A short shuttle drive from Chichi landed us in the town of Panajachel, the gateway of sorts to Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan). Lake Atitlan is a gorgeous lake created by a massive volcanic explosion. It was nominated as a wonder of the world, but didn’t quite make it. It should have! The pics just don’t do it justice.
Since we had not yet made hotel reservations, we strolled down Calle Santander and found a small cafe called Tuscani with wifi. Minutes later it began to rain. The waiter put a metal thing in the doorway and when I asked “Que es este?”, he said it was for the rain. Within 5 minutes it made perfect sense. It was a bridge to avoid the foot of water streaming down the street.
The hour and a half down pour gave us time to devour some of the best tacos we had ever had and to meet Walter, the owner. Lucky for us Walter spoke English and helped us out by calling a hotel (Mario’s Rooms) to see if there were rooms available. There was one room for one night, perfect!
We jumped into a tuk-tuk for a quick trip to the supermercado to buy ice and some snacks before checking into the hotel. I managed to snap a quick pic of Carrie at the register before el policio came over saying “No tomar foto!” Ooops!
The next morning we found Walter and he gave us directions to walk to the Nature Reserve. There were signs indicating the presence of monkeys and coati, but we never saw any. Regardless, the hike up to the waterfall was beautiful, monkeys or not.
Around 1:00 p.m. we hired a boat to take us across the Lake to San Pedro la Laguna, another small town on Lake Atitlan. The water was very choppy! The boat ride was almost as bouncy and erratic as the chicken bus ride to Chichi! Just as we picked our way across the rickety dock a man came up to us asking “Necessita informacion?” No, no gracias, we both replied, but he persisted. Where are you going? Hotel Gran Sueno, I replied. “Ah, you have reservacion?” When we shook our heads, he grabbed one our bags, “come, I show you,” and once again we found ourselves trotting after a helpful stranger. We are pretty sure these guys get some kind of commission from the hotels. Anyway, Hotel Gran Sueno is gorgeous! We highly recommend Room #11, what a view!
The net day we caught a publico (public boat) to another little town on the lake called Santiago. We really liked the vibe in this town, which we explored with the helpful guidance of Samel, a tuk-tuk driver who offered to take us to the top of the hill for Q5 (less than $1 for both of us.) Sam was tricky, though! About 100 feet into the drive up, he pulls over, “let me speak English to you few minutes…” and we found ourselves agreeing to shell out Q150 for him to take us on a 2 hour guided tour of Santiago. lol. Sam had a great, engaging personality, and certainly earned his $20. He also taught us some of his Mayan language, specifically how to discourage the street “entrepreneurs” – Majon pac, miltigosh! (I have no money, thank you!).
Despite our best efforts, though, we couldn’t resist a 9 year old girl and her baby sister. We left Santiago with four or five beaded bobbles more than we arrived with. We also caught a sneak pic of one of the men in traditional clothing and paid a street beggar Q5 for a picture with him.
We were going to jump aboard a pickup truck for a Q1 ($0.15) lift back to San Pedro; but, unfortunately, it was too late in the afternoon and we couldn’t find any going that way. Tomorrow we catch another shuttle, back to Antigua, to climb the Pacaya volcano and toast marshmallows.
Audrey and Carrie – two amigas in Guatemala who are considering buying stock in beads