Guatemala Hiking: The Best Ones Don’t Seem to be on a Map – Panajachel to Tierra Linda


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…

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

Enter Guatemala, a place with beautiful amazing hikes.

We went on a hike to Tierra Linda and 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.

Ah, the friendly faces and people of Guatemala.  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.

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??

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.” Jawaharial Nehru

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

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 :D

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.)

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.

At home that evening, Greg remarks, “Guatemala is a beautiful country.” Yes, it is a tierra linda.

Rachel Denning
Rachel Denning is an unassuming mother of five who never really did any international traveling until she had four children. After a second honeymoon to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, she and her husband decided to sell most of their belongings and move their family abroad.

Driving from the United States to Panama, they settled in Costa Rica for a year, until the U.S. financial market crash in 2008, when they lost their location independent income. Returning to the United States to look for work, they knew they'd be back 'out' again, having been officially bitten by the travel bug!

Despite adjustments to living a simpler life (or perhaps because of it), they were able to save enough money to move to the Dominican Republic in 2009. After six months they came back to the States once more, where they were offered employment working with a non-profit organization in India.

They spent five months living in Tamil Nadu, then returned to the States once more (to Alaska) so they could have baby number five - Atlas.

From there, they set out in April of 2011 to drive, in a veggie powered truck, from Alaska to Argentina, visiting every continental country in North and South America.

Travel is a part of their life now, and they can't imagine doing anything else. Rachel photographs and writes about their incredible family travel adventures on their website, and they also have resources that encourage others to live a deliberate life.
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