Posts in this series
  1. Trek to El Mirador, Guatemala: Part 1, Day 1
  2. Trek to El Mirador, Guatemala: Part 2, Day 2
  3. Trek to El Mirador, Guatemala: Part 3, Day 3, 4 & 5

21 Feb 2008

We get going this morning around 08:30. Today’s 4 hour hike was unremarkable. The less-traveled trail did not have the sapling stumps nor the pervasive mud of the previous days. The other group headed back to Tintal today, as they had the 5 day/4 night tour. We have the 6 day/5 night tour and spend tonight in Nakbe.

Many chultuns on near the trail today. They are cisterns or cellars the Maya used for storage. They have an opening about a foot in diameter. You can see the ones without their lids. I wonder how many still have their lids and remain undiscovered?

Chultun, ancient Maya underground storage chamber

Chultun, ancient Maya underground storage chamber

The hiking was easy as we walked along the sacbe from El Mirador and Nakbe.


We made it to Nakbe camp by 12:30. It feels more open and spacious than Mirador – nice breeze blowing. We are the only tourists here. Eating soon after we arrived , we then explored Temple 1 by ourselves. After the expanse of Mirador, the Temple 1 complex seems almost quaint. Its scale is much smaller and has a cozy feel to it. Nakbe I like. It has the feel of a place one would live.
Around 17:00 Eladio took us to a group of structures east of the camp. Now it was only Eladio and us. The guards didn’t talk with us. Now looking at other’s photos of Nakbe, there’s a number of things he did not show us. And for what he did, no commentary. We saw a larger pyramid that didn’t seem to have a way up to the top, and another one which did. We climbed the second one.

But sunset was approaching, and we wanted to view it from Temple 1, so we scurried down one pyramid only to scramble up another. It’s a unique experience, having a Maya pyramid all to yourself for sunset. We saw the other pyramids we surmounted on the horizon.

H figured something out today: Eladio does not like to talk with her. He tries to talk with me, even though I do not understand him, rather than talking with H, who does (mostly). He’s a traditional dude, so talking with a woman who is not his wife may be uncomfortable for him. Who knows. But at least now we know how we can communicate. However strangely and telephone-game-like.

Last night Eladio was up late taking with the guards that I tipped with whiskey. So we had a difficult time staying asleep. And tonight is barely better. They set up our hammocks inside the guard’s kitchen. Sleeping in a hammock is uncomfortable. The hammocks themselves are cotton canvas, which retains much of the humid air and your sweat from the previous night.

But Tintal was the highlight of our trek. The small size of the city coupled with the few folks that were there gave it a magical aura.

  • Breakfast: plantains
  • Lunch: bread, marmalade
  • Dinner: spaghetti and a light tomato sauce
  • Hiking: 9 miles, 3 hours 30 minutes

22 Feb 2008

Easily the hardest day of trekking that we’ve ever done. Like in our lives. We hiked for eight hours straight with only a 10 minute break. My calves are killing me still, and we arrived over 2 hours ago. Technically, it wasn’t as difficult as day 2 — not much mud or sapling issues. But it was longer and had more of a trudge factor.

No longer are the scattered small ruins novel and exciting. No longer are there large lost cities to explore. It’s just a hard days slog through a neverending jungle with nothing of interest except getting to the end. And there’s not much else of say.

A shower will be nice, but I’m most looking forward to a flat bed. As a stomach-sleeper, there’s not much comfort to be found in a hammock. This is the worst sleeping of my life.

Today, this is just like summer camp: heat, humidity, damp canvas, bugs, woods. Just like summer camp, but without the fun.

  • Breakfast: eggs, beans, tortillas
  • Lunch: bread, maple syrup, eggs, beans
  • Dinner: meat stew, rice, cucumbers, pineapple
  • Hiking: 21 miles, 8 hours

23 Feb 2008

After the other ruins that we have seen, La Florida isn’t all that. There’s a structure that seems to be mostly still standing, complete with an intact interior. There’s a fairly good set of low structures, replete with their own set of looter’s trenches. Oh, and a stela of some sort.

At the beginning of the trek we would have been thrilled to come here. And the setting is very pleasant and (as the name would suggest) floral. But truth be told, at this point we’re kinda burned out on ruins, La Florida’s just not all that impressive, and the longer we explore the longer we don’t get back to a flat bed and a warm shower. So after 30 minutes, we continued to Carmelita.

I think Eladio had run out of marijuana some time yesterday. Today there was nothing slowing him down. Never one to give a break unless asked (and we never asked) he spent most of the morning out of sight far in front of us.

Even though is was less than four hours, I don’t think I’ve been on a longer hike. Nothing particularly hurt, and the trail was better than normal. But the miles passed s-l-o-w-l-y. But eventually the path lead to the bleak landscape of Carmelita. And even better, the minibus was already there waiting for us.

Back to Carmelita, 6 days later

Back to Carmelita, 6 days later

I wouldn’t say there was much sentimentality in out parting from Eladio: I’m pretty sure that he was as ready to be rid of us as we were of him. But he was a damn good cook, and that at the very least deserved a generous tip. I gave him 500Q and two bottles of whiskey we had. Characteristically, he immediately opened a bottle and drank down a couple of gulps. He offered some to me, which I tried. A “muchos gracias” later, and we pulled away from the store, leaving Eladio and his whiskey to the rest of their day.

  • Breakfast: chorizo, beans, tortillas
  • Hiking: 7 miles, 3 hours 30 minutes