New bloggers

Well into the new dry season at El Mirador, we have been concentrating our efforts mainly on fundraising and research. Our volunteer and hiking programs are still on a standby, but we received a lot of help from independent travelers and NGO’s from around the world to provide up to date information about traveling to the site.

Bett and Kevin, two anthropology students from Switzerland residing in Guatemala will be doing a bit of research in the future weeks about happenings at El Mirador, and will be managing this blog for 2012. Welcome, folks, and good luck with the project!


Additional Mayan and El Mirador Resources

More than 160 artifacts from the Maya world are on exhibit at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris until October 2. Apparently there is also a large portion of the exhibition dedicated to Pre-classic art, including findings at El Mirador. The official site of the exhibit features a short video showing some pottery, while a pretty good press release on the GHF site gives a summary of it all.

And then, the homepage of FARES has some exciting updates in the form of a short summary of the 2010 field season, as well as a good-looking interactive map presenting the major excavations of the central area. FARES reports on major work being done at El Mirador, Tintal and Nakbe, while 20 new ancient cities and sites have been mapped and researched in the southern Mirador Basin. Good work!


New information: 2011

Holidays end, and El Mirador Hike is back on the job. After months of no internet, we were curious to read about the 2011 field season at the site, the progress and even new discoveries.

Seems like we will have to find out personally again, but until then here are our recommendations, two articles written in a similar style as their predecessors: an enthusiastic author, vary of snakes and spiders ventures into the jungle to report on the work done at El Mirador, focusing exquisitely on the 1978-2009 period. Great introduction for all who hear about the subject for the first time, but a bit repetitive for those in search of new information.

A massive early Maya center and a race against time (Popular Archeology)

El Mirador - The Lost City of the Maya (Smithsonian Magazine)


Hikes in the rainy season

 All our English-guided hikes (and volunteering) will be suspended in the rainy season (June - October, 2011). This period will be spent researching new information, fundraising and preparing for the next season. Also, the new NGO managing the planned museum in Carmelita is ready to roll, updates will be posted soon.

If you are planning a hike during this period, before you write an email please read the links posted on the right navigation bar of this blog titled "Important info". All data to set up your own, cheap, Spanish-guided hike is listed there. We will be lost in the jungle most of the time, so answers to any emails might take a few weeks...


April 26 hike in Spanish

Sorry folks, our volunteers bailed out, so we will have to cancel the English guiding part of our 26th hike. Spanish speaking local guides can be arranged at will from Carmelita (link to contacts on the right side) and you can still download our online guide book for free - it contains more info than is usually told by our guides on the hikes.


Our guides on the hikes

Please note that our hikes are guided by a different member of our team each time. Ron and Jack, who have done the most guiding so far are obviously better known, and hikers might be disappointed to hear it will not be them leading the hike, but any of the 5 volunteer guides working with us at the moment. Be assured, all of us have the same amount of information on the site and can provide the same data on plant, animals and ruins at El Mirador. As of April this year, we automatically employ at least one local guide from Carmelita on each hike, if there is a big group then more. That can mean up to 4-5 locals being offered a job per week, making hikes extra safe no matter who is the English guide, and giving us more time to work on the museum and other projects.


The El Mirador Field Guides

The new flagship of our efforts to raise funds for the museum and nature exhibit in Carmelita: The El Mirador Guide. Three volumes of pure hiking information and field guides are available for download in PDF format.

Working as volunteers we tend to believe in mankind, so these guides are free to download, print and distribute as long as they are not altered. In exchange, if you feel that they helped you during your hike, we expect you to make a donation of your choice to support our goals listed in the header of the blog.

Maps, photos and new information will be added continuously and the general information collected from the internet will be rewritten eventually depending on how much time we have between guiding hikes. The three volumes of the guidebook:

El Mirador Guide: THE HIKE

El Mirador Guide: PLANTS

El Mirador Guide: ANIMALS

 Any recommendations or corrections are thankfully accepted!


