Our first night in Guatemala was kind of sketchy. We were staying in a cheap hotel that had some grass in the yard.
The next morning we left El Carmen and rode to Malacatan. This was Roxy’s first ride since getting the hoof inflammation 2 weeks earlier.
It was an easy ride, but I felt like I was coming down with a cold. It turns out it was the flu, I spent the next 2 days hanging out in my hammock…
Then we left Malacatan and started the beautiful hike up to the Guatemalan highlands, leaving the coast behind.
We made it to a cool little Eco farm. The owner lived in the town 1km away, but had owned the property for years. Over the last 5 he had opened up a restaurant, serving food grown and raised on site.
Then the next day instead of going thru San Marcos, we decided to take the back way to Palestina de los Altos. This back way was really not suitable for riding. I spent most of the time walking up or down super steep hills…
The first day we went thru some knarly hills to some hot pools then second day we took a wrong route and had some misadventures trying to find a trail along a skinny river with cliffs on either side.
We did a little swimming and I lost a rear hoof boot in the mud. After a couple hours I finally found a way out. We did 2.5kms in 3 hours.
Google maps and MAPS.me work great for the most part. But sometimes they are off by a few or few hundred metres. In steep mountain terrain, 200 metres is a lifetime away, sometimes impossible to cross, especially with a horse. We were stuck down by the river and it was rocky and it had little waterfalls, with steep sides. When we finally found a trail up, we were very relieved. And hungry- I hadn’t eaten!
We carried on from Cantel, San Marcos, and took some very interesting trails from there to just south of Palestina de las Altas. That was a tough 22km day!
After staying south of Palestina with some Mennonites, we made our way towards Xela. Xela is short for Quetzaltenango. It is the second largest city in Guatemala.
After staying just west of Xela, the next day we rode thru Xela towards Cantel and the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project. I relaxed there for 2 days while trying to find sheepskins. In the end, after looking in 3 different towns, we settled on a really soft wool blanket from Momostenango. I wanted to use this to replace my Orthoflex booties that were starting to come apart…
The idea was to go from Cantel to Lago Atitlan, but via the hiking trails. This proved to be a big mistake.
We set out from Chico Mendes and we were told the trail was tough, I’d be mostly walking. 8 hours to do 20kms.
It started pretty nice, it was rough, but then we got to the Ridge in between Xela and the Lake and that was cool. Literally.
Then it dropped off dangerously. We made it down safely, then followed a road to the next drop off to a river before a tiny town named Konomoj.
This goat path was our ondoing.
I made it to 1km from Konomoj before our hell started.
Earlier, we had passed a tour guide and 2 tourists and he warned me that it was bad near the river.
Yes it was…
As we got closer to the river, the trail down was pure steep. It was also wet in areas. Roxy’s go to mode is to hammer thru, not really a good strategy for these steep switchbacks that I obviously walked. I would literally have to bap her with the lead line to keep her from barging into me up or down hills. That was tiring in itself!
We were within 1 km of the tiny town we were going to when Roxy fell as I was walking her. It had been a super tough day and I had taken her thru a bad place.
It ended up that she got a large cut under her left leg, bad enough that it would need stitches and time off. I walked her the next morning into the next bigger town, Santa Clara la Laguna, and rested up there for two days while getting her treated.
Then on Sunday we took a pick up down from Santa Clara to San Juan.
Nice drive and view but not with a horse with a huge cut under her leg.
We made to my friends in San Juan La Laguna. Ruben and Rosa Sumoza.
They run the clothing group Association LEMA.
Ruben is an old friend of mine. We got to know each other when I was living at the lake a couple towns over. He’s a really nice guy, the whole family is awesome. Ruben is a tour guide and he knows everything about the local plants. Rosa and their daughter Jaime run LEMA, a textile co-op that uses all natural dyes to for their colours.
Staying in San Juan was great, but Roxy’s wound was not healing properly. The stitches fell out twice. And the wound was getting infected.
It was raining lots and with the wound not coming along as I wanted to see, I decided to take a truck with Roxy to Itzapa, as I knew I would have a better place there to heal her, and more vet options.
It was definitely an underwhelming way to finish the trip. I was disappointed, but I had to take care of my ride.
I arranged to have a truck drive me. Every Friday, trucks from the surrounding areas go to Chimaltenango to pick up cows for butchering and selling on Sarurdays. I rode in with an empty truck and paid a reduced rate this way. From Chimaltenango, I took another pick up with Roxy to Itzapa. Trailers aren’t common in Guatemala. Everyone puts their animals in their truck beds.
We arrived in Itzapa early in the morning. I needed to get a vet to look at Roxy ASAP, as I didn’t like how the wound was looking. My horse was going to stay with my old friend Don Rubelsi Molino as we didn’t have a place set up yet at Maya Pedal. Rubelsi is a local organic farmer, he knows so much about growing food!
I called one vet from the nearby town Chimaltenango. They weren’t available, so they recommended another one. Jaqueline showed up and told me that me that stitches weren’t going to work in that area. What we were to do it clean the wound daily and then apply pure honey.
In the next 2 weeks healed up wonderfully. During this off horse period, I got reacquainted with old friends and got ready to start teaching English.
More on that later with many many pics from Itzapa !!!