GUATEMALA SEA TO SUMMIT 2022
ANTIGUA-DE-GUTEMALA FEELS LIKE YOU ARE WALKING AROUND A PAINTING; PERIOD ARCHITECTURE EVERYWHERE, VOLCANOES IN THE BACK GARDEN, SMILING LOCALS, COLOURFUL OUTFITS AND GREAT COFFEE.
Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage city is a stunning location to meet up with the small group of test pilots ready to take on the very new and exciting idea. Having just taken part in out Greece Sea2Summit event, Lyndsey, Adam and Lee signed up to the test pilot and were meeting us in Guatemala just two months later. Ready to take on this challenge and ready to become intrepid test pilots. The full team comprised of Jim, director of Rat Race; Rick, jungle extraordinaire, coming over from his home country of Panama, he did not want to miss out on the action; James, world renowned photographer; Luiza, in-country manager and owner of Get-away-adventures and myself, head of expeditions at Rat Race and project manager of the trip.
Antigua-de-Gutemala feels like you are walking around a painting; period architecture everywhere, volcanoes in the back garden, smiling locals, colourful outfits and great coffee. Guatemala had already given us some surprises in the first day or two. We could not wait to see if it could come up with the goods for a great adventure. A serious expedition it provided, and it packed a big and bountiful punch.
We collected our hire bikes and made our way out of the city for the 5-hour drive to the coast. Black volcanic sand awaited us as we had breakfast on the beach of the charming seaside town of Champerico. We were ready and raring to get on the bikes now and start our trip from sea to summit. But like all test pilot trips there is lots of photos to be taken before we can finally push off on the bikes. Instantly we were into the Guatemalan countryside, today brought small villages, agriculture, tiny settlements and lots and lots of sweat.
A GREAT HOTEL IN COATEPEQUE, A HEARTY DINNER OF BEANS, TORTILLA AND EGGS (THE LOCAL STABLE), WASHED DOWN WITH A BEER OR TWO, A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP BEFORE A VERY ‘LUMPY’ RIDING DAY.
It was hot and humid out on the trails. The ride took us both on and off road which kept us all on our toes. The gradient also gave us a false sense of ease as it started quite flat, but by the afternoon became a little more undulating. It took the team some time to ‘bed’ into the day and get comfortable, some minor bike mechanicals – Jim’s peddle and crank completely falling off being one of them! (Do not despair about rental bikes, a more reputable company with bikes that stay in one piece has now been recce’d!) The perfect riding gave way to a charming hike-a-bike section through the river just before arriving in Coatepeque. A great reminder that we are in the jungle on an adventure not be trialed by others before us.
Leaving Coatepeque and into the mountains, gradually getting higher and higher. More and more sweat from us all proceeded by huge amounts of determination by Adam and Lee not to walk up any of the hills. It was a fantastic day of mountain biking to get up to Albama coffee farm. Hilly, fast, cobbly, rocky in places to keeps us entertained, the views of the jungle were stunning. We were lucky enough to be given a tour of the coffee plantation and get to sample the fresh coffee straight from the roasting shed. It had been a very long day and was getting late. We had planned to cycle another 18miles to the San Rafael. But as every good test pilot trip goes things had to adapt. We managed to get us and our bikes in the pick-up truck just before darkness fell to be transported the distance. A relief to our bottoms!
The following morning, we had a big ride to get to the ‘base’ of Tajumulco. The route took us over some seriously arduous terrain with big elevation gains to get to La Igualdad. Here we had a brief opportunity to get under a waterfall and cool off before scoffing down a marvellous lunch cooked by a local family, rearranging kit ready to hike up to the Cabana ‘camp’ on Tajumulco. Relieved to be off the bikes but daunted by the trip ahead, by tomorrow morning we hoped to be standing on the Summit of the highest point in central America.
The first few steps showed us how steep the rest of the hike would be. We trudged our way through jungle on a very unknown route to get to 3000m. At this point we set up camp, lit a fire and ate some food before heading to bed. We had under 3 hours of sleep before getting up again. We wanted to be on the summit at sunrise. The only way for that is to be up early – still in the middle of the night early! Head torches on we stayed as a group gradually ascending Tajulmulco to over 4000m in elevation. Closer to the summit the sun was rising over the beautiful country of Guatemala. Active volcanoes can be seen along the horizon and the scale of the adventure started to become clear. Standing at the top of Tajumulco is a place like no other. A place overlooking a country forged by fire in a spiritual, historical location rich in Mayan culture. Standing together as a team, taking it all in and completing the mountain together is a special moment, it is one that will stay with us all forever. A feeling that we hope to bring to others who want to take on the adventure.
Being at the summit means only one thing. You still must descend. A steep and hot decent made for thirty work over the next few hours. The sight of the restaurant in San Sebastian was very welcome. A thirsty quenching juice and brunch was well deserved.