‘You are alone? That’s very dangerous (peligroso)’, the old Guatemalan lady said to me in Spanish. I hesitantly jumped off the chicken bus in San Martin, half believing the lady and worrying about my safety. I followed the signs to the volcano laguna and met a local at the bridge. I asked him if I should be worried being alone and he said not to be it was absolutely fine. I kicked myself at listening to the old lady. Why do we let what people say govern how we feel so much? People throughout my travels have looked at me like I’m crazy, said I am brave (not in a complimentary manner) and given me a look as if I am a nutter. These people themselves are scared of something and project their fears onto me. Yes, at times it can be scary being alone but the truth is weather you are with others or alone if an area is dangerous you are at risk regardless. I have met plenty of other fellow solo travels who have been getting on just fine.
I began the volcano hike crossing a wooden bridge and then climbing up steep hills through the lovely, little town of San Martin. Ladies in traditional dress passed me greeting me kindly. They carried buckets of tortillas and maize on their heads. I passed farm land where men were hard at work. I followed more signs to the lagoon and next reached cloud forest. Here I walked up furthermore inclines, admiring the stunning forest. Men passed me carrying wood they had chopped down with their machetes. While this travesty was destroying the forest, I could not be mad at them, they were struggling up these hills with heavy loads for their families. It is a double edged sword which had no easy answer.
Next I reached the entrance station here I paid a small fee to enter the conservation area and climbed up to the mirador. From this point I could see over the stunning, clear blue crystal lake, surrounding it was lush green forests. The view was magical.
I descended down some steps to get to the lake. On approaching I heard some singing, calling and chanting. People were performing traditional Mayan ceremonies at holy points around the lake.
I strolled around the circumference of the lake, greeting those who passed me. Everybody was very friendly. I gazed into the beautiful lagoon feature appreciating how spiritual people thought it to be.
I took the bus back to the hotel, which took quiet some time. I love sitting on the chicken buses watching the Guatemalans go about their everyday life. It’s such a cultural experience, so much better than signing up for tour buses.
Summary for fellow travelers:
Hiking to laguna Chicabal is an easy affair to do alone. It is the perfect day trip from Xela. You can hop on a chicken bus at the bus terminal (minerva) and in less than an hour jump off at San Martin. Follow the signs to the laguna mirador and you will arrive there after a couple of hours of walking. If you are confused where to go don’t hesitate in asking people. Generally the road is pretty straightforward, when it is not take the path which goes upwards. Enjoy a packed lunch before climbing down and catching the bus back to Xela. Buses run between 6am and 5pm. I felt safer on the hike than I did in Xela itself. I would say do not take a guide they can cost £50 and doing it alone will cost a total of £3.80.
The big chicken bus – 10Q
Small chicken bus – 6Q
Entrance fee – 25Q