Rue du Pourquoi Pas

Parce qu’il y a toujours une route qui, quelque part, m’attend.
Carnets de route, photos de voyages, et pensées vagabondes.

Écrit par : Sébastien ChionFebruary 9th, 2016
82 English

I don’t understand people who avoid chicken bus. People who prefer to book private shuttles, air conditioned mini bus where you don’t have to share your seat. I saw so many people booking shuttles that would cost them a fortune, while disconnecting them from the country they are traveling in…
I’m laughing in the chicken bus who brings me to Xela (Quetzaltenango). Laughing while the driver drove at top speed on the mountain roads. As I explain to Megan, no choice: you laugh or you’re scared to death. As I know that everything will be fine, that nothing will happen to me in Guatemala, I’m laughing.
Megan? Megan is from Lac St Jean, Quebec. But she lives in Alberta with her boyfriend. She left for six months on the road, after quitting her job. I exchanged a few words with her the night before. A little more this morning. She wanted information on the hikes around Lake Atitlan. So I gave her a few tips, before explaining what I was about to do. She looked at me with big eyes. Soon after, she was checking a website to get some additional information. A little later, we booked two beds in a dormitory in Xela. Before jumping into a boat, and to continue with three chicken buses. We dropped our backpacks in a hostel without interest, then we went to Quetzaltrekkers to attend the briefing.
And there, of course, another explanation is necessary. Because for a little more than a month, I haven’t really talked about my projects on my blog. I live in an amazing “here and now”. In a few days, Lilou will arrive. Five, I think. Less when I’ll have a computer to copy all …
Give back to Boulette what belongs to Boulette: it seems that she was the first one to talk to me about Quetzaltrekkers. I am willing to believe. Subsequently, I find their name repeatedly. And I found myself on their website fairly regularly.
Quetzaltrekkers is a one of a kind organization, based in Xela. A non-profit, which organizes hikes in the Xela region. Guides are all volunteers, and all the profits are donated to a local school and a home for children. The project is beautiful. I like it. I like the idea too. This is the kind of project that makes you want to spend some money …
There is an interesting logic behind all that. I want to stay in Guatemala. I love taking care of people, making sure they have the best experience possible… I want to work as a guide since I’ve been following Cassy in Uluru. And that’s one reason why I want to become trilingual. Add to this that I love hiking, and the conclusion seems to me quite obvious. I ordered a pair of hiking boots. Lilou will bring them to me on sunday. My current shoes are correct. Unless I start to climb to 4222 meters regularly. Yes, I’ll meet Quetzaltrekkers see if the I like them, if I like their organization, and then see which way the wind blows! But yes, I’m strongly considering to become a volunteer guide. Things are seting up in a way that pleases me enormously.
We are 14 to attend the briefing. Plus three guides. Quick table tour, for everyone to introduce themself. Half of those present left her job to go traveling. Some have a sabbatical, in order to travel in one or more countries. As this Dutch couple, who took a year to reach Ushuaia, from Canada. In a van… I do not feel out of my place in the middle of all these people. I rather have this pleasant impression of being a normal person in the middle of other normal people. Much to my place than at the Iguana, indeed …
We start on the following day around 7:30 am, after a collective breakfast. I can not help thinking that the first step I will do this morning will change my life. It will send me in directions which I didn’t really think about only two months ago… I’m about to attack a wonderful hiking … and a wonderful future at the same time!
We start with twenty minutes of town walk, in order to catch a chicken bus that will take us half an hour later in the small village of Secam. And then, everyone takes his backpack with the same joyful mood. We’re going for two and half days. Forty-two kilometers of hiking. About 800 meters of elevation gain, 1800 vertical drop, through the Guatemalan countryside. Objective: Lake Atitlan.

A little worried at first about the idea of being in a big group, but also because of my physical condition, I realize we are going in a very leisurely pace. Almost too quiet, at the end. I was expecting to find myself at the end of the pack, with my pace usually relax. But I find myself talking in the lead group. Stops are frequent. I would do less if it were up to me. But it allows everyone not to get exhausted.

The first part of the hike is uphill. We need to get out of the bowl where Xela is. Perfect to discover the landscape. The Santa Maria, in the foreground, some smoke from Santiaguito (one of the most regular volcanoes in the world) and far, far away, down at the bottom, the Tajumulco. I had a missed appointment with the Santa Maria. Quetzaltrekkers organize treks to the summit every full moon. The last one had to be canceled, but it is only a postponement. I do have an appointment with the Santa Maria. But I mostly looking forward the Tajamulco. We both agree with Lilou: it would be a shame to pass right next to the highest peak in Central America (further more a volcano), and not go to visit him. This looks like a fun project. Just as the idea of us crossing the symbolic line of 4,000 meters. Yes, I continue to pretend to be frustrated by this 3986 meters in Yosemite! And if all goes well, therefore, it will be my first in a long line of ascent!


Santa Maria in the foreground, smoke Santiaguito, and in the back, the Tajamulco

We continue to climb. The landscape changes suddenly. We arrive on the top, in the field, before crossing the first village.

We are at 3080 meters. My lungs are laughing. Everything is fine. San Pedro was a good trial! And from now on, we go down!


From the summit, we still see the Santa Maria and the Tajamulco on one side but on the other side appear the San Pedro, Atitlan and Toliman. And further back, Fuego, Acatenango and Agua. Yes, I also have an appointment with the Acatenango (2000 vertical meters) and Atitlan.


The descent unveiled even more magnificent sceneries. Each one better than the other. We have a few glimpse on the lake in the distance. The landscape is beautiful. So beautiful that I’m back with this very bad habit of mine of being wordless.

We paused a little later for lunch. I look at the guides spreading all the food that we’ve been carrying in our bags. All this makes you hungry. And it’s delicious. Quetzaltrekkers scores! Because the food, sometimes in organized hikes, is rather limited. There, it is clearly far from being the case!


We attacked the final stage of the day. Another hour of descent before reaching a road. Another hour later, we arrived at our destination.

We are staying in a big house. Mattresses spread out in several rooms. Andrew, one of the guides explained me that before the group settled in the school. And then a woman from the village decided to invest her money. Without telling anyone, without saying anything, she built this great building. Then she went to Quetzaltrekkers, and offered them to stay home instead. She took the risk to do it on herself without telling anyone before.

We are in Guatemala. I am in Guatemala. Finally ! I am no longer at the Iguana. For two days, I can finally see the country I want to visit. I’m waiting for Lilou to see more, but I wanted / needed a little insight anyway.

I sit on the ground, watching the guides prepare everything. For three months, it is me who have been taking care of others. It’s strange. And truthfully, I feel guilty for not helping. Chances are high that I am on their side in not very long …

Little break. During a ten minutes in a Mayan Sona to relax and bathe. I removed the dust; lose half my tan. I have no cramp to pass. No pain to calm. I was expecting a hike much more difficult.

Back on the patio with everyone. To write my day, not to forget, waiting for the meal. And again to write. Quickly. To start chatting with everyone!


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