Siete Cruces

Now that I’m back in Xela, I’ve promised myself that I won’t be a slug, going from coffee shop to coffee shop all day. On my list: some hiking, some meeting with potential ”contacts,” some scoping out potential field sites. And more reading.

I wanted to go to the hot springs about 45 minutes away (where my mom and I visited last year) but didn’t want to take a tourist shuttle there. Nor did I really have the energy/motivation to take chicken buses.

So, I registered for a day-hike with Quetzaltrekkers, a non-profit charity hiking organization with their offices in the hotel I’m staying in. I first learned about them three years ago, from a girl I went hiking with in Perú. All profits from the hikes go to benefit Escuela de la Calle, and a student dorm. All of their guides are volunteers, and live off of the tips they receive. I really wish I had the three months needed to volunteer-guide with them, but alas. Somehow I don’t think I could bill that as research.

So I showed up at their office, right below my room, at 5:30 in the morning, after waking up to firecrackers and roosters a half- hour earlier. As it turned out, I was their only client.

Normally, they require three clients in order to run this hike– but for some reason, my guides decided to run it anyway. Sweet! It would just be me, Ziggy (Canadian, returning home in a month to attend law school) and Yehron (Israeli, returning home in a month to get his Master’s in Media and Culture).

We started out in a pickup to Xecum, a small town just outside of Xela. We stopped there for breakfast: fried egg sandwiches, guacamole, and bananas. Please note the lack of coffee. Not that I’m complaining, it should just be noted.

The first part of our hike went through temperate forest, uphill for about an hour and a half or so. Soon we came to a gorgeous cypress forest, where we stopped for a break and to take some pictures. Whaddaya know, the guides are in to taking pictures too.

Cypress Forest-- Siete Cruces hike

After one more long-ish uphill section, we came out on a mirador (lookout point), where Ziggy and Yehron were very pleased to see that it was clear. I was pretty psyched too, but I didn’t know that it might not be clear. It was so clear, in fact, we could see all the way to Lake Atitlán (a three-day hike away, in case anyone wants to try… I do, but it’ll have to wait until next summer).

View towards the lake, Siete Cruces trek

You can see the lake waaaaay off in the distance, just left of center of the photo, next to the peaks (ahem, volcanoes). The exposure is a bit dark, but I was trying to compensate for the incredibly bright clouds… will have to adjust the balance when I get home 😛

We sat and devoured an entire kilo of trail mix (trail mix!!!!!!). Ziggy and Yehron marveled at how usually that much trail mix feeds 8 people. Clearly, they don’t know me.

They also marveled at what good time we were making. So, we loitered and took some more pictures, before moving on to attack the ridge section.

The Ridge, Siete Cruces Trek

This is a view of the ridge, essentially three hours worth of steep uphill followed by steep downhill; lather, rinse, repeat.

In all masochistic honesty, it was my favorite section. The variety (switching it up between climbing and descending), plus the views, kept it interesting– and kept you on your toes.

The path we followed along the ridge was actually a road marking the boundary between the municipality of Zunil (in the department of Quetzaltenango) and the municipality of Ixtahuacán (i think– in the department of Sololá). How interesting that they use a road to mark a borderland. Along the road, at varying intervals, were crosses. Seven of them, in fact. Hence the name, ”Siete Cruces” (seven crosses).

If I had my handy point-and-shoot that fits in my pocket rather than my slightly cumbersome DSLR which mostly stayed in my backpack, I would have taken pictures of all the crosses. Next time.

At the end of the ridge, just below Pico Zunil (Zunil Peak– the high point way to the left in that photo), we stopped for lunch under some nice pine trees. We were a half hour ahead of time, which made the guides (mostly Yehron) laugh. They told me they were glad that the one time they only had one client, it wasn’t a slow client. Aw, thanks guys!

We devoured a lunch of homemade peanut butter (YUM), homemade jelly (blackberry– also YUM), leftovers that Yehron had made (a lentil-rice-veg mixture that was quite tasty), some more guacamole, and a tomato- cucumber- onion salad. I ate a lot, I admit.

The guys took half- hour naps to make up for… saved time… and I sat and wrote for a bit. The spot was very pretty, and shaded, and would have made a great camping spot.

Following lunch, it was all downhill. No, really. We descended for about 3 hours through cloud forest (beautiful!) and bamboo forest (slippery!!) and over a very few flat-ish sections.

Through the bamboo forest, we started counting how many times each of us fell on the incredibly slippery mud. Ziggy, leading the group, fell 4.5 times. Yehron, pulling up the rear, fell 3.5 times. I fell 19.5 times.

On the 19.5th time, I landed on my elbow and dislocated my shoulder.

I knew what had happened literally as soon as my elbow hit the ground… maybe even a split second before contact, I swear. And, unable to do anything else, I swore. Profusely.

The first time you dislocate your shoulder (or any joint, I presume) it hurts like &%$”!. I mean, really. It hurts. A lot. In the USofA, we’re lucky and you can go to the ER and they’ll drug you up and ease your joint back in to place and give you some very strong prescription pain killers to take home.

Hopefully, you don’t dislocate whatever joint it is a second time… because then you are more likely to do it again… and again… and again. The likelihood of doing it again increases each time, until you can pop it in and out at will.

The good news is, it hurts slightly less each time, too! Remembering what I had learned from the last time, I pulled my wrist out in front of me to relieve the pressure on the bundle of nerves now being crushed by my out- of- place joint.

Lo and behold, that did the trick and my shoulder popped back into place. Woo hoo!

I think the guys were a little worried at first– and I felt bad, because I could just imagine the bureaucratic paperwork they’d make you fill out at home. Luckily, I don’t think they had to do anything extra, since I was pretty much good as normal.

We only had a few more minutes until we reached the hot springs, where we sat and soaked for a blissful hour before catching another pickup back to Xela at 6pm. I think the sulfur’s curative effects will help. My shoulder didn’t really hurt last night, but it’s definitely a bit sore today.

I’ll be fine, as long as I don’t do something stupid like go traipsing up a mountain under the full moon to see the sunrise, or something like that.



4 Responses to “Siete Cruces”

  1. 1 Erin June 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    You really scared me with the sudden introduction of the dislocated shoulder! I’m glad it fixed itself and you didn’t have to be in pain long, ouch.

    That trekking company looks awesome! Maybe next time I can afford an international trip I’ll check them out 🙂

  2. 2 katherine June 18, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    You will have to come visit me when I’m here doing field research, duh!! 😉 I would totally do this hike again… and again… and maybe even again 🙂

  3. 3 kevin July 20, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    is a dslr safe for a foreigner to carry around xela? or will it get stolen pretty quickly..

  4. 4 katherine July 21, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Hi Kevin,

    I haven’t had any trouble (knock on wood) anywhere in Guatemala with valuables. Last year I traveled with my laptop as well as my DSLR, and just took care not to be obvious about them in public places. That said, I walked around both Antigua and Xela with my DSLR around my neck.

    As long as you don’t leave your camera sitting around somewhere, you’re not likely to get it ripped off your neck or even out of your bag… if your bag is on you. I’d say general big-city common sense applies.


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