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Hiking to the most beautiful lake in the World

Hiking usually requires getting out of bed quite early. And so, on Friday morning, we arrived at Chico Mendez for final packing at 6:30 am.

We loaded our backpacks on top of the van and ourselves inside and Armando drove us ro the trailhead. Photos were taken, stretching exercises were performed and we started hiking.

With a steep 2 hour ascent. Quite the climb to get the blood pumping but our local guides and instructors gave us plenty of breaks and snacks and encouragement to reach the beautiful grassy plains at the top.

We then walked through tiny villages and really gained an appreciation of lives far different from our own.

After lunch, we returned to the Focus of Inquiry (FOI) and our instructors presented a ceremony dedicated to borders and immigration.

This topic is very relevant to where we are now and where we come from.

We were asked to consider questions such as:

“What is a border?”

“Who has the right to cross a border and who doesn’t?”

And then we walked in silence for 40 minutes to consider the implications of these concepts.

For the last hour walking in to Santa Catarina, we walked in pairs in order to inquire and discuss each other’s ancestry.

When we arrived at our first day’s destination, we were treated to a temescal (local sauna) to relieve the aches from a hard day’s hiking and to freshen up for a great dinner prepared by our guides.

We also had a deep and emotional discussion about the questions raised in our FOI.

And before our rather early bedtime, our guides set the mood with roasted marshmallows and ghost stories. Scarey music included.

Before coming to Guatemala, I naively believed roosters only crowed at daybreak. Some of us realised that is not the case and they pay no attention to the time of day or night. Nor do dogs.

As soon as the sun was up, we set off again on an even longer hike with even bigger hills. And again, the scenery was magnificent, passing through through more villages small and large, through fields of corn and with many small creek crossings.

We really saw a lot in one day and made it to our next homestay in Santa Maria la Visitacion just before the torrential rains came down.

Another well needed and therapeutic temascal awaited us and prepared us for another delicious dinner, this time prepared by our host family. And then an even earlier goodnight as we had a short hike to do before dawn.

This time we arose and packed with almost military efficiency and walked the half hour to a mirador (lookout) high above Lago Atitlan.

It certainly didn’t disappoint and was well worth the early start. Our hosts also made it even more special with hot coffee and a warm breakfast.

We said our goodbyes and made our long descent back to San Juan la Laguna where our bags were waiting for us.

All packed again, crossed the lake again to Panahachel and what was for many, our first pupusas.

For those who don’t know pupusas, you’ll have to head to Central America for these amazing delicacies.

With bellies full, we boarded a pickup to San Antonio Palopo on the other side of the lake for our last spanish classes, homestays and maybe our last yak as well.

Hasta pronto.