Thursday, March 13, 2008

El Mirador Trek (or coughing trek)

The 4-day 3-night trek involved lot more walking than we expected. The guide book mentioned something like 130KM (75 miles) round trip - do you math to see how much we walked per day on average.

The tour company owner dropped us off at the remote town of Carmelita. The 2 hours ride via mostly unpaved road took us deep into the clear cut jungle of Preten. Most of the land surrounded the road has been turn into pasture for cows after the poor tropical soil was exhausted after couple years of farming.

We had two guides, a father and son team, and 3 mules. The son mainly dealt with mules, packing and unpacking, etc. Other than the son is pretty useless (like to listen to his Walkman) unless told by his dad to do something. As for the father he speaks only Spanish, but I don't think he knows much about the sites itself. He knows the way to get from a to b etc, but not much more. He is also our cook. The meal was decent, but nothing to write home about. Consider we paid $250 US each, I expected a little more from the guide or meal.

The trail condition is pretty flat, but lots dried up mud with deep pits/impression, sort like walking in miniature grand canyon. The path is also full of fallen trees and branches as well as roots, and stumps to trip you up.

We slept in hammock with mosquito net under a tarp, which was comfortable if I did not have the bad cough.

As the hike went on, my cough keep on getting worst. One of the guard at the El Mirador site gave me some antibiotic, which I think helped a little. I managed to get few hours of sleep. Night time was especially bad, almost none stop coughing, and I felt bad for waking up people.

Day one we walked about 4.5 hours to camp one, and archaeological dig site, which archaeologists setup their base. There were workers and guard there, but archaeologists won't come until May-July. There is little money to do excavation and restoration. It rained a little this night, and I walk around the site at night to look for insects. The pit toilet at the site as well the ones in El Mirador was pretty good considering the jungle condition. You can sit down - hole in a wooden box. It does not smell bad or has any flies. I think they add some sort of plants or bark to help compose process.

Day two involves a grueling 7.5 hour walk to La Danta (Tapir) of El Mirador complexes and the highest point of the site. We camped at the El Mirador archaeological dig site, which is much bigger our camp one. There is a basketball court/football/helipad field. There is a small brackish pool, where you use to take shower, I elect to just wash my hair. It got pretty cold this night, I did not know the jungle can get that cold at night.

The El Mirador is surrounded by thick jungle, and only 7km from Mexico border. There many birds and monkeys. We saw and heard many toucans and woodpeckers. It flourished from 150BC to 150AD, when it was abandoned for unknown reason. The site holds the highest pyramid ever built in Mayan world - El Tigre - over 60m high and its base covers 18,000 sq meters. (La Danta is higher because it was built on a higher ground. At night of day two, the guards showed us a tunnel under the monkey temple, where one can see painted stucco of jaguar or previous temple (underneath the existing one - a common Mayan practice). The tunnel has lights (by generator) was locked to prevent looters, and the guards opened up for us to get in and see, so they can some money. It was nice to see something that very few people ever get to see. We watch sunset and sunrise at top of El Tigre since it was pretty close to the camp site.

Day 3, we quickly checkout the sunrise and another nearby ruin, before we head back toward camp 1. By the time we got to camp one, our feet were very tired and I was sleepy from lack of sleep. I think the medicine was working a little as I was able to get more sleep this night.

On the 4th day we were ready to go back. Apparently one of the mule got lose and left for home, so our guide need pack everything onto the two remaining mules. The funny thing is that we found the mule not too long after we left the camp, the mule got tangled up with vines and was trapped! So the mule was freed and get to share the load.

I think hike would have been good as 5 days as what most tour agency offered. It gives one full day at El Mirador to explore and checkout the wildlife (with photos) and of course recover before the return journey.

O as for Stephanie, she is a stronger hiker again. We chatted a little about relationships, but there was no chemistry. We did not talk much after day 2. It was also tough for me to talk as I cough with every word during the evening and night.


Betty said...

She's a hottie!!!!

Jonathan said...

yeah, but she is complicated as she said herself, even if we had chemistry. I had enough of complicated women......