Nebaj to Todos Santos


Pueblo in the Altiplano.Pueblo in the Altiplano.Pueblo in the Altiplano.

I guess there is no sense trying to move all those rocks -- there are no farms here, just livestock.
Todos Santos was the last and most interesting town I visited as part of a six-day trek from Nebaj to Todos Santos, with Quetzaltrekkers, which is located in the back of Casa Argentina in Xela (Quetaltenango). This blog is mainly a cursory account of my trip and a review of the trek.


I definitely wanted to get into the Guatemalan highlands, not only for the scenery, but because this area was so deeply impacted by the civil war. I met some travelers who went to Nebaj on their own, and they seemed pretty disappointed. There isn´t much there to see; however, the four or five hour trip to Todos Santos might be worth it, as it´s an interesting, proud, vibrant town.

QT calls this a six-day trek, though it´s really only four, with two days of bus travel. This made me hesitant to do the trip, but they seem to have it down to a science, and the first and last days have just five hours of travel apiece, which isn´t terrible. They travel by chickenbuses and colectivos to keep costs low, so don´t expect to be comfortable.

Dog and MeDog and MeDog and Me

The second night we slept on the floor of a one-room school.

The scenery is pretty spectacular. The altiplano, while harsh and unforgiving, is like hiking in a fantasy novel. This was the case especially on the second day of walking. We woke up very early (3:30 AM) to begin the difficult ascent to the altiplano. After watching the sunrise with breakfast, we climbed into a completely different environment that was covered with boulders and colorful vegetation. The views were expansive -- we could see all the major peaks around us, including the lightly erupting Santa Maria.


Our group had seven clients and three guides. I´ve mentioned in another blog that the guides work extremely hard to please everyone, and their weekly schedules are pretty daunting. All of the foreigners are volunteers, and they really never get a day off. Basically, clients pay reasonable prices for the trek, the guides volunteer their services, and most of the money goes to help local children.

This hike always has a local guide who helps, and Santi told stories about the area -- particularly about the civil war -- all along the way. He also encouraged family patriarchs and matriarchs to talk to us about their experiences and what life is

From the Altiplano, there are views of Volcan Tajulmuco, Santa Maria, and several other peaks.
like there.

When I got a stomach bug on the third day of the trek, Irma (one of the guides) walked slowly with me and didn´t pressure me to make the decision to give up. Once I realized I just couldn´t walk anymore, they found and arranged for a minibus to take me from the road to the next town. Andrew, a guide who is in school to be an EMT, went with me and took care of me, giving me medicine when my fever got high, and encouraging me to drink water and to rest. The accommodations were pretty uncomfortable because we weren´t close to civilization, but their help got me through the worst of the stomach bug. They were professional and gave me more attention than I needed.


For this hike, we stayed with families and ate at local comedors along the way. Don´t expect these accommodations to have any luxuries. Most don´t have showers, but the guides arranged some time for us in local temascals -- Mayan saunas. The food was pretty basic (think Tamales) and when they had beds, the mattresses were very old and pretty disgusting. After a long day walking, I didn´t care much, and the rest of the group handled it well, but I could see it getting to some people. In some ways, it was better to sleep on the floor on my air mattress. Some of the toilets are pit toilets, and we basically lived side by side with the families, and their many animals, including chickens and pigs. During the rainy season, everything is covered in mud and muck. The area is quite poor, so there isn´t really any option other than living as the people do, which in a way, is part of the experience.


I highly recommend taking your own backpack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad on the trip. Otherwise, you´ll be stuck with their equipment, which is pretty poor. The equipment, as well as their packing philosophy, follows an antiquated style of backpacking, when heavy internal-frame packs were designed with ample padding to make the asinine weight on one´s back as comfortable as possible. I had a hard time getting everything into my small, ultralight pack, and it was an adjustment to carry so much on what I thought would be a trek from village to village, eating at comedors

All of the men in Todos Santos wear these candy-striped pants.
along the way.

There are more photos below.

Additional photos below
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