It was early. So early, it was quiet. There were no birds, no bugs, just an utter, quiet darkness. I looked over at Dan waking up. No one else was moving. We thought about blowing the train whistle, but not everyone wanted to rise this early. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be up this early. In fact, I didn’t feel like I should be. I felt weak as I woke up the other guys in the room. They all began to ready themselves for the trek. I mentioned my doubts and gave into the peer pressure of going. I loaded my marral with my Nalgene and two cameras. It should be a good trip.
As we left the compound, there was nothing awake. There were a few lights on here and there in the village, but no movement. A few dogs slept on the side of the road as we slid softly over the cobbled road, watching that we didn’t step into yesterday’s melon rinds or anything an animal had left behind. The road was flat, but I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. We moved from the cobblestone to the dirt and descended to the bridge that crossed the small creek. As I started up the other side, I dropped to the back of the group. Sweat was pouring out of me. It didn’t seem that hot, the sun was not up! I opened my water and took a draught of the icy liquid. Wiping my mouth, I trudged up the road.
We stopped to watch the sun peek over the distant mountains. The cameras came out, they clicked, and smiles greeted the sun. We began to climb again. My shirt was soaked. It was a gray shirt, the third annual Adelphikos 3-on-3 shirt, and it was so wet it was black. I gulped some more water as I strained to keep up. I couldn’t really understand why I was having such a hard time keeping up. I had started working out before I came to Guatemala and was not in terrible shape. I had not had any problem playing soccer with the locals the day before.
Farther and farther up the mountain we went. I seemed to have to pause every few hundred yards. I finally got to a point where I could get no further. I caught up to the others who had paused to rest. I told them there was no more for me. I was heading back down. They looked at me in disbelief. But they bid farewell and continued their climb. I began my descent with a wistful look over my shoulder.
The trip down was worse. People were waking up and there was some foot traffic on the road. Mayan women would hide their children in the skirts and scurry past. I couldn’t even walk down the mountain at a reasonable rate. I was still pausing to catch my breath and take a sip of the dwindling water. It took the longest time to get to the bottom. I spent more time sitting on rocks than I did walking. I accidentally sat on an ant hill once too (well, on a rock on top of an ant hill) which added to the misery.
I made it back to the village and knocked on the metal door. One of the children opened the door with a smile and a shout of “Jaime!” I dragged myself across the courtyard and back to my room. My head was pounding and I felt so weak. It had been almost four hours since I got up. The others who had not ventured out looked at me strangely, “Are you all right?” I shook my head, walked to my room, and sprawled on my bed. I slept for over six hours, waking only to drink bottles of water. Dena thought I was dehydrated and kept me in bed for awhile longer.
What did I learn from this trip? That mountain climbing should be left to sheep? Well, perhaps. But what I did learn come in the form of an analogy.
The Bible talks about the hill of the Lord. Climbing this spiritual mountain requires one to be focused and ready for the challenge. I wasn’t ready for the challenge. I was weak and not ready for the stress of the journey.
We need to be ready to face the challenges of this world, the mountains. If not, you’ll be like me and have to stop before you reach the top.
I didn’t make it to the top of the mountain before, but I’m sure that I will now.