Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Trek to El Mirador Guatemala: Part One

I am back from “La Caminata”, my trek to the depths of the Guatemalan jungle to explore the ancient Maya ruins of El Mirador. We walked more than 100 kms in the heat of summer, climbed endless pyramids and somewhere along the way, I discovered my own strengths and the power I hold over my own happiness. The jungle is my Emerald City of the Wizard of Oz, the trek to El Mirador was my search for courage, knowledge and love. This was not my goal, not the expected result, but a wonderful side effect of an adventurous and difficult journey.

I’ve realized there are a multitude of layers to this story and sharing in a linear, step by step way just isn’t easy. I’ve sat with my best friends attempting to relate my Guatemala experience and I get lost in the web of the tale. I try to tell the story from beginning to end, dates, times and places and I end up on a roll about the insects and animals we saw or the food we ate or the inside jokes we shared with the Dutch boys and I forget where I am in the story. Please be patient with me as I attempt to give some semblance of order to a wild and wonderful adventure.

Do NOT Be Distracted by Wild Turkeys

How did I end up in the jungle of Guatemala drinking rain water and wiping my tushie with leaves? A Facebook post of course. Teena Clipston, a fellow Canuck living in Playa del Carmen was looking for a travel partner/photographer to capture the trip and I jumped at the chance. Traveling with a “stranger” was far easier than expected, we had a great click and worked well together. I learned a lot from Teena and I hope it was mutual, we are different in many ways but the balance totally worked for me and I can say we are now great friends after surviving this trip!

Chicken Bus From Belize to Guatemala

Our journey began on a bus. Oh man did we spend a lot of time on the bus. We left Playa del Carmen shortly before midnight on the “red eye” to Belize City and arrived at the border before the crack of dawn. By 7:30 am we were on a “chicken bus” leaving Belize City headed to the Guatemala border. The driver was getting behind schedule so he tried to make up time by RACING DOWN THE HIGHWAY. We heard a long HOOOOOONK HONK HONK and a CRUNCH and felt the bus slamming into a car (nobody hurt!). We evacuated the bus in the middle of nowhere to the stench of burned rubber and asphalt and the heat of a blazing sun and joked about the possibility of getting a taxi in the surrounding fields. TADA, the universe provided us a taxi out of the ether and for $25 USD we were on our way again. 

Everyone please evacuate the bus

We crossed the border easily (border crossings in Belize and Guatemala are a whole other post) and found our Guatemala tour guide Miguel waiting for us. Teena had met him on previous trips to Guatemala so there was a level of comfort immediately. We sweaty hugged, got in his car and continued driving to the island of Flores. We checked into Hotel Sabana at 3:00, making it about 15 hours in transit by bus, taxi and car, my body was aching. We got a good rest, spent the next day interviewing organizations concerned with the conservation of the Maya biosphere reserve and enjoying the sights of Flores.

We're on a boat! In Florea, Guatemala

The day of the caminata arrived and we were up at 4 am to start ahead of the heat of the sun. We knew we had about a three or four hour drive ahead and then we would start walking. We were NERVOUS, excitement and the fear of the unknown, the anticipation was quite a rush.

Yep, she's broken

We did not anticipate the road conditions that led to a broken suspension on our van, but once again the Universal Ride Fairies blessed us with Gabriel and his beat-up pick-up to lug us the last couple of hours to the town of Carmelita. The radio barely worked but the song “Vuela Vuela” played softly as I watched the countryside go by, inhaled the aroma of the jungle and smiled contentedly and sang  to myself. 

¡Vuela, vuela!
VerĂ¡s que todo es posible (vuela, vuela)
¡Vuela! (Vuela)
Despierta tu mente

Fly fly!
You’ll see that everything is possible (fly fly)
Fly fly!
Wake up your mind

Vuela vuela

End part one

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