XH social manager Sarita does the Cuchumatanes

I’ve just returned back to Xela ‘reality’ from a 6-day trip through the beautiful Cuchumatanes Mountains with Quetzaltrekkers. This trek is one of the best I have been on in Guatemala as it offers such a unique experience walking through remote indigenous villages, many only accessible by foot and the variety of scenery is incredible.

The trip started bright and early on a Tuesday morning with an infamous chicken bus journey to Nebaj, a 2000-year-old Mayan mountain city in the Department of Quiche. Nebaj, part of the Ixil Triangle, was one of the areas severely affected by the Civil War and a target of the genocide operation led by then-President Rios Montt, something we would learn more about over coming days.

The next morning we started the 60km trek, very happy to be blessed with blue, sunny skies. Our first stop was Acul, one of the many towns that was destroyed during the Civil War and population brutally massacred by the army. In 1983, the Government rebuilt it as a ‘model town’ for other towns affected by the violence. After hearing a little bit of the dark history, we walked up to Mil Amores Cheese farm, owned by a Swiss, Italian and Guatemalan. The cheese factory, cows and stunning green fields made it feel like we had been transported to the Swiss Alps.

After a fairly full day of hiking, we arrived in the tiny village of Xexecom for the night where we would be experiencing a Mayan Temescal (a steam style sauna), a simple yet delicious dinner with a local family (where to my surprise, there was a Sydney Olym- pics 2000 backpack on the wall!) and a night sleeping on the floor in the school.

The next morning we had a very early start to begin the 87 switchbacks at 4 am, in time to reach the top for sunrise. Unfortunately, it was cloudy but we felt relieved to have the hardest part of the day over.

The following day started with a walk downhill to the Semuc Champey of Huehuetenango – a few braved the icy waters while the rest enjoyed breakfast.

That evening we spent the night in Don Jeronimo’s homestay, where we heard his story from the Civil War – a terribly moving but regrettably not rare tale. One night in March 1982, his village was stormed by the army who punished the townsfolk for having ‘helped’ the guerrillas. Many were tortured and killed in front of family members. Many Guatemalans do not talk about the civil war so it was humbling to hear such a personal experience, albeit one that was common to many.

After a fun night of relaxing and more triv- ia, the group was ready to head up the final ascent to La Torre, the highest non-volcanic peak in Central America at 3870m, followed by a 1300m descent. Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, I had to get the bus back to To- dos Santos, the final destination, famous for its Day of the Dead festivities. I enjoyed the extra time wandering the quaint village that felt like a time warp.

The final day we left at 5:30 am to head back to Huehuetenango then onto Xela, finishing up in the QT office to return our gear and say our goodbyes. Luckily we were blessed with (mostly) beautiful weather and a great group of fellow hikers and guides who clicked. Thank you Los Huevos and Quetzaltrekkers for an unforgettable week!

This post originally appeared here.

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