Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Death by Laguna Chicabal

ICA took a group trip to Laguna Chicabal this weekend. We didn't go with them, but we did go solo Sunday afternoon. Rebels, we know.

The lagoon is about a 40 minute ride outside of Xela, but took us a little longer as it seems that we hit San Martin right in the heart of market day. Before getting on the bus we told the driver we needed to get off at the entrance to the town that would take us to the lake, so the bus made a special stopjust for us. It must have been entertaining to watch the 2 grigos squeeze (because there is barely an aisle, there are so many people shoved in - a whole other blog!) out of the chicken bus on the side of a highway.

The weather had been nice when we started, but started to look a little foggy, like a storm was rolling in. Oh well, we carried on. So we had heard the hike was uphill, but what we experienced was seriously riduculous. The whole thing was uphill. And not a winding uphill walk like we are used to with the mountain trails in Colorado. Straight up. We are seasoned hikers and it did a number on us! When reached the entrance to the lake - a good 5 km. into, it was obvious it was going to storm. We paid the entrance fee at the ¨museusm¨ entrance and continued on......only another 2km. or so uphill. The remainder of the hike weaved in and out of the trees and there was a place to stop and listen to sound of the birds. By the time we arrived at the lake, the rain had officially began.

Laguna Chicabal is set in the cone of the Chicabal volcano. The lake is known for the Mayan religious rituals that occur there quite often, especially during the month of May when there are ceremonies that mark the fiesta of the Holy Cross. It is thought to be a sacred place and entering into the water is forbidden. Mayans believe anything that enters the water does not leave. There weren´t any ceremonies happening while we were there but we did see the remants of what must have been something earlier in the week - a cross at the water´s edge.

We stayed for 20 minutes or so and then started back out - that´s when the fun began. The light drizzle turned into a complete downpour. In the middle of nowhere with no place to take cover, we trudged on - mind you we are 2 hours away from the main road. By the time we made it out we were soaked to the bone - our pants completely drenched and barely staying on us! We had to walk through rivers that had begun to flood the road. It was disgusting! We were both wearing our trusty Chacos - but for me it didn´t turn out so well. Just as my bites have cleared up, I now have sores from my Chaco straps. My feet just can´t win here!
Absolustely freezing by this point, we made it back to the main road and didn´t have to wait long for our ride, the Xelaju chicken bus, to pass by and pick us up. Por su puesto (of course) everyone and their brother (and sister, father, mother, daughter, son, grandson, aunt, uncle, neighbor, etc....) was also trying to escape the rain. The bus was so full that we had to get in the back (yea, the door you had to jump out of in elementary school for the bus evacuation drill). The guy grabbed our backpack (with our $1500 camera inside) and tossed it in the bus, barely inside the door. So here we are, literally hanging out the back of the bus (because at this point there is no room inside) as it starts to move. I´m freaking out - not because we might fall out, but because our camera might fall out.....and die for sure. Eventually we squeeze in and get the door closed, but it was not a good experience. With Ben pressed against the back door and me on my tip-toes holding on for dear life to the ¨Oh Shit¨ handles above (R rated version, sorry) we make it back to Xela in one piece......barely. Thankfully, so did our camera with only 1 minor problem (aside from my feet) - our lens cap got lost sometime during the events of the day. (If you´ve got an extra, we´d love to have it. We´ve been to every possible store in Xela, and they are nowhere to be found.)

Brave, courageous, die-hard hikers - you might call us that, but keep this in mind. There is a reason the school trip leaves at 6am. They can get in and get out before the rain begins!

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