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The Cuchumantes Mountains

Day two was by far my favorite.  As we climbed higher we passed even more villages, and got the opportunity to really observe families washing their clothes, children playing with puppies and baby piglets, men at work in the fields, women carrying water in giant jugs balanced miraculously on their heads, and of course, families asking for photos and then running away when we took them.

Soon enough we were deeper into the mountains and there were fewer settlements.  Climbing over a pass called 24 switchbacks we descended into a green valley that was full of grazing sheep.  Famished, we lunched on tortillas, black beans and scrambled eggs and took a deserved nap.

Women carrying jugs of water on their heads, in indigenous clothes

Upon waking, Nico realized that we were running late for our micro and tried to make us walk an hour’s stretch of trail in forty minutes- which we just weren’t able to do.  Fearing we may have missed the last micro to the next town, we instead hopped aboard a large truck that was transporting wooden logs!  This was an entirely new experience, because not only were you standing and hanging on for dear life over the rough roads, but you were also trying to keep your footing on the logs themselves.

Eventually, we reached our destination: another family home that had a bedroom assigned for visitors.  This accommodation was of a much poorer standard than the previous night and I mentally shivered when I regarded the makeshift plastic roof that we were going to sleep under, a full 3200 meters above sea level that night.

Brrrrr.

After some rather delicious sweet black coffee and bread that tasted more like a cookie, we walked pack-free over to an area called El Mirador where its possible on a clear day to see all the way to the Volcanoes of Lake Atitlan, Xela, and Antigua.  And we were very lucky, because the sky was relatively cloud free, and one had the sense of being on the top shelf of Guatemala looking down on all else below.

Girl tending her sheep

Dinner that night was a reflection of what the family ate, and what they could afford to prepare: cabbage soup and tortillas.  Though relatively tasteless, I ate what I could and then tried to set about making my bed as warm as I could for what was to be a very cold night.

Hitching a ride on the log-carrying truck

The room was quite filthy and I was uncertain as to the last time the sheets had been washed, so I elected to sleep in my clothes.  I wished I had my zero degree sleeping bag with me- the boys had brought theirs.  Even under four woolen blankets, I couldn’t feel my extremities and eventually asked if Francesco wouldn’t mind getting in the bed with me for some needed body warmth.  I started shivering uncontrollably and just couldn’t sleep as I listened to the howling wind outside.  Eventually, I warmed up and fell into a slumber.

Our room that night

This was abruptly disturbed by the sound of shrieking.  A cat had somehow “fallen” through the plastic roofing and landed on Nico’s sleeping face.  Next, it panicked and leapt over to Francesco and proceeded to claw him as it attempted to jump back out of the room through the ceiling.  The whole thing was experienced in half-dream half reality and I had to verify what I’d seen and heard in the morning, but the story was corroborated.

Again, Nico the guide, after we told him what had happened, was happy in his strange and determined state of denial when he responded “No. A cat could never get in here.”

To which I thought: “Seriously?”

Pictures from this trek can be viewed here.

Where: Trek from Nebaj to Todos Santos

When: 18th of March

How: On foot/truck

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