3:43 am. I like to think that by setting my alarm at an ambiguous time, the harshness of rising at a ridiculous pre-dawn hour will be somewhat softened. Back home, my alarm went off at 6:02 a.m. on work days instead of a more common 6:00 a.m, a habit that awarded me with nearly twelve extra hours of sleep this year!! However, when my alarm started beeping incessantly at 3:43 a.m. this particular morning, not even singing bluebirds could stop me from wanting to roll over and snuggle back to sleep. Especially since I had a restless sleep due to dogs barking, a group of inebriated backpackers coming home after the bars closed, and a cantankerous rooster who had his days and nights upside down.
But adventure awaits for no one, so I pulled on leggings, tied shoe laces, arranged a messy hair bun, and shuffled out to the gate with a gang of similarly sleepy-eyed hostel dwellers to wait for our shuttle. Since time is more “fluid” here Guatemala, we waited over 15 minutes for our ride (during which I thought about returning to my bed approximately 61 times). Luis, whom I later realized was slightly intoxicated, finally pulled up with a resounding blare of his horn…as if the unwelcoming assault of glaring headlights wasn’t enough when announcing his presence.
Daffney, Moseg, Alli, and I climbed aboard and settled in for our ride to the trail head. Though we intended to snooze for another 45 minutes or so, we should have known better. A: No shuttle van in Guatemala is remotely comfortable. And B: the roads in Guatemala are pock-marked with pot-holes, hair-pin turns, and portions that simply don’t exist at all. With sleeping out of the question, we stared into the darkness and whispered shared worries that our driver wouldn’t plunge our van into the gorge below.
Finally, we pulled into a sleeping village that smelled vaguely of cardamon and burning wood. This was apparently our stop, and our driver once again blared his horn, flashed his headlights, and as a last resort, whistled a singular, long note into the night’s abyss.
Our guide appeared behind us, and with no introductions, instructions, or otherwise courteous greetings, he motioned for us to follow him. In hindsight, he was about sixty pounds and looked to be twelve years old. Yet, without a second thought, we trusted this stranger and followed him into the Guatemalan wilderness. Thinking back, nobody really knew where we were or where we were going. But…on with the story.
Indian Nose Hike: Our head torches were quickly pulled out and lit as we followed our nimble-footed guide over rocks and through mud puddles. The flat terrain lasted but a brief 10 minutes, and then we began climbing up…and up…and up. Our trail became a winding labyrinth of twisted tree roots, rocky steps, and mud-packed stairs. We slipped and tumbled through the darkness and pulled ourselves along with tree trunks and branches.
The entire climb took perhaps thirty minutes. However, I think my group was quite fit because the hiking groups behind us struggled up in just under fifty minutes. In total, there were perhaps twenty of us waiting for sunrise, huddled together on the rocky outcrop of Indian Nose.There was hot coffee to sip and warm ourselves, though we only had three cups to share between us.
Soon we saw a faint lightening in the east and then ever so slowly, the lights in the towns below faded more and more as morning approached. In silence we stared out over the lake as the color shifted ever so slowly to daylight. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much color in our sunrise, but the view of the mountains, volcanoes, and the light skating across Lake Atitlan was gorgeous.
From our perch at Indian Nose, we could see San Pedro, San Marcus, Pana, Santiago and various other towns scattered around Lake Atitlan. We scrambled to take the mandatory group photos, and in a moment of silliness and gentle mockery, Alli and I grabbed a fake “couples” photo together.
Then it was on back down the trail and back to San Pedro for a nap. I enjoyed the views from Indian Nose, but would have certainly liked to have the vivid sunrises that I’ve seen in so many photos. Perhaps a return to Lake Atitlan is in order at some point?