Alta Verapaz, Part 2, Ask the Locals.

If I can give you just one advice, just one, it is: Ask the Locals.
Anywhere you go, if you really want to experience the best foods, have the most beautiful vistas, and all the wonders a given place has to offer, just ask the locals.
I met a young boy, not more than fourteen/fifteen years old, on my transport vehicle to Semuc Champey. I engaged with him on a simple conversation and he tells me he could be my guide. How much do I have to pay you I asked. Lo que su corazon le diga -what your heart tells you- he replies. I did not really need a guide, the paths are well marked and there is good signage at this location. But it is always good to bring someone who you can ask questions. Armando tells me about the local Flora, I asked him what animals are there to be seen: howler monkeys, constrictor boas, some whitetail deer, and much much more he tells me. While we are having lunch: hear that? those were howler monkeys. Armando and I reached the Mirador -scenic overview- in thirty minutes. I’m covered in sweat while he has not sweat a drop. After shooting some photographs and battling against moisture on my lenses and the camera’s sensor, we leave for the pools down bellow. This is why you got to talk to locals: Armando tells me of a cavity in the rock. One has to dive and emerges inside this cavity, the water reaches just over your shoulders. The rock reaches just a few inches bellow the waterline, enough for the sun’s light to bounce on the water and illuminate the cavity. I was prepared, I had brought my flashlight and it was so bring inside, there was no need for it. This was recently discovered by a local child and only a few people have been there. Too bad my camera was malfunctioning due to the high humidity up the mountain. I’ve promised myself to return just to photograph this hidden treasure.
Lunch time: I asked my guide where to go and he suggests a place a few minutes walk from the entrance of the park. for less than $4.00, I got two perfectly seasoned, thin sliced (but long) steaks, side of salad, black beans, and vegetables and lots of tortillas and a canned drink. The steak was amazing. I asked the woman attending the place about it; she says it was freshly butchered steak, locally raised. Just perfect!
While we are having lunch, I started talking to locals there too. I asked them if there have been more foreign tourist today. A young boy replies: Yes, a lot. He tells of a group from a hotel named Utopia. Another younger boy next to him raises his voice and corrects him. You don’t say Utopia, it is said Utopía. That exchange is fascinating for those who pay attention. Education has a very bad reputation in Guatemala’s countryside. But here we found a young boy who knows better than many -including me-.

Playing the guilt card:
After a long day of hiking, swimming and exploring the area, it is time to depart. When I’m reaching for my wallet to pay my guide he starts telling me about his working as a guide. “Not long ago, I took three gringos (his word) to El Mirador and showed them around. At the end of the day one of them paid me with a hundred dollar bill (American).” and “Last month I took a group of tourists and they paid me very well too.” “But Guatemalans don’t pay well. Sometimes they would give me a Q20 (less than $3) or Q30.”
More tomorrow: The Caves.

© 2013, Eli Orozco. All rights reserved.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tags: , , , , , ,

  • Begonia

    Very good advice to ask the locals…and que lomito mas rico!

    And he knew just how to make you feel guilty, didn’t he! So, did your heart talk to you in American dollars or in Guatemalan quetzales? Ha ha ha.

  • Elí Orozco

    I’m still a Guatemalan. But I did get him a good lunch at the place he recommended.