Daytripper: Cool Trips. Close By.

Daytripper is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on day trips within easy reach of Xela. This March 2010 issue focuses on a road trip from Huehuetenango to Xela at sunrise by James Gray.

The words to the song “So Damn Beautiful” came to mind during a recent car trip from Huehuetenango to Xela. That’s because Guatemala’s natural wonders took my breath away yet again. But note that this Daytripper is all in the timing: you have to take the trip at sunrise. I suggest you try it nonetheless.

It was still dark when I drowsily plopped into the driver’s seat of my car and left Huehue. Mine was the only vehicle on the eerie, fog-blotched road out of town. As I reached the countryside, the fog lifted to reveal the sun just beginning to illuminate the eastern horizon to my left. The soft pre-dawn light revealed a long, continuous mountain ridge, tall yet below me. Soon, just as the sun was just about to reveal its first rays, the entire ridge was literally glowing red, as if on fire, while a cottony cloud blanket cloaked the valley below in dark-grey sleep. Just above the incandescent ridge was a giant horizon-hugging moon, the bottom sliver also glowing hot red and leaving just enough space for Venus’ radiant final curtain call.

Meanwhile, off to the right, precipitous mountains shot straight up from the highway, their trimmed rocky heads stealing the day’s first illumination as their fleecier midsections awaited their turn.

As the sun prepared its grand entrance, campesinos lined the road awaiting the daybreak express to whisk them to early Sunday church, the women with headscarves and mufflers and bebecitos blanketed to their backs, the men in caps emblazoned Yankees, Dodgers, Kennedy High Pom-Poms. As I motored into rural Totonicapán, the sun had made its appearance but hadn’t yet licked the vanilla Jack Frost-ing from the roadside grass, nor warmed the scavenging pooches’ frosty breath

Still in pre-descent up on the Altiplano’s upper level I caught the first sight of reina Santa Maria and her skyscraping family, clear as bells…to the majestic lady’s left a fresh vertical mushroom cloud blasting from her petulant toddler volcano Santiaguito. I finally descended into the Valley of Quetzaltenango, some areas featuring a screamingly bright blue dry-season morning and others a Golden Gate worthy fog bank. My final panoramic view, in upper Salcajá, was a glimpse of Santiaguito’s ash tantrum, which by then had morphed into a bat-like stealth fighter jet.

Last stop…home, safe and sound, worn out from taking in so many of Mother Nature’s wonders in such a short time. I crawled into bed for a nap, first peeking up at my sturdy, reassuring friend Cerro Baúl, then drifting off to sleep, comforted by the warm morning breeze. So damn beautiful.

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