One of the many advantages of serving in Guatemala is the amazing opportunities that we have to see so much of this amazing country. Recently a group of us set out on one of the most amazing hikes I have ever done. We hike the 25 miles between Todo Santos, Huehuetenango and Nebaj, Quiche. The hike took two days and took us through some very remote parts of northwestern Guatemala. We began our hike in an area called the Cumbre, or the peak. It looks like Ireland, or at least what the pictures of Ireland look like. Gently rolling green hills, stone walls, and roaming sheep stretch for as far as the eye can see. The difference is that there is no running water here so you see women carrying loads of water on their heads while their children trail behind with buckets in each hand.
As we wander along the path we came upon little kids who scammered away with looks of terror on their faces and herds of sheep grazing from green patch to green patch. It continues to amazing that in this tiny country, no bigger than Tennessee there can be such a wide variety of landscape and culture. The first day hike entails hiking down one side of a mountain and up the other side. I am not exaggerating when I say mountain, it was a two and half hour hike straight up and by the end I did not think my legs would take me any farther. At the top of the mountain we encountered the weirdest landscape I have ever seen. I would imagine this to be what the world would look like in a sci-fi movie where the world has been deserted for hundreds of years. It was covered with odd rock formations and sporadic trees, giving it an eerie feeling. We hiked for about three hours without passing another human. Knowing you are all alone is a strange feeling, one I don’t think I have ever experienced before!
We spent our first night in a tiny village which consisted of about 10 houses. The nearest road or form of transport was a four hour walk away. The thoughts that kept running through my head were; what if something happens how do they get medical attention, how do they get food all the way out here, I can barely carry my basket of food a half a mile from the market to my house and what do you do for fun. I have to say that I have been in some pretty poor homes but the house where we ate dinner has to the poorest I have ever seen. Even after almost two years of working and living here it still amazes me how people endure.
The second day began with breakfast atop a beautiful lookout over the mountains and valleys that surrounded us. As we descended from our beautiful out look the landscape and environment changed dramatically. No longer were we in the barren waste land but surrounded by lush vegetation and wildlife. As came to the bottom and observed where we had come from I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment. For me this has been a rare feeling over the last year. Although I know I have accomplished something here the fact that the work is never done makes it hard to feel like you have accomplished something. I hope that in the end I can look back say that I feel like I did something!
At the end of the hike there is a wonderful little hotel that makes its own cheese so we settled in for a lovely leisure lunch. As you know I had to buy a pound of this amazing cheese because if there is one thing I truly miss is great cheese!