Adventure, Central America, Guatemala

Lessons I learned hiking with Quetzaltrekkers: Part 1

August 8, 2011

Megan, Anthony and Elise during our hike with Quetzaltrekkers

Sometimes, it’s better together.

Like when you’re invited to take a Mayan sauna, or temazcal. After a day of hiking up to 3,060m with a full pack, that sounds pretty good, right?

The temazcal in Santa Catarina, our first overnight stop on our three day trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan with Quetzaltrekkers was described to our group of intrepid hikers as a cross between a pizza oven and a dog box.

Waterlogged, sore, exhausted and often claustrophobic, I was a little dubious. But Elise and Anthony were keen.

And so us three travel bloggers, having known each other ‘in real life’ for mere days, stripped down to almost naked and crawled on hands and knees into a small hole covered over by a plastic sheet. 

The room, if you could call it that, was tiny and pitch black but for embers glowing in the corner. Elise shared around her soap (I am not going to share what this soap apparently looked like later on in daylight), and Anthony took control of the water temperature while my sparkling wit provided the entertainment.

Without the other two urging me on, there is no way I would have gone in otherwise. 

The power of commiserating

Earlier in the day I’d watched Elise struggling with a full pack up a steep mountainside.

Unlike the rest of the group, mostly North Americans with calves of steel, us three little Australians were unaccustomed to hiking with more than a day pack. This meant we spent most of the three days at the back of the group, not so much walking as stumbling up and down the hills.

And Elise looked just how I felt. Exhausted. Sweaty. A little miserable. And her legs looked like they were going to give out. 

The long slog up to the highest point of the trek with Quetzaltrekkers

At this particular moment we were partway to reaching the highest point of the trek, just above 3,000m, and so the thin air made things worse.

When we stopped for a break, I mumbled to her, ‘I feel like I’m going to puke.’

She nodded. ‘Me too.’ 

Something you probably already know about me is that I am a staunchly solo traveler. While every now and then I enjoy meeting up with people and travelling together for a while, at the end of the day I always appreciate being on my own again.

But when the going gets tough, just vocalising it can make it seem surprisingly easier to bear. As soon as Elise admitted she was struggling too, things suddenly didn’t seem so hard. If we puked, we’d puke together!

Achieving goals

As we walked, Anthony constantly shot questions at me about photography. Although I consider my skills pretty limited, I was happy to talk about something I don’t get to talk about with ‘real’ people very often.

Apart from when it rained, both Ant and I had our cameras out for the entire trek. This allowed us to quickly capture shots we might have missed otherwise.

And with each other for backup, we were able to photograph some local children, an opportunity we otherwise both might have shied away from.

Anthony from Positive World Travel photographs a local girl

We also met other locals on the trail and while often they refused our requests for photos, just asking was a major milestone for me.

And considering one of my goals for this trip is to photograph more people, it was the first step in helping me develop the confidence to approach people when I’m alone. 

Smiling local girl in rural Guatemala

(Never mind the fact that the trek was an achievement in itself.)

So you’d figure three’s a crowd, right? 

Of course, this was a group trek. There were quite a few of us, including the two guides, Bryan and Anne.

And it was great to chat with them and get to know them when we stopped for breaks or meals. But when you’re at the back of the pack, it’s nice to know that there are others feeling the same way you do. If it had just been me with the Super!Hikers, I would have felt a little out of my depth.

So thank you, Anthony and Elise. Thanks for coming along and thanks for never making me feel like a third wheel. Because sometimes?

Travel is better together. 

This is part one of a four part series about my hike with Quetzaltrekkers. The three of us received the trek at a discounted price but all opinions are my own.

Want to read more about my 3 day trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan and about the great work Quetzaltrekkers is doing in the community in Guatemala?

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  • Reply Heather August 9, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Lovely photos as always!! I couldn’t have done that hike with a pack! Without one, maybe, but not with one. Looking forward to parts 2-4 🙂

    • Reply MeganRTW August 11, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      Thanks Heather! It was tough but I am so pleased I did it – am already thinking about my next trek!

  • Reply Anthony @ Positive World Travel August 12, 2011 at 4:42 am

    We had a ball on this trek and it sometimes even better on reflection. Sure the trek was bloody hard with all that extra weight, but it was worth it in the end and it was especially great to spend the time with our new found friend. Hopefully we will bump into you shortly in South America. Miss you Megs!!!

    • Reply MeganRTW August 17, 2011 at 1:27 am

      I think there are many travel experiences that are even better on reflection…like how I hated India the first time I went and as soon as I got home I realised that I actually loved it…! Miss you guys too!

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