Oct 21, 2011

Day of the Dead

At a loss for what to do next week?! Join us for a week of trekking and partying...

We have a special midweek Lago Atitlan trek, leaving Tuesday 25th, coming back Thursday 27th. That gives you just enough time to recover for the infamous Quetzaltrekkers Halloween Party on Friday, at Xela's most beloved billiard spot - Pool and Beer

Then, with the Saturday to fight off the hangover, we head north on Sunday 30th to La Ventoza, a tiny town just outside of Todos Santos. We will climb La Torre (the highest non volcanic point in Central America) and descend into Todos Santos, to witness the unique Day of the Dead celebrations for two days before returning back to Xela on Wednesday 2nd. This is the so called "Party Trek" but for those of a more walking based mentality, there is the "Full Version" that will leave Xela on Thursday 27th and takes in the stunning scenery between Nebaj and Todos Santos, meeting up with the Partiers in La Ventoza, before everyone heads up and down La Torre together.

This is a great opportunity to see Todos Santos and experience the unique Day of the Dead celebrations there, all the while support the great work of EDELAC

For any questions or more information, contact us by phone, e-mail or drop by the office (hopefully to sign up). 

Jul 29, 2011

Long time no read?

So, after all our promises of regular updates have fallen so far behind that they are a mere speck on the fast diminishing horizon and a mere two months later, we return with the latest episode of the sporadic QT blog...

Despite the rainy season, these months continue to witness large numbers of travellers, backpackers, students, volunteers and assorted oddities passing through this fine city. Of course, as a self respecting all non-profit, all volunteer-run trekking agency we would be amiss if we weren't deliriously happy with this state of affairs. Delirious due to the increase in trekking and decrease in sleep, and happy with the knowledge that this hard work is going directly to support the work of EDELAC.

Of course, as well as running treks we also organise kick ass benefit parties. 100% of the proceeds from these benefit parties goes to support two great causes. Primeros Pasos is a clinic that offers quality and affordable health care and health education to the rural, underserved communities of the Palajunoj Valley of Quetzaltenango, whilst the Quetzaltrekkers' Scholarship Fund is administered by QT volunteers for the benefit of local youth with the desire and capacity to continue their studies at university level.

Busy Busy Busy!

Delighted with the opportunity to party, we put all our effort into creating the strangest themes. This is mostly so we can dress up in ever increasingly strange costumes to complement the themes. Maybe because of this, or inspite of this, our parties in recent months have been growing bigger and bigger - both in terms of attendances and proceeds.

So a massive thank you to anyone who has come to one of our parties... mad props and love. Your drunken fun is helping support the continued education of Guatemalan youth as well as the incredible work of  Primeros Pasos.

So come out to the next party, bring your dancing shoes and have some fuuuun!

The Custome Pile. No Fancy Dress? No Problem.
As with our treks, all equipment provided at no extra cost!
   Quetzaltrekkers have parties every other Thursday at the Guide House (15 avendida between 7a and 6a calles) and at Pool and Beer, just south of Parque Central. Look out for posters around town!

May 30, 2011

All for the kids...

With some of-sought-but-very-hard-to-come-by time off hiking last weekend, we decided to take some of the children from the Hogar on a gentle hike. We climbed to the Santiaguito Mirador, hoping for good views! Leaving at 6am we made it to the spot around 9.30am, where we were able to witness the volcano smoking before the clouds closed in. This was then followed by some fun games and some food before we came back down. It was a a really fun day, great to spend time with the kids and it really reminds us why we`re here!

Explaining the intricasies of volcanology

Even time for some hairstyling


Watching Santiaguito smoke

Happy kids, happy guides!

If you are interested in helping us construct a new Hogar, helping us to give even more children a home and an education, there is more information in the posts below about the Hogar Expansion Project and you can read more on the projects section of our website. For information about donating, please click here.

May 19, 2011

Hard at work and not just trekking!

Here at QT Towers, we spend a fair amount of time walking, as you´d probably expect. However, we also find time to do other things (occasionaly)...

With rainy season upon us, we decided it was time to check out the rain jackets. See which ones were acutally waterproof, which ones were sort of waterproof and which ones just weren´t! So we decided the best way was to wear them and spray each other with a hose gun. Sounds like fun eh? Well, it was! Mostly when I was the sprayer, rather than the sprayee....

Are you wet yet?

Making it look good...

Carpinteros, hard at work

Last monday an intrepid group of guides set out to repair the bridge near to Santa Catarina, a bridge we cross over every week. The planks have been rotting away for some time and it was deemed unsafe. After bumping along a dirt road for 45 minutes, we had to carry the new planks down to the bridge ourselves, about a 20 minute descent. Planks on heads, planks on backpacks, planks underarms - planks everywhere!

A couple of hours hard work resulted in alot of rotting bark being removed from the main spar logs, old rotting planks replaced, old planks that were still good being nailed down properly and the new planks being put into place. We then hiked back up, hitched a lift to the Interamericana Highway and met the guides on the way back from the Lago Atitlan hike and headed home. Job well done! Looking forward to the guides´ reactions when they get back from a mid-week Lago tomorrow...

And just when you think we´ve given up on the whole trekking business, we just climbed Santa Maria for the full moon hike on Tuesday night. We had a good group of 26 and the first group made it to the summit by 3.45am, time enough for a good siesta before watching the sun come up. Then the guides stripped down to their under/swimwear for the now legendary and traditional guide shot before we headed down for some well deserved chocobananos at HQ.

Pico Santo Tomas sticking up in the background

May 9, 2011

Great few treks!

Just got back from Tajumulco, the highest point in Central America!