April hikes

We will be leading a film crew to Rio Azul this week, so the April 5th El Mirador Hike is canceled, no meeting the day before.

Our next scheduled hike (four hikers so far) starts on Tuesday (12th April), with registration at Cafe El Zotz, Flores on Monday (11th April) at 5 pm.

And then we have two interested hikers for the 19th April hike, more needed...


Photos and information package to download

A new feature is finally presented, a slideshow of the best photos our guides made during the hikes of 2010/2011. You will need a Google account to visit the gallery itself (elmiradorhike@gmail.com) on Picasa, but you can also enjoy it on this page, on the right side.

If you do not have the time to read all the posts, a pretty little PDF file can be downloaded in our downloads section containing all the relevant and important information about the hike. To read it, click here.


Hikes from April 4 and on... and volunteers needed!

New system: less posts, more time in the jungle!
April 4 is Monday, and the first day of our regular weekly hikes to El Mirador. From this date on, all hikes start with a registration and briefing on Monday at 5 pm at Cafe El Zotz in Flores. Next day, on every Tuesday, the group goes to Santa Elena, helps with packing the supplies and leaves for Carmelita. Arrival back to Santa Elena every Sunday. Hikes either US 100, no mules used or US 150, using mules and community workers (preferred construction).

Also, we are looking for some real volunteer spirits, who like to hike, organize, live outdoors and learn about the ancient Maya culture of El Mirador. Help also needed with accounting, fund raising, or maybe just teaching English in Carmelita... Accommodation and food provided.


March 22-28 hike

A new option for those out there waiting for their El Mirador hike guided in English: we meet in Galeria del Zotz in Flores, beside Café Yaxhá, for a personal discussion of hike details on the 21st of March, 2011 at 17:00.

Leaving Santa Elena around noon the next day (22nd), we arrive to Carmelita in the evening, and hike out the following day, on the 23rd. Return to Carmelita and Flores on the 27th. Price is 100 US, no mules or helpers, doing the classic route excluding Nakbé. Minimum amount of persons: 8. To secure your place, please send an email to elmiradorhike@gmail.com with full names.


February 24-28 and March 2-6 hikes

We will not be available to read email or answer calls between 15-28 February. Here is the final layout:

February 24-28: 5-day hike, 3 places free. Using mules (possibly volunteers) and not carrying any packs. Price 100 US, food and gear included. Mules cost extra, see posts below. Meeting in Galeria el Zotz, Flores on the 22nd February at 5 pm and again on the 24th 7 am.

March 2-6: 5-day well-planned hike including Nakbé and Wakná, using mules and community guides. Meeting in Flores on the 28th February, 8 pm at Galeria del Zotz, Flores (beside Cafe Yaxha). Trip to Carmelita starts next day early, we stay there a night and hike out on the 2nd of March. Return to Carmelita and Flores on the 6th. Minimum donation is 150 USD, which gets you good food by local cook, a jungle guide, helpers, travel to and from Flores and all accommodation in Carmelita. Plus some secret places to visit...
Profits from this hike will be used to help Carmelita locals establish a private collection and museum of Maya artifacts in their community. Donations above the minimum are gratefully accepted.

All hikes guided in native English by experts.


Feb 15 - 20 hike: few places left

The next hike, leaving on the 14th from Flores by private truck to Carmelita, has a few more places waiting for some adventurous spirits. We preferably carry all our food and gear, purify our water and usually sleep in our own jungle camp than together with dozens of other tourists at the base camps. Cost is US$ 100 per person and includes basically everything (click here for detailed info)

If you would rather do the hike with mules, tents, mattresses, sheltered camps, then consider joining our March 1-7 upcoming hike, featuring Nakbé, La Muralla and the whole 5-day hike as well! This is the first time we will test our GPS map&guide for Nakbé, and will have full guiding in English.


