“You are my problem trekker,” smirked Lukas in a thick Czech Republican accent. Nodding in agreement, I knew I was their quarrelsome guest. Showing up hours past the first meeting will undoubtedly put a person into that mold. It was beyond my control, due to a nice surprise from my ‘legitimate’ Mexico-to-Guatemala bus company, which preferred dropping me off on the side of a random Guatemalan road, instead of at my destination. Hitchhiking via chicken bus, I managed to make my way into Quetzaltenango (Xela) in time to for Lukas to quickly run around gathering negated gear for my trek. He was obviously rushed time-wise, but I didn’t care, due to his memorizing pale blue eyes and eastern European twang. Czech accents sound similar to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, except infinitely sexier.
Lukas, and a few other traveling guides, volunteered for a company called Quetzaltrekkers. Successfully based out of Guatemala and Nicaragua, this organization is very unique in the world. Aimed at self-sustainability and turning tourism dollars into positive outlets, it adopted the slogan “Hike and Help”. Quetzaltrekkers is a non-profit, based on the help of gracious traveling volunteers. Trek costs and tips are purely donated to charities aimed at helping Guatemalan communities, specifically local children.
Finally, forms and packing preparations were complete, the only obligations left were to celebrate the first night in Xela, and arrive by 4:30am to start on our journey. My dear, hometown Montana friend, Aaron, was the person who invited me to climb Tajumulco, Central America’s highest peak. Rejoicing with Aaron and his Celas Maya Language school friends was much more comforting than I expected Guatemala to be. Before leaving the Yucatan Peninsula, my original solo backpacking base, I was constantly warned of the dangers lying within the country south of Mexico’s border. Xela instantly denounced all prior angst with its cultural soul, layered between architecture of past centuries and welcoming energy. The night of Quetzal-bliss turned into an abrupt morning wake up. If it wasn’t for brown sugar water (dubbed as coffee) and Aaron, I’m not sure if I would have even made it to Tajumulco’s base.
From that point on the only choice was up. The sweaty, steep incline, and hours devoted to mindlessly putting one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, were properly matched with the trek benefits; continuous breathtaking views, a tasty lunch break, uplifting prelusive talks with other trekkers, a random jam-session from locals, and our high-elevation base camp destination of the day. Prior to dinner we hiked to the second highest peak, Cerro Concepcion, to watch the most memorable sunset of my life. There was no distraction from the group, only pure devotion to the distant sun departing its golden sky to dive through a layer of crimson clouds, and dip into a modest crisp of the Pacific.
The awing sets of colors were eventually contrasted by gleaming black and white constellations that took over the sky, this acted as a guide back to our tents. That night transformed into a hard sleep in the midst of Central America’s highest canopy. In a few well rested hours I awoke to the same darkness; a slow kaleidoscope of stars beckoned our grumbling group’s way along the last crater ascent. The top of Tajumulco was nothing but frigid at 4,222 meters. While waiting for the sun to warmly peak over Guatemala’s volcanic highlands we distracted ourselves with hugs, jumping jacks, and the site of Lava on a distant peak.
I was beginning to internally coincide with Jack’s final moments on The Titanic, when the first beams of sunlight poured over the rugged silhouette. Our cold triumph was cheered on from all trekkers, we did not just happen to watch the world turn from this unique location, we fought for this opportunity. Time calmed our trepidation and brought for our descent for coffee, breakfast, and sadly, civilization. We worked down the mountain smiling and satisfied. The decline harmonized my feelings of personal achievement and reassurement of following a rambling wanderlust life. While riding back to town on love-themed chicken bus, astonishment and group-achievement laced our goodbyes to one another. I felt nothing but bliss at how devoted, inspiring, challenging and humbling this world and its various occupants truly are.
About the Author: My name is Jordan, I am a freshly addicted to this incredible passion of backpacking and traveling. Cultural anthropology, archaeology, and all-out adventures motivate me to see as much of this world that I can. I am solo traveler wanting to share my experiences with you, follow me at my new blog: www.jordisphere.com