Had a big group of 20 (plus 5 guides) but everything went smoothly - no problems, no rain and great views!! Here are a couple of pictures from the summit:

Guatemala`s volcanos, silhoutteted by the approaching sun

A fitting reward for a touch climb!
On the way back the guides hopped on top of the chicken bus for an hour, a welcome breath of fresh air!

Hold on tight!
And before that QT ran the 2 day Fuentes Georginas hike. Whilst during the actual hike the weather wasn`t the best, it cleared up magnificently for sunset and we were treated to a spectacular sunrise! A steep three hour descent was followed by some well earnt beers and a nice soak in the hot springs! 

The sunsetting behind Santa Maria

Lago Átitlan, it`s volcanos and those of Antigua highlighted by the rising sun

View from the campsite, with Santa Maria casting her shadow over the Pacific Slope
This hike is fanastic - tought but with amazing views of seemingly all of Guatemala! Not to be missed, sign up today!

May 6, 2011

The New Hogar: getting it built!

In January of this year we started hearing back from architects and local construction companies re the Hogar Abierto Expansion Project. We now have a much clearer picture of what the New Hogar will look like and - more importantly – how much it will cost.

When the entire project is completed, it will encompass:
  • Four self-contained dormitory buildings (or ‘Casas’), each with the capacity to house up to 20 children and one round-the-clock care-giver.
  • A sporting field
  • Two administrative offices and a reception area
  • An office for a nurse or counselor
  • An indoor assembly area
  • A small chapel
  • four parking spaces
  • A vegetable garden
To make the project more manageable, construction will take place in stages. We will build one ‘Casa’ at a time with 20 children being to move in as soon as the first is built. After the second Casa is built, we will then need to construct administrative buildings before getting started on the remaining two Casas.

Architectural plans for the New Hogar.
Note the four Casas surrounding the sporting field and the admin and assembly buildings to the left.

So far, the most competitive building quote we have received puts the costs of constructing the first Casa at Q393’000.00 (or slightly less than USD 50’000.00). So 50K is our target figure. When we hit this target construction can get underway almost immediately and the first young residents can move in about 6 months after that.

So the biggest hurdle at the moment – as always – is raising the funds. In Quetzaltenango, we’ve been throwing benefit parties and eliciting small, extra donations from trekkers. This means that the funds in the project’s account are growing (albeit incrementally) and we are already part of the way there in reaching our target.

Between guiding treks and keeping the office running, the Quetzaltrekkers volunteers have also been busy writing grants and cold-calling companies in search of funding. Fundrasing in this manner can be a fickle process. It is often the case that the more funds you have, the easier it is to drum up additional funding. You can help us out by making a donation. Let’s get this thing built!

We have partnered up with the Omprakash Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization which facilitates secure, easy and tax exemptible donations. Visit our profile and click the red donate button.

Introduction to the Hogar Abierto Expansion Project (HAEP)

Hopefully, news about our Hogar Abierto Expansion Project will be a regular feature of this blog.

For a long time now, we have been fully funding a Children’s Dormitory that serves as a home for 15 children from extremely underprivileged backgrounds. These children either do not have a home or come from a home in which their most basic needs are not being met. Although each case is different, many of the children arrive at the Hogar showing signs of physical and sexual abuse, malnourishment and drug addiction.

The current Hogar operates out of a rented house in the centre of Quetzaltenango. With 15 children and a permanent care-giver living at the house, conditions are cramped and there is no outdoor area for the kids to let off steam. Worst of all, we find ourselves in the position of regularly having to turn children away from the Hogar, or placing them on a waiting list until a space opens up. It’s an unfortunate reality; it’s heart-breaking and, basically, it sucks.

So in 2008 a few of the Quetzaltrekkers volunteers started HAEP: an ambitious project to construct an entirely new Hogar that would eventually have the capacity to house 80 children. A generous donation from the Swiss information technology firm, IPT, kick-started our fundraising drive and we set up a new bank account to ensure that funds for the project didn’t bleed into the funds that are used to keep our current projects ticking over.

We are pleased to report that in September 2010, we made our first withdrawal from the account and purchased a 2400m2 parcel of land in the Las Rosas barrio of Quetzaltenango. The New Hogar will be built on this land!

kids and volunteers visit the new piece of land in April 2011
Since the purchase, we´ve continued our fundraising efforts and money has been steadily trickling into the bank account. With the help of donors, we hope that construction can get started asap.

Feel like helping out?

We have partnered up with the Omprakash Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization which facilitates secure, easy and tax exemptible donations. Visit our profile and click the red donate button.

QT makes the New York Times!

Okay, so this post is about a month late but a big mention in one of the most prestigious publications in the world deserves to go down in the QT annals. Check out the article here.

Since the article was published, there´s been a flurry of QT mentions in other international publications including the Irish Times and the Toronto Star.

Go QT!

May 1, 2011

Inaugural Post


Welcome to the Quetzaltrekkers Guatemala Blog.

People, people so many people from all over the joint. And stuff, stuff so much stuff going on all the time.

The people might be ex-volunteers, potential volunteers, volunteers' mums, generous donors, past trekkers, soon-to-be trekkers, benefit party-attendees, Casa Argentina transients, groupies, granola lady and anyone else with an internet connection and an appetite for all things QT.

The stuff might be updates on how our projects are progressing; info on how our organization is evolving; introductions of new volunteers; photos of people having good times on treks; photos of people on Santa María; the heads-up on benefit parties; the low-down on Quetzaltown and any other bits and pieces that are worthy of airtime.

This blog is here to connect the people with the stuff.