2012-12-26

Feedback from a reader

A very interesting comment arrived to our previous post that we thought should be posted. Thank you Laura for the effort!

 
I just got back from the Mirador and am happy to see that someone has posted this information. We ran into a lot of trouble because we had booked a tour through Humberto (listed above) because a friend recommended him. On the morning we were to leave DIPRONA (the protected areas police) and representatives from the cooperativa were blocking our entrance onto the trail.

They have passed a rule and are being supported by CONAP (council for protected areas) to only allow licensed guides from INGUAT lead trips. The only people who are licensed work for the coop. This means that only people from the coop can take you.

I agree with these comments that if you have the time, speak spanish, and want to support an example of community led conservation and tourism that you go to Carmelita and try to find a way to work with the cooperative to negotiate something cheaper. Otherwise just book with the travel agency and you will not have a headache from seeing a community being torn apart by regulations to protect the land around them.

What we ended up doing was spending 3 extra days in Carmelita staying in Humerto's house while we worked out a compromise. I don't think the coop wants to work with other people in the community. They have a list of members and have a rotation for who gets work next. Humberto wanted to be our mule driver out of his cycle. We ended up paying 1,000Q for the guide and going through Humberto for everything else. I don't think that the coop was happy about this compromise but we had already paid him through bank transfer and did not feel it was fair to take the money from him just to give it to his neighbor.

The people who do work for the coop are paid a fair wage and are ensured dividends twice a year but what the coop earns. We paid Q1,000 for the guide. He got Q700 of that and Q300 went to the costs of administration of the coop. This is why it creates friction in the community because people don't understand why money should pay for a secretary to sit in front of a computer. Also only people who have done a 7 month course can be a registered guide so it is not easy for illiterate people who have been working as guides for years to become legal.

Don't let this stop you from going. It is beautiful. However as most beautiful ecosystems left in the world there are a lot of external pressures that are making the regulations even more important. Unfortunately it is causing struggles in the community of Carmelita.

     

7 comments:

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  7. Just to update the comments section, since this site has been on hiatus for a bit:

    Now that we have just gotten back from the hike (using this page's guide heavily-- thank you!!) just wish to write a few things that would have been helpful for us two travellers planning the trek.
    El Mirador is still open, in fact wide open, there are no entry fees and the trails are clear and well travelled.

    We did this trek completely unassisted, and found the route quite easy to follow. The route from Carmelita to Tintal and then on to mirador would be extremely hard to lose. The route through La Florida and Nakbe was slightly more difficult to follow and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they have good route finding skills and can understand directions in Spanish. There are people all over, and in Carmelita, palmero camp on way to Tintal, at Tintal, Mirador, Nakbe, and finally La Florida we were happily given great directions.
    (Be aware that going towards La Florida from Nakbe, many hours in, there is an unsigned fork. The left fork is flanked by two trees, each with green or blue ribbon tied around them. Take the RIGHT fork towards La Florida)

    Every camp has large covered camping areas, so a hammock or a tent without rain fly (to save space and weight) is fine. Every camp allowed us to use their fire to cook, so I would recommend against a stove unless you wanted to heat up tortillas on the trail. Water is available cheap or free at every camp. 3 liters of water per person for hiking days. Bring light food. Spaghetti, instant beans, tortillas, granola, powdered milk, crackers, etc. the hiking days are really long and you really do not want to carry extra weight.

    If I were to do the hike again, I would bring some lighter food and stay two days at Mirador. It is just so beautiful. Astounding really. We only left because we didn't have enough food.

    These recommendations are only, of course, written for someone planning to do this hike without a guide or mules. I want to be clear that if you are not very experienced with long backpacking trips or at all question your ability to hike for 10-14 hours a day with laden backpacks, you should seek help from a Carmelita Cooperative guide. That is the surest way you will be able to support the local community and stable future of The El Mirador Basin. All the guides we met were warm, friendly, generally knowledgeable, and shared our curiosity and wonder about El Mirador. The Carmelita coop actually has an office on the island of Flores if you wanted to set up your trip before getting to the office in Carmelita.

    Whatever you do, you won't regret going to El Mirador. There is truly nothing like it in the world.

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