Sunday 15th April: Escuela de la Montana - Xela

 After handing out the choc chip cookies to the children in Fatima – even the bad ones. It was time for Stefan and I to pack our bags and leave what had become our second home at the Mountain School. We had some of the children help us with our bags up to the bus stop which was super cute and we had some luck with a Chicken bus that was half empty turning up within 10 minutes to take us back to Xela. We checked in for a two night stay at the Black Cat – Stefan loves this place because the breakfast burrito is included and is awesome! First stop was the awesome restaurant Sabor de India for lunch – the food is amazing there! We took a walk up to a look out over Xela in the late afternoon and got a little bit lost in some farmland which was a lot of fun – saved the day yet again. I couldn’t believe that the tiny track we were walking on was marked as a road! We finally made it safely back down towards the actual lookout where we could see all over Xela as the sun was heading down. Xela isn’t really a pretty city but any city looks good at sunset. We had a bet about where our Spanish teacher lived. Stefan won – so I owe him a drink now, although I’m not totally convinced that he didn’t collaborate with our teacher because I think Tito liked Stefan better than me 😊. 

Monday 16th April

First day out of school and such a weird feeling after 7 weeks! Today was a day for organising stuff. We booked in an overnight hike up to the Volcano Santa Maria for Tuesday and printed some of the photos that Stefan had taken for the families of Fatima which I will return when I go back to school. Had lunch at TanLechugaYo – which makes amazing salad bowls for a really cheap price. Early to bed and ready for a big day of walking tomorrow.

Tuesday 17th April

Big burrito for breakfast and then onto the office of Quetzal Tours to meet and begin our hike up to the Santa Maria Volcano. We were surprised to see another walker for our group – we thought we had paid for a private guide, but we negotiated to get a small discount. The other hiker, Kiani was lovely, but not very well prepared for a hike – and not super strong. She did well though, and the hike up Santa Maria wasn’t too difficult luckily, we took lots of breaks. At the top, once we were above the clouds at 3772m it was sunny and we had beautiful views out over the surrounding area, down over Xela. It was a beautiful sight but really hot and sunny. I was feeling the altitude – or perhaps I wasn’t properly hydrated because pretty soon I had a pretty horrible headache! On our way up the mountain we passed a lot of local people, particularly women in their traditional dress hiking down the mountain which was pretty impressive – most of them were only wearing flimsy sandals! At the top we got chatting with a local man named Abelino who was making a spiritual journey to the top of the mountain to get closer to god. He seemed like a nice guy until he started ranting about how being gay was wrong and that gay people were going to rot in hell! All of this conversation was happening in Spanish mind you so it took me a little bit of time to realise that he was a bit of a freak! To make matters worse, he and his followers were chanting to god very loudly all through the night which made it very difficult to sleep. Let’s just say that we weren’t impressed with old Abelino!  In addition, all through the night we could hear the Santa Aguita volcano – which is active at the moment, exploding below us, although we couldn’t see it because it was covered in clouds. 

We were up at 5 in the morning to watch the beautiful sunrise over the clouds – and it was really worth it! We could see all the way over to Acetenango and Fuego volcanos near Antigua with Fuego erupting every 10 minutes or so. This was particularly exciting because we already had plans to climb Acatenango in the following week so we knew that we would be heading that way soon! Unfortunately, we never got to see Santa Aguita erupting – it was covered in cloud the whole time that we were up there. I think it was still worth the effort getting up there and sleeping at altitude. It was the highest I’ve ever camped! Surprisingly I managed to get quite a lot of sleep – apart from the usual couple of pee breaks. The other two didn’t fare so well, unluckily for them. 

We had a nice brekky at the top and took some more photos as the sun rose above the cloud cover. At about 8am the clouds started covering the other volcanos that we were looking down on so it was time to head back down to civilisation. The walk was much easier on the way down, I just needed to keep my eyes out for the slippery scree bits as it was really easy to slip. We got some nice views out over Xela once we got below the cloud cover. After a couple of hours we were back in civilisation, showered and ready for a huge lunch!  


Hostel: Black Cat Hostel – amazing breakfast included

Hiking Company: Quetzal Tours – pretty good but not very organised.

Lunch: TanLechugaYo – amazing and cheap salad bowls