In the central square in Nebaj, a village in the northwestern highlands of Guatemala, Dave was throwing a disc with a tall guy named Steve. A dozen little boys fought for their attention and their toy. Soon four older girls joined in (you go girls!); one of them had a decent throw and sent it to Dave every time (aww!). Older boys stood around the outside of the circle, looking cool and desperately seeking a way into the circle without looking too eager. Men sat on the church stairs and watched the show. Women walking through the square appeared confused, annoyed, and amused.
|frisbee in the main square|
The kids followed him.
He sat down on a bench. The kids crowded around him. They stared. He stared back.
Steve launched into the funniest clown routine I've ever seen. He made faces, pulled his ears, made his eyes big and small. He made a rock appear and then disappear. He switched around kids' baseball caps. The kids squealed and hung their round, wide eyes on his every movement. The adults around the square, who were pretending not to watch, snorted and smirked. He was hilarious.
|steve clowns with the kiddos|
Yellow: places we slept. Blue: villages we walked through.
We organized the trek through Quetzaltrekkers, an all-volunteer organization that leads outdoor adventures to raise money for Escuela de la Calle, a school and safe haven for disadvantaged youth.
I could go on and on and on about the trek, but Dave and I had so much fun that we immediately signed up for another trek with Quetzaltrekkers as soon as we got back to Xela. So, this will be a quick summary of the trip.
DAY 1: Nebaj
Day 1 was a travel day from Xela to Nebaj. In Nebaj, we checked into a guesthouse for the evening, wandered through the market, and settled into the central square for a bit of frisbee. The women in Nebaj wear slim, red traditional skirts. My stomach was still a bit touchy, so I went to sleep immediately after dinner.
|the ayudante ties stuff to the roof of the chicken bus... while it's in motion|
Right out of Nebaj, we hit the first big hill of the trip. We crested the ridge and meandered down to the village of Acul. This region has a very deep, very tragic history, particularly related to the recent civil war. Seventy-nine out of 80 villages in the region either suffered massacres or were burned to the ground. In Acul's case, villagers were forced at gunpoint to hurt and kill each other.
|the village of acul|
|reminds me of nepal...|
|camping out in the school|
|first glimpse of sun|
|shepherd on the altiplano|
|dinner over the campfire|
First thing in the morning, we walked down to the Pericon River, where we made breakfast and took a long break. Looong break--this group does 2-3 hour meal breaks! Dave and Lisa jumped in the freezing water. Crazy.
|guy on his bike, driving a few horses loaded with firewood|
|thumbs up (then he puked)|
|sweating in the tamascal|
We left La Ventosa with one of the family dogs, named Negrita, who would follow us all the way to Todos Santos and spend the night with us. She does this with every group, enjoying the attention and the food the trekkers slip to her.
More uphill. This trek actually does have more uphill than downhill, which is fine for my knees. This uphill wasn't too steep, and we made good time up to La Torre, the highest non-volcanic point in Central America. Ginny shared a very sad story about Geronimo's family and the village of La Ventosa from the civil war as we looked out over the valley.
|view from la torre|
|beautiful lunch break location!|
|ceremonial putting away of trekking poles|
|central square in todos santos, complete with guys in traje (traditional dress)|
Not happy to be awake at 4:00 a.m. but our bus leaves at 5:00 a.m. The first bus ride is surprisingly comfortable, and we get a very very quick bathroom break in Huehuetenango where we change to a chicken bus. We're back in Xela's bus yard by a little after 9, and back at the QT office before 10. We de-issue gear, swap photos and email addresses, and pay for a room upstairs. Then it's time for a well-deserved nap, a hot shower, and a solid lunch.
|the purple people!|
So, that's the quick summary. The highlights were the altiplano, the tamascals, the beautiful forest descending from La Torre, and the cute little dog that followed us on the last hiking day. More photos from the trip are here. I think they're worth a look!
Gotta run, I've still got to pack for the next trek and we're meeting the group at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow!