Daytripper is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on day trips within easy reach of Xela. This month’s article is called: The San Cristobal Waterfall
If you’ve ridden the bus between Xela and San Francisco El Alto (possibly to see the huge Friday morning market – no tourists and no souvenirs for sale) you may have seen the spectacular waterfall on the other side of the river valley from the Panamerican Highway your driver has decided is his private version of LeMans. You can hike to this waterfall to enjoy the negative ions it generates and be home in time for an organic tempeh brunch.
Your fist job is to get to the pure white church in San Cristobal Totonicipan. Easiest is to take the bus to 4 Caminos and walk towards Huehuetenango (away from Guatemala City – always a good idea) until you pass under the huge sign with a picture of the church and a bottle of Gallo on it (which comes first?), then headed left into town. Everyone but you knows where the church is, so ask and ye shall receive directions.
With your back to the church door (do not, by the way, get confused by the less than pure white church – that is the wrong one, probably constructed by a breakaway sect) walk straight until you get to the bottom of the waterfall, 15 or 20 minutes. That’s it – simple, huh? Actually you will need to take a left after you have passed through a largish metal gate at the end of the path (which started out as a road). Be polite and say hello to the residents of the nearby house, and their dogs. They have started a peach orchard so you’ll have to come back in a few years to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Pick your way to the bottom of the falls. Explore the left hand side, looking for small trails, one of which takes you to the Mayan site where you can find remnants of previous Sacerdote rituals. Take a trash bag and fill it up with some of the plastic and glass left behind by worshippers whose requests were hopefully denied.
To get to the top of the falls find a trail on the left side (facing the falls) that takes you up and up and up. If the trail you pick (there are more than a few) ends, turn back and try another. Not to worry, a few minutes of exploring will produce positive results. You won’t get lost, and you’ll get some aerobic exercise. At the top a trail or two continues upstream. Pick your way along, crossing the water when necessary. At the first point where you can obviously not continue doing this, scramble up the right bank to find a well worn trail allowing you to continue. Eventually you can climb obvious trails on the left bank taking you to the town of Pachaj, from which a bus will deliver you back to Xela.
The directions might sound a bit flaky, but there are multiple trails at most points, and a little bit of exploring on your part will definitely get you where you want to go.