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Lake Atitlan

Where the rainbow gets it's colours

semi-overcast 25 °C

Lake Atitlan was another of the reasons we chose to go to Guatemala. We had heard stories that this lake was considered by Aldous Huxley as the most beautiful lake in the entire world; even more so than Lake Como in Italy. I haven’t yet been to Lake Como, but I can see how any other lake would be hard pressed to be any more gorgeous than Lake Atitlan.
There was something in the air, or the water, or the location that made me feel as if we were on top of the entire world. The towering volcanic peeks seemed to watch over us rather than pose any threat, despite their active status. The water was fresh and cool and felt velvety on our skin as we swam through it.
When we first arrived we stayed in Panajachel (known to all simply as Pana). We had not found anywhere online to stay so we wandered the streets until a local man kindly directed us towards a local homestay where we got our own private room to share for just $10 per night. The place was full of chickens and children, broken cobbles and bad plumbing, dust and hanging laundry - it reminded me of home in the Dominican Republic. Erie and I were very pleased to learn we could do our own laundry and use a few buckets of water and soap to do so. We sat out in the sun and scrubbed at our clothing when we noticed a very small naked boy wander his way over to us. He had clearly just learned the word agua (water) because he was excitedly pointing at the water in our buckets, repeating agua over and over again. He came close to the bucket where Erie had her freshly cleaned rinsing in some clean water, pulled on his tiny penis and screamed agua with delight as he emptied his bladder all over the clean washing! Oh how we laughed and laughed as his father came running over as he apologised more times than his son had said agua - but it really didn’t matter at all.

We wandered around Pana, picked up a few presents for people in New Zealand, and I recovered from the terrible cold and cough I had picked up in Lanquin after staying in a musty and damp bedroom on our final night there. We were staying in Pana mostly because it was close to the infamous Chichicastenango (Chichi) markets. They are known as being the largest textile markets in all of Central America. We had already seen so much of the textiles everywhere we had been so we were very excited to go to the markets and we were determined to have our haggling skills on form so that we could stock up with all the Guatemalan textiles two Kiwi girls could ever need. We got up super early and caught the local chicken buses to the market. We had discovered that taking shuttles and buses was the major cause of our money disappearing so quickly – that and the ever dropping Kiwi dollar of course. The market itself was huge. We feel like we covered all of it, but I really can’t be sure. Sadly, the prices were not as cheap as we had thought they would be so we were unable to buy some of the things we had originally wanted. However, we both had our eyes on these beautiful rainbow blankets that we had seen everywhere. They were nice and warm, but not so warm or bulky that they couldn’t be carried. Erie and I have always been huge fans of snuggling under blankets, and I really wanted to take something beautiful back to Billy for our new apartment. So we set about finding the best blankets and the best deal in the market. We managed to find it, finally. A lovely group of ladies who sold them to us for so cheap that no other stall holder could believe the price we got them for. She had originally asked for Q750 each and we managed to get two for Q250. The price for our handwoven blankets was less than $22NZD each. We got some beautiful presents for our parents – I left my Dad’s behind. I literally paid the money and walked away without taking it as I had wrongly assumed Erie had. So I had to buy him another at a different market on another day after we realised our mistake – So I bought one for the price of two, so much for our haggling skills!
The day after the market we said farewell (and agua) to our friends at the little place where we were staying. Surrounding Lake Atitlan are at least 10 little towns and villages, many of which are only accessible by boat.
We headed over to our next destination – Santa Cruz de la laguna. And from there, the view was the most magnificent of all.
Erie and I wandered along the ‘boardwalk’ which was at times a jungle track and at others rotting planks of wood where you could easily slip and fall into the lake (glad to see Latin America is still my amazing Latin America, even at the most amazing lake in the world). Our destination was a nearby resort where we could swim off the dock and tan in the sun.
As we approached, we noticed the clouds were beginning to roll in and the lake was becoming very choppy. By the time we actually arrived at the dock we felt it wasn’t safe enough to swim and I was feeling quite cold as 25 degrees is a lot cooler than my Caribbean 35! I was cold and Erie was feeling very itchy as she had been bitten 142 (I counted) times by mysterious mosquitos – mysterious because I didn’t have a single bite, maybe she was my repellent! So we headed back to the hostel where we were staying, grabbed a bite to eat at a local home that was also a small restaurant before watching sunset and enjoying happy hour.
The next morning we got up early as always and headed off to San Marcos which is commonly known as the hippy town where all of the yoga/ meditation/ alternative lifestyle expats seem to find themselves living after disappearing off the grid for months or years on end. We had heard that was the best part of the lake for swimming and that there was a cool cliff where we could jump off – another one of our all-time favourite things to do!We found the town itself quite disappointing, but learned afterwards that perhaps we never actually made it right into the heart of San Marcos. However, the trampoline (jump spot) made up for it all!
Erie and I arrived to find a cool group of other travellers, some of whom were very indecisive about jumping. Of course we were not, we were afraid for about 3 minutes before we plunged into the fresh water below. We jumped over and over again, swimming and chatting to the others and eating tamales on top of the cliff as we looked over towards the volcanos and the town of San Pedro.Finally, we decided it was time to continue our day as we still wanted to see two other villages; San Pedro and Santiago. We waved our friends off as we sped away on the boat, managed to see one finally attempt (and succeed) at his backflip as we made tracks across the water. When we got off the boat at San Pedro, we bumped into our three friends Tash, Hannah, and Libby who we had met at Zephyr and then already bumped into at Chichi markets! We joined them up on the balcony where they were sitting for mojito hour before exploring the town together after learning there were no more boats over to Santiago for the day. We decided to have one more mojito before taking the boat to our hostel. As we entered the restaurant/ bar, we saw the remains of what looked like the bottom of the ocean – crab shells, prawns, fish bones, you name it was all over one of the tables alongside giant bowls. We scoured the menus to discover that the seafood soup was just $8NZD and we ordered one each.
When it came, we couldn’t believe our eyes – each one had a huge crab, an entire fish, many prawns, clams, and the most delicious broth ever!
We all dove straight in and thankfully we were not on a date with Channing Tatum because we ate like absolute pigs!
When Erie and I went to catch the boat back to our hostel we were told that we had missed the last boat back by about 20 minutes. We weren’t too upset because we had spent that 20 minutes devouring possibly the best meal of our entire lives – however, the only option was to either book a room in San Pedro or to pay $100 for private boat back to our hostel in Santa Cruz. Obviously, we took the cheaper option and stayed at the hostel with the girls for the little bit of money we had on us. It worked out great too because San Pedro is the ‘party town’ of all the lake towns. We drank 1 litre cocktails out of fishbowls, drank giant beers, and found ourselves at a local concert listening to some really odd music and drinking 50 cent rum and cokes. Of course, no party night will ever be complete without a trip to the local taco shop – where I promptly ate 3 tacos, gave 2 to my new drunk local best friend who had no idea who she actually was or what her name was - other than the fact she was my long lost Guatemalan sister, and I wrote a song to my taco itself called “TACOOOOO, TE AMOOOO.”

Posted by chasingsummer 08:20 Archived in Guatemala

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