We’re loving the emails we are receiving, it gives us the possibility to interact with everyone who is sharing our passion for this adventure. However, it also made us realise that it would be really helpful to have a page for the questions we have been asked to help others – so here you are!
Do I need to bring camping gear for the hike?
All the essential gear such as tents, ground mats and sheets will be supplied by the trek company. Personally I take my own lightweight sleeping bag as I find it more comfortable. You will need to bring personal items such as a headtorch, insect repellant, travel towel and water bottle. I would also recommend a lightweight rain poncho. We are planning for dry season, but the occasional rain is not unheard of. There is no power once we leave Carmelita, so you may wish to bring extra batteries for your headlamp/camera/etc.
What is the climate like?
It is dry season when we plan to make the trek. Peten is not quite like you might imagine from movies. Daytime temperature in March/April is 26-32C (around 80-90F), nighttime temperature around 20C (70F). Humidity is variable, higher at night than in the daytime.
How far is the daily hike?
We will hike between 20 and 30 km on each day.
What clothing should I wear for the hike?
Personally I prefer technical clothing, synthetic mixtures, for this type of journey. They are quick drying and wicking, and tend to feel fresher. I find shirts more comfortable than t-shirts as they open to allow airflow. I also would recommend a hat of some kind. I also tend to use long pants rather than shorts. Ensure you bring clean underwear and socks for each day of the trek. Heavy hiking boots are not necessary, a good pair of walking trainers / trail runners will be most comfortable. Make sure that you make some practice hikes in your footwear before you start, new shoes may give you blisters!
How do we wash in the jungle?
Each campsite has rainwater storage. The guardians of the sites offer use of this water in the form of bucket showers. This water is often discoloured, and can look a bit weird, but I can assure you that at the end of a long hike it will seem like a godsend! You will definitely feel cleaner and fresher after your shower. You may also wish to bring biodegradable wet wipes for personal hygiene on the trail. Please be responsible for the waste you create. The campsites have latrines.
Are there dangerous animals?
In my time in Peten, I have not encountered any dangerous animals on this journey. I have not seen dangerous spiders, scorpions or snakes while making this trek, or on the campsites. At the hotel there is a relatively small crocodile, who we may be lucky enough to see. If we get to see a jaguar we will consider ourselves most honoured!
The most dangerous animal on our planet (apart from human beings) is the mosquito. Mosquito borne illnesses are present in Guatemala, mainly dengue, chikungunya and zika. Malaria is rare and anti-malarial drugs should not be necessary. March and April are the driest months in Peten and have the lowest mosquito activity. I personally have not felt overly bothered by mosquitoes when I have made this journey. I would strongly suggest bringing a good insect repellent – I use Herbal Armor and find it most effective. A combination of repellent and good clothing should ensure comfort.
What do I have to carry?
When we are walking you will only need to carry a small day pack. You will need to carry your personal drinking water and I would strongly suggest bringing some snacks such as trail mix or Clif bars. The food provided during the trek is sufficient, but it is good to supplement with something you enjoy. You may also wish to carry a camera and/or binoculars and a personal first aid kit to take care of any minor wounds or blisters should you get them. The mules will carry a reserve of purified drinking water from which we can refill our personal canteens.
How does my pack get around?
I would suggest a 45l backpack to carry your clothing etc. This will be carried by the mules during the day, and may only be accessible at the campsites. Make sure you pack your clothes in plastic bags in case it rains.
What if I get tired during the hike?
It is essential that you practice hiking before the journey, and that you have a reasonable level of fitness. This is not an easy journey. If you think that you may need it, extra mules for riding can be hired at extra cost at the beginning of the journey. From experience, they are not a particularly comfortable way to spend the journey, I certainly would not choose to be on one for more than an hour.
Should I get travel/medical insurance?
It is ESSENTIAL that you get travel insurance for this journey. This needs to include emergency evacuation cover, in the rare event that you might fall and break a bone. I would suggest the EXPLORER cover by World Nomads would be perfect and should cost you around $150. We can not accept you on the journey without proof of your travel/medical insurance.
How can I make my payment for the retreat?
We can accept payment by bank transfer in US dollars, Euros or Pounds Stirling through TransferWise. The retreat is priced in US dollars, but we can accept the payment in other currencies at the official exchange rate on the day of payment.
Do I need to learn Spanish?
All instruction, guidance, ceremonies and information will be provided in English by the organisers. The guides we will use around the temple sites will be making the tours in English. The guides we use for the trek may only speak Spanish, but we will translate to English for you.
What is the food like?
All meals will be communal and vegetarian, and are included in the price of the retreat. Alcoholic drinks and snacks outside of the set meals are not included. We will create a wholesome, nutritious meal programme for our time at the hotel. The jungle trek will be a bit more complicated as the mules will be carrying the food for the journey and it will be cooked over open fire. There are no electrical appliances for more complicated creations. Please advise us of any serious allergies or dietary requirements. We will be as flexible as we can, for example, we will endeavour to make the meals gluten free where possible, but if you have very specific requirements, you may need to bring the appropriate ingredients to assist us. My experience is that the meals on the trek are perfectly sufficient to fuel us, but you may wish to bring your favourite snacks along to supplement.
How is the jungle lodge?
El Sombrero is a quiet, secluded jungle lodge beside the beautiful Lake Yaxha. It is comfortable, clean and secure, but not a 5* hotel, rooms are palm thatched and have net windows. Being off grid, electricity is available from 6pm -10pm and there is a WiFi connection, although the speed is low. Accommodation is in twin or triple rooms, unless you opt for the single supplement.
Do I need shots?
According to the US State Department website, no extra vaccinations are necessary for travel in Guatemala.
How do I best deal with money?
The Guatemalan currency is called the Quetzal and is not widely available outside of the country. US dollars and Euros may be changeable at banks, airports and larger hotels. Pounds sterling cannot be changed. Many places will only exchange larger notes ($50 or $100) and only in pristine condition. During the retreat, we will not be near to any of these facilities, although as the retreat is all inclusive, you will not need much cash. My advice would be to draw cash in Quetzales from the ATM at the airport before beginning your journey. The Hotel El Sombrero will also accept credit/debit cards for any extras you may incur.
Is Guatemala safe?
Generally, Guatemala is safe. Thousands of tourists travel throughout the country without incident. If you apply your common sense, it is likely that you will have a pleasant and memorable stay in the country with no unpleasant incidents. Theft of personal property (from automobiles and hotel rooms) is not uncommon, so it is best to put your valuables out of sight, preferably in a locked box in your room. The thing to keep in mind is that most people here earn $120 or less per month, so your camera may be worth 3 months salary to them. Most people are honest, but some may cave in to the temptation when presented with an opportunistic situation. Don`t wear ostentatious, expensive jewellery and try not to leave camera equipment or money around. Compact cameras can now take wonderful photographs and are easier to conceal rather than big SLR`s that are carried around the neck. Some travellers carry a “throw down wallet” with an expired card and the day`s cash in it.
Guatemala Travel Document Requirements
Citizens of the U.S. Europe, and Canada may enter Guatemala with a valid passport. Please note that Guatemalan law requires your passport be valid for at least 180 days after the date you enter the country. This means that if your passport will expire within the next 180 days, you must renew it before your trip. Also you need a return ticket. Check with your airline or travel agent for more information.
Citizens of other countries should check with the applicable Guatemalan Consulate in your country about rules governing entrance into Guatemala. You are required to carry your passport with you at all times. If you are stopped by officials, a photocopy with your photo, passport number and entry stamp will usually suffice and is recommended.