Once a year a group goes our to a place called, Barranca de Galvez (Galvez Gorge) to have a prayer meeting. They asked me if I wanted to come. It's a 3 hour walk there and then 3 back. Sure! I said. I can walk for miles. When it's flat. On the map it looks like we walked a little less than 20 kilometers so 10 or 12 miles I think. That's as the crow flies. I have no idea how far it was if you count the up and down. Jenny said I walked a half marathon in the mountains so I'll take that.
So here's us starting up
And we walked up one side of a mountain (apparently the shorter side). They went before me, spry mountain goats. Surefooted and tireless. It was utterly amazing. I was winded by the top of the mountain and utterly exhausted later on. They hardly had to catch their breath.
Then we got to the top. This is the view. That's Tajumulco (Ta-hoo-mool-co) there, the highest point in Central America at 13,845 ft. Tacana, the volcano to the left in the distance, is on the Mexico-Guatemala border. The young guy there is in the process of becoming a pastor here and accompanied us. He's in MUCH better shape than me.
So this is another view of Tajumulco, my friend Basilio, and the village we walked to. It's hard to see, but if you drew a 45 degree line from his head to that tall tree on the right, the village is halfway on the line, about halfway up the volcano. Which is not active. Just FYI.
After we got over the mountain we had to go down it. I was told there were 99 switchbacks. I didn't count because I was trying not to beak anything important. But it was steep. Only horses and people on foot. And it was very loose rock. I actually didn't fall on this part. I fell later but my backpak took the brunt. I was trying to munch on a cracker and made the mistake of not watching the ground. Didn't make that mistake again. But we went down into a really cool jungly valley. Land of the Lost-ish.
I didn't get any pics from the valley or the way up becasue I got video of it and was so worn out I was near puking, but here we are after climbing (which is about what I did) out of the valley and up to where the village is. The rest of the group was well ahead of us.
When we got there they had torillas and fresh cheese (a little like ricotta) and chimol which is a hot pepper sauce you mix with the cheese. The cheese is not pasteurized and the tortillas are made with parasite water, but hey, I ate it. No problems yet! Apparently I'm the 4th white person they have seen, but who knows. Until the new road the village could only be reached by foot from May-October. Anyway, then we had a service which lasted about 3 hours. 2 sermons, lots of praying and singing. I got to talk with them just a little. I'm still just meeting folks and getting to know them. Neat bunch of people though.
It was decided before we even got to the village that I would not be able to walk back. I just didn't have it in me. I mean, I was just about broken, as I say in one of the videos. I'm not used to walking in the mountains like that and it took every bit of juice I had just to make it there. There was not enough time for me to take it slow unless I wanted to walk through the mountains at night. Which no one thought a good idea. So we rented a pickup for Q300, about $40, and me and 8 others rode out, up over the volcano (the opposite direction from where we walked), and caught a bus from a town (San Lorenzo) back to San Marcos, where my car was parked. I took this so you would believe I was really there. :-) And closer than I appeared.
This was the view from near the top of the volcano on the road. You can see in the waaaay distance in the left center Santa Maria, the volcano we see from our house. We had driven from the valley below in the clouds...which is a lot better than walking. We went around to another valley to catch the bus. The 4 that walked back made it in three hours and arrived where we were parked just 5 minutes after we did. Like mountain goats, I tell you. Indefatigable mountain goats.
Here's a compilation of video that I took. It's about 7 minutes and parts are pretty bumpy but I thought it would give you a better feel for things. I hope you enjoy it!
Psalm 121 says this:
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
I understand that a little better now. Basilio told me I was very brave to go. That the pastors just said, "Come" and I went, not knowing how hard it would be. I don't know about that. But I know that the LORD watched over me and kept my foot from slipping. I always read that figuratively but I know now that sometimes I just need Him to keep me from hurting myself. I realized how weak I am and how much I need other people to help me. I did not have enough cash to rent the pickup so several men loaned me enough money to do it. I was exhausted and humbled and thankful that a group of Jesus' followers helped me. I did all this to get to know the people I will be serving and was served by them instead. If you ever come to visit and you're in much better shape than I am now, maybe I'll take you for a little walk. It's just 3 hours, after all.