Camp AKT

December 6th-8th 2021

Amazing. Words can’t describe how beautiful this place is.

The closest road was edged by shrubs and trees, so we were only able to get a few tanatalising glimpses of the scenery beyond, and it was a bit disconcerting that the car park for the camp was just a small square of concrete on the roadside- perhaps this wasn’t going to be so remote and picturesque after all.

But when we got out of the car and were able to see the view in its entirety- wow! A vast expanse of cultivated fields reaching from the slopes of the volcano where the camp is situated down into the valley and beyond. In the distance, clearly were the unmissable peaks of different volcanoes and hills.

The site itself was still under construction when we visited. There is a small shed-like building next to the car park that serves as an office and storeroom. When the camp is busier, I think they also offer simple food and hot drinks here, but we were the only guests. The car park is the top level of a two-storey concrete structure, the lower rooms of which look to be planned with floor to ceiling windows to make the most of the amazing views. Further down the slope, there is a modern shower/toilet block, and then below this the five tents set up for guests. Each tent is constructed from strong poles (like scaffolding) and then covered with a heavy-duty water- and wind-proof cover, with liftable flaps for ventilation, and each has thick airbeds, sleeping bags and blankets.

Blankets? Sleeping bags? In Guatemala? From 30 degrees C in the Rio, it seemed coooooooolllllld at night on the slopes- we got a reading of 12 degrees C- and then add to that the relentless wind chill. This was the coldest temperature we have experienced in maybe four years, and we appreciated every inch of sleeping bag and blanket. Luckily, we were prepared clothing-wise, having supplemented the gloves and hats we have onboard for colder climates/cold weather sailing with some clothes from a second-hand store in the Rio that imports great quality items from the US for what we consider low prices. But even three or more layers of decent quality hiking gear wasn’t enough for the boys at dinner, cooked outside on BBQ and open fire, which took considerably longer than normal. Annoyingly, we have a great camping stove, but as all of our possessions were in storage, we couldn’t find it for the trip. It would have been invaluable, especially for making a quick cup of tea- lighting a fire in the wind at high altitude can take a while. As soon as the last mouthful of dinner was eaten, Arthur and Theo would scamper off to the tent and we would find them snuggled down together looking at books by the light of a torch.

The fire pit/BBQ area did offer the most spectacular views, especially at night, with masses of clouds rolling in and enveloping the surrounding countryside and peaks. Sitting with a hot drink as dinner cooked, toasting the odd marshmallow, was perfect. And it was so peaceful. By day, Arthur and Theo spent much of their time walking and running up and down the steep slopes, fetching firewood, preparing and tending to the fire, and inventing games.

The site caretaker for most of our stay was a young boy of (if I remember and understood his Spanish correctly) about 12, who walked a couple of kilomteres from his village in the valley to the campsite, and  spent his time making sure we had everything we needed night and day, sleeping in the office and running up and down the hill like a mountain goat with torches and extra blankets, and making up drinks in our reusable cups as the office stove boiled water fasted than the fires. He was also our guide for a short hike. Camp AKT can organise various guided hikes, including up Volcano Acatenango, but unfortunately, only Theo and I went on a walk, and not far from the camp. The altitude made even the walks up and down the steep slopes feel surprisingly tough, so because Arthur was still feeling pretty weak from his sickness bug and the terrain was tough for Hector, they stayed at camp with Dave. The route took us around the edge of part of the valley, and rose high enough that we were able to see further and got a couple of glimpse of Acatenango’s peak.

We would love to stay at Camp AKT again if we had the opportunity, and would definitely recommend it for a few days of peace immersed in the grandeur of nature en route to Lake Atitlan and Antigua, which are both popular destinations for cruisers spending a few months in the Rio Dulce.