On a beach holiday, the closest you might come to a local resident is when they serve you a drink at the bar. Maybe, you learn their first name and discover they have a couple of children. Hiking in Central America, especially hiking from village to village, however, provides you with a fascinating glimpse into a culture that is entirely different than our own in Canada. For a short time, it allows you to observe how others live.
The five-day trek from Nebaj to Todos Santos in Guatemala is putting hiking in Central America on the trekking map. While this hike doesn’t include any volcanoes, you climb to the country’s highest non-volcanic point. At over 3,800 metres above sea level, the view is arresting. Across a broad expanse, dotted with puffy cloud islands, we seemed to look down on a long line of volcanoes, one of which was active. Smoke billowed into the clear blue skies as the volcano grumbled. No one could predict when it would blow and how violent the explosion would be. Personally, I was pleased to be some distance away.
We took time to enjoy the view as it had been a three-hour, 1000-metre long climb at altitude-sickness heights to reach it.
For this trip, we stayed each night in a different village in comfortable beds. We ate our meals with the Quiche people who inhabit this part of Central America. Dressed in traditional costumes, petite, hard-working women made our meals while also attending to a bevy of children, and shooing a cat or a dog or even a turkey from underfoot. The home-style cooking was perfect after our strenuous days and we gobbled it down with relish. Each morning, we set off filled to the brim with scrambled eggs, beans and sweet hot coffee. And, of course, hiking in Central America meant we feasted on stacks of steaming-hot corn tortillas.
Diego, our local guide, described the brutal civil war as we stood in a clandestine, unmarked cemetery near the village of Xexocom. Below our feet, Diego told us, were the remains of more than 400 locals inhabitants who had been murdered and dumped into a large pit.
I highly recommend this trip for curious people willing to experience high-altitude walking. It offers great hiking as well as that inside-out glimpse of Guatemala. As hiking in Central America goes, it doesn’t get any better.
I completed the “hut-to-hut” version of this trip. If you prefer, Old Town Outfitters also offers a hut-to-hotel option.
For more information, visit Nicola Ross’s blog: What’s Not to Hike.
Other posts Nicola has written you might enjoy:
- Weekending in Caledon: Hamptons of the North
- Hiking Among the Zapatecas in Mexico’s Sierra Norte Mountains