The Sherpas of Mirador

"No one who is a bit concerned about the environment and the future of El Mirador would consider using mule caravans inside the Park."
(Oscar Vesquez, chiclero, near El Florida, leading his 4 mules home)

Those who have been to El Mirador surely remember the ankle-breaking imprints of mule hoofs in the
rock-hard mud of the trail. Only in the dry season, of course, in the rainy months these trails are kneaded into a slimy, knee-deep cereal-like paste by the poor animals. On the other hand, the average tourist will not carry all gear, food, water and extras on a humid, hot, multi-day jungle trek, no matter what the environmental concerns.

And then comes the issue of the Ramon trees (the only species that horses and mules can eat in the jungle, resulting in muleteers fiercely chopping all of them around the camps) and the critters (the pack animals carry domestic pests/diseases into the core of the Biosphere Reserve and vica versa), and that of watering holes being infected by domestic animal droppings, etc...

All these and more were the topics of many late-night arguments beside campfires, until an idea stuck that we thought might be worth a try. Why not use humans instead of mules? If it is possible in the Himalayas, why not here? Conserving the environment always costs more than not caring, so obviously it will be more expensive to pay local workers to carry your backpack than rent a mule. Also, they need their own food, water and gear too, so you still have to pack tight. But then instead of having mules snort beside your tent the whole night, you will have plenty of friendly locals sitting with you around the campfire sharing stories of their lives.

After a few trials it seems to work fine, now all we need is some time and enthusiastic hikers to work out the details. A human train without the swarms of mosquitoes, horse-flies and friends, darting silently through the jungle on moss-covered, narrow trails... it is worth the effort, believe us!


Next public hike: February 15-20

As you can see, we are back in civilization, after a 2-month long stroll in the rainforests of Petén, Lacandón, Chiapas and Belize. All we can say folks: it will blow your mind away! Soon we will post photos as soon as we can convert and select our 10k+ pictures from RAW.

But more interesting is our new venture with Atitlan Adventures, a small outfitter based at San Pedro La Laguna on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Thy offer highly specialized overland adventures by truck, and are busy setting up their activities in Petén as well. Their first major venture will be driving from San Pedro to Flores, and bumping around Petén, mostly the Rio Azul, El Mirador, Petén Itza and Laguna del Tigre areas. This trip is still available with limited places, featuring a free El Mirador Hike, whose hikers will join us on the next public hike. This hopefully means lesser costs and more fun.


Detailed pricing

There seems to be a little confusion about what exactly is included in the featured tour (the next one leaving on February 15).
So, lets see:

Price includes:

·         transportation from/to Santa Elena
·         3 meals a day during hike plus accommodation and food in Carmelita before and after tour
·         all entry fees, permits and taxes; information on current excavations
·         native English guide certified in wilderness first-aid, first-aid kit, GPS and detailed site maps
·         a requirement of minimum eight participants

Not included in price:

·         local guides, mules/horses to carry gear or ride on
·         hammock, net, blanket
·         emergency evac due to blisters, fatigue, health or other issues
·         helpers to set up your tent, cook your food, wash dishes, carry water, tidy up and pack your bag: meaning your personal help is needed all along with common chores
·         tips/snacks/donations

Extras can be rented per day (based on 1 US$ = 7,8 Q):

·         mule                                    US$9
·         muleteer (arriero)            US$14
·         extra hiking days               US$20
·         local cook                             US$14
·         local guide                           US$21
·         hammock+net+cover     US$3
·         Hennessy hammocks      US$20

Please note that one mule is needed to carry all the luggage of two persons, and one muleteer plus his mule has to be rented per four mules. The Hennessy hammocks are professionally designed jungle expedition hammocks with an asymmetrical design for comfortable sleeping, rapid assembly and a built-in rain tarp and mosquito net. Also, they weigh a lot less than the traditional hammock-tarp-net trio.

Our price is 150 US$ per person for a group of at least 8 persons for the 5-day hike. Every extra day will cost 20 US$ per person, for less days we subtract the amount (a 3-day trek would cost 60 USD per person for a group of 8). For groups less than five, the per person price will also be proportionally higher.


New El Mirador Hike in February!

Limited places available for the next El Mirador Hike: 2011 February 15-20. See details below... or call quick: 46154894