I tried searching for it on a map.

And Google actually knew where it was. Or so I thought. 

Until I zoomed out and saw it was labeled wrong. When I tried to locate it manually, it was not marked on Google's Maps.

Locations like these are the heart and soul of a country - the 'true' places - the life blood of a society.

It's one of those locales that help you realize that without travel, you've read only a page out of the book of life...

“It Is Not Down on Any Map; True Places Never Are” – Herman Melville (Click to Tweet)

I guess Herman Melville's famous statement is right, even with omnipotent Google.

We started from Panajachel, a place that is clearly marked on a map, and walked out of town to where we've gone previously to what we call the 'onion hike'.

A lovely little shoeless woman wandered past with a great big grin on her face. She spoke to Greg, in kakchikel (she didn't speak any Spanish.)

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Now we take a turn to the left, to the steep trails that climb into the highlands.

You can tell by my photos that I'm always in the back.

To be honest, I was wondering if I was up to the trek. I knew it was a climb, and I'd been getting that feeling that comes over you when you might be getting the flu.

Besides, I haven't been out for awhile. Most of my activity lately involves moving my fingers over a keyboard.

So I took it nice and slow, breathed deep, enjoyed the scenery, snapped lots of photos, and contemplated on the history of the trail we were hiking.

How many feet have walked on these paths? And for how many hundreds of years? What stories could these trails tell? And HOW do they climb these when it's raining??

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Then I reached the part that always breaks my heart. Tierra Linda's garbage system - from the town above, into the rivers, down the mountain and eventually into beautiful Lake Atitlan.

You can see the city of Panajachel

Eventually I reached where the trail meets the road into Tierra Linda.

I begin to pass the simple homes of uncomplicated and beautiful people...

and finally catch up to the group (and get called 'Grandma' - I won't mention any names, Greg Jensen.)

Look at that herd!

Soon we enter town, to the shouts of children yelling, "Gringoes! Gringoes!"

We're as fascinating to them (or even more so) than they are to us.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson (Click to Tweet)

We go in search of the school to check out the project that Ruined Adventures did as part of the Muskoka Foundation.

Turns out we have a following.

In many ways these scenes have become 'normal' to me. Adobe houses with dirt floors, men and women in their traditional clothing, little children, dirty and bare foot, staring in amazement or waving with glee.

But in many other ways, they're still extraordinary, especially when I imagine what it might be like to live life as they do.

Many of the kids are happy and smiling until I hold up the camera. Then they put their serious face on.

But not this boy 😀

There was an audience as the gringoes left town.

The dogs didn't neglect giving us their full attention either. (Oh those mangy dogs, with absolutely no training. In fact I think it's part of the culture to NOT train your dog. Or feed them.)

We sat down for a picnic lunch outside of town.

There was plenty of passer-bys. Many of the children and adults go to school and work in Panajachel. That means they make this hike twice a day!

Friday is our colloquium (book club) day, so during lunch we pulled our Swiss Family Robinsons and discussed our favorite parts. That is, until the mosquitoes drove us away. (Though all the mosquito bites helped me discover an oil that works great on itching, so I'm happy about that!)

At home that evening, Greg remarks, "Guatemala is a beautiful country."

Yes, it is a tierra linda.



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6 Responses

  1. Andy Brabender


    Your photos are beautiful as always (except for the emaciated dog and garbage). My dog says she is willing to share her food, if only she could get it to Guatemala. Your blog continues to make me jealous/inspire me, keep up the good work.

  2. Lisa

    It’s amazing how simple and yet how profound travel can be. What oil do you use for itchy mosquito bites? I gotta get some of that! 🙂

    • Rachel


      I started using the ClearSkin blend, and it’s working great! One of the main ingredients is Lemongrass, so it might work alone, but Lemongrass always ‘stings’ my skin a bit when I use it straight, so I’d dilute it.

  3. Catherine Forest

    What a great post, Greg! I love reading about your adventures. Guatemala is next on our list (in Westfalia, from Canada, with our 3 girls). Yes, you do get used to seeing those beautiful simple people, but you never get tired of it!


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