Michael Franti, my favorite musical artist, has a song entitled I’ll Be Waiting and it includes the line “The best things in life aren’t things/ they’re living and breathing.” How right he is.

Recently, we did some serious living and some serious breathing as we hiked our way to Tzununa from San Marcos. Lake Atitlan (the area we are currently staying in in Guatemala) is ringed by several individual villages, each with their own distinct flavor. We decided to take the hints that had been dropped over the last few days and leave our chosen haven of San Marcos for Tzununa. Tzununa’s main claim to fame is a gorgeous waterfall high in the mountains behind the village and the cave that rests behind it. Many use this cave for Mayan rituals and since we are all about the Mayans right now, we decided to check it out.

Our hike began easily enough. From where we are staying, Hostel del Lago, you just follow the road around until you get to the next village. That part of the journey is fairly easy. There are spectacular views and very few motorized vehicles passing by. Once you get into the village to Tzununa, things change a bit….

Crossing a footbridge near the path to the waterfall.

Crossing a footbridge near the path to the waterfall.

Aaron and Victoria loved the work out the hike provided!

Aaron and Victoria loved the work out the hike provided!

After climbing uphill into the village center, you begin another uphill climb that seems to go on forever. You are, after all, climbing a mountain. The road is rough and there is no pavement. You will cross a bridge and, if you are lucky, you will see women chatting and using the water below to clean clothes and children using the water for their own enjoyment. Eventually you will enter an are that seems more shaded than the rest of your previous walk. This is where the real fun begins. A steep climb over rough rock on a barely visible path eventually leads to the waterfall…. but only the bottom of the waterfall. To reach the top and the all important cave, you much climb. And climb. And climb.

A young boy swims and plays in a waterfall in Tzununa.

A young boy swims and plays in a waterfall in Tzununa.

La Cascada (the waterfall) n Tzununa.

La Cascada (the waterfall) n Tzununa.

We made it quite far but we never actually reached the very top. Thunder rolled in and we realized that if we did not head back down over the steep incline and jagged rock quickly, we might be stuck on the mountain for the night. So, we headed down….. on our butts! The incline was so steep that we went with safe instead of sorry- much to the amusement of every Mayan who went skipping down the narrow, rocky path past us!

The hike was so steep that we slid part of the way down! (To be fair we *may* have chosen the wrong path....)

The hike was so steep that we slid part of the way down! (To be fair we *may* have chosen the wrong path….)

We didn’t make it to the top, but we certainly had an amazing experience. The views were breath-taking, the waterfall was amazing- even from where we saw it, and the intense work-out gave all three of us a sense of accomplishment.

We may not have made it to the top but the views were amazing just the same.

We may not have made it to the top but the views were amazing just the same.

The best things in life aren’t things, they are experiences that add challenge and depth to that living and breathing that Franti talks about. If you ever find yourself near Lake Atitlan, head to Tzununa to see for yourself.

 

Taking a moment to enjoy the sun and the water during our hike.

Taking a moment to enjoy the sun and the water during our hike.

What awesome, challenging experiences have you had while traveling?