Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Western Highlands Mayan Trail

The rains stopped and the sun finally came back out, which opened the perfect window for us to get a few folks out on our 3 day trek retracing the ancient Mayan trade routes connecting the Maya of the Lake Atitlan basin to those of the Quetzaltenango Valley. This walk crosses mountains and ridges used by the Highland Maya for centuries.

Leaving the Atitlan basin behind we pushed high up into the altiplano to an area locally known as Alaska. This cold, windswept, high mesa is named after its northern neighbor because of its climate. Much of this walk traverses the ridges at more than 10,000ft that seperate the lake from the rest of the western highlands.

"Las Siete Cruces" or the ridge of the 7 crosses is the backbone of this ridge system and offers up enormous views off each side. Legend has it that these crosses honor fallen Guerrilleros from Guatemala's long infamous civil war. The ridge passes through rare intact stands of virgin Pinabete forests which is a type of Pine endemic to Guatemala and in danger of extinction.

The views from the Las Siete Cruces campsite to the West has you staring down the dormant sentinel giant of Santa Maria volcano with its active neighbor which can often be seen letting out a puff of smoke after and eruption.

To the East the views from our campsite is of the Lake Atitlan Basin and the Volcanoes all the way back to Antigua. On a clear night with a little luch you can see fuego volcano giving off one of its signature lava shows.

On the third day of the trek we dropped down off the ridge skirting Zunil Volcano on our way to Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings. The trail down is pretty tough as it drops quite steeply from nearly 11,000ft., through lush bamboo forest down to the pools. The sounds of the fiesta coming from the hotsprings and knowing a long hot soak was going to heal sore muscles kept us going.
A cold beer and soak was the perfect way to end this trip.

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