers and consisted of a watery broth with a greeny leaf and egg with freshly made tortillas. The houses are shacks with a fire in the middle of the dirt floor with a hot metal plate for warming the tortillas and old cans for heating water. The inside of the houses are black from smoke, with a strong smoke and filth stench, and animals of all sorts run around or are underneath the makeshift little table; chickens, roosters, turkeys, cats, dogs, and outside are the pigs, horses and cows. I couldnt help but wonder, ‘I wonder how long this water was boiled for…or am I going to get some bad ass sickness?’ There was nothing else to eat.
Xeo has no electricity and is only accessible by a 2-3 hour tough walk by
foot. Everyone is dirty, most do not wear shoes. Since they dont have much contact with foreigners, the women and children at first run when they see you, but
then slowly come around, their curiosity getting the better of them. Sebastien is a friendly, spirited 25 year old with long blonde dreadlocks and blue eyes, he is a bit
of an oddity here and everyone stares at him like he is an alien of sorts. We ended up playing with the children, I fell in love
with a small boy named, Jacinto, who had a dirty face but a big smile and hearty laugh. The women wear the typical skirt and tops, however, their head wraps have long colorful pom poms attached to the
After spending the night on wooden palettes on the floor of a a hut with a few blankets,
we made an early start at 6 am to Cotzul. Cotzul is a bit larger and the people are more accustomed to foreigners and able to speak a little bit of spanish. After our dinner, we opted for the ‘sauna’ experience, uncertain exactly what this meant.
Several of the villagers have small huts made out of wood that can house 2 people and a fire. The hut was hot from the fire and coals, Sebastien and I were told to get in, strip down, then use the hot water and cold water to relax our tired muscles and wash. I hadnt had a shower in 2 days, I was filthy from head to toe and my muscles were sore. I was in no position to argue. Afterwards, I was so exhausted, I practically fell into my ‘bed’ on the the wooden palette too tired to care. The next morning, we woke up at 5:30 to start another early day and I opted to ride horseback for the 3 hour set of switchbacks to a small village. We went through
beautiful forests, and the vistas from the top of the mountains reminded me of the back country of Colorado.
After returning to Nebaj, I opted for the more expensive hotel room ($5.57 instead of the $2.75 I paid for a room with shared bath) so I could enjoy my own bathroom with hot shower, double bed AND…cable TV. I hadnt watched TV since I arrived here in Guatemala. Three of us piled on my bed and watched Gladiator in spanish, we felt like we were living like kings. What a change from my business travel days…you really start to appreciate the small things in a third world country.
It is hard not to think of the poverty here and how much we have in our own lives. I am still thinking of my new friend, Jacinto, and how this experience has touched me.