Acatenango Volcano. (Photo by Carolyn Tuson)

Guest column by Mary Hof: Active travel sees Valley couple trot the globe

I have climbed and hiked for 25 years

By Mary Hof

My name is Mary Hof, I live in Cowichan Bay. I am a member of the Outdoor Club of Victoria, Island Mountain Ramblers, Alberni Outdoor Club, and Cowichan Hikers. I love hiking, and I love leading hikes locally or abroad. I have climbed and hiked for 25 years, but reaching the summit of the Golden Hinde I 2017 (highest peak on Vancouver Island) is still one I talk abut the most. It even beats out Kilimanjaro, which I did in 2002.

But why do I want to take 22 people on a hiking trip in Central America? That is what I did January and February, 2019. I might add, I took a group there also in 2017, and have taken groups to Cuba five times, plus many other places. I am not a travel agent, nor do I even have a website. I love organizing and researching, and I love the fact that my husband, Gerry, and I can hike in different group levels and both enjoy the day.

I am the hiker that loves a challenge, likes to go further and get a good workout. Gerry is a guy who is more relaxed, likes to hike, but three to four hours is enough. So I organize the trip, hire the company to help me out, put it out there, and invite others to join. It works every time. Our group ages were between 45 and 72, and we started as friends and ended like family. Hikers came from Vancouver Island, the mainland, and Alberta.

This trip to Guatemala was amazing, we hiked, we biked, we brought humanitarian aid, we learned about the culture, and we relaxed by the ocean, and most important, we had fun together.

We had two full time guides with us, we had the same bus driver, and I hired local guides in certain areas.

We did nine days of hiking, each group doing different hikes most days.

We had some amazing hikes; I think Acatenango Volcano, 13,004 feet with a 6,000 foot elevation gain was a highlight for Group 1, and for Group 2, Pacya volcano 8,300 feet where the group roasted marshmallows on the hot lava.

Another highlight was bringing humanitarian aid from home and while there, donating money, which the company matched. They made 40 bags of basic staples, and we presented it to the community of 38 families. These families are very poor, some living in homes made from plastic. The whole community came to meet us; I tell you, it was very hard to say good-bye to the community.

For me the group we had was amazing. We had three nurses, and they came to the aid of our boat driver who could have bled to death. Their fast action saved him. Then we collected money for him as we knew he would be out of work for awhile.

Something I will never forget is the song they came up with for the guides and I, at our farewell dinner, tears swell every time I hear it.

I have made a 20-minute movie that highlights the trip; when you get the time, watch it.

One of the gals from the trip sent it to a friend who spent six years in Guatemala in the ’70s and ’80s, first as a tutor for a missionary’s children, then writing a school book for Mayan children to learn to read their Mayan language. She sent the following response: “Just watched the Guatemala movie. Tell Mary she did a super job. I had tears in my eyes as I followed your journey through the ‘Land of eternal spring’”. Marlene

Another person wrote, “Thanks for the opportunity to build happy memories and make a small but positive difference. It was wonderful to travel with such a group of dynamic, interesting, positive and energetic folks”.

And yes, I have organized another trip Nov. 21 to Dec. 5, 2019, to Honduras. I will have two groups again for hiking, and again we will take humanitarian aid, volunteer, learn about the culture and most of all, HAVE FUN.

Email me for more info, mhof126@gmail.com

I have space for 3 more. I only have 1 rule: “Five minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable”. I believe that for anything I do.

Keep hiking, and enjoy life.

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