Friday, July 23, 2010

Lake Atitlan

This is the deepest lake in Central America, presumably as deep as 340m. Many consider it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. I had to go!

And I did ...First, I booked a shuttle that would pick me up at the school and drive me to the hotel in Panajachel (or Pana). Or this was the plan. The shuttle did not show up, so instead of leaving Friday afternoon, I left Saturday morning with the chicken bus. I was not too happy about taking the chicken bus, I have to confess. There is no direct bus from Xela to Pana. One needs to take three busses to get there, one from Xela to Los Encuentros; one from Los Encuentros to Solola and one from Solola to Panajachel. The first trip is about 1.5 hrs, the two others are short.

So here I was, the gringa in a bus full of Maya people ... but all went well and I got to Pana around 9:30 AM. Checked in the hotel El amigo then went for breakfast. I ate the best tempeh sandwich of my life in Pana! Who would have thought I have to go all the way to Guatemala to find it ... It was the the LLama del fuego on Calle Santander. I tried to extract the recipe for the marinade from them but to no avail of course.

Then, I went looking for a boat to cross the lake over to Santiago. Somebody wanted me to hire a private boat for 400Quetzales. Ha ...funny. I took the public boat for 20Quetzales (about 2.5$).

Santiago de Atitlan is a cute pueblo, population about 95%, if not 100% Maya, but different than in Xela. There are 23 different Maya people in Guatemala. The difference is visible in how they dress of course - around Xela, they use very vivid colors,  a lot of orange, red, purple. In Santiago, they use more blues and purples, as well as more elaborate head scarfs. In the cathedral, there are also the symbols of the cofradias.

From Santiago, I took another boat to San Pedro. This pueblo was preparing for the Fiera de San Pedro; the locals were busy installing carousels and games, as well as BBQ. San Pedro is also home to yoga studios and other New Age things, but not as much as San Marcos. the latter is knows as the hippy village.

I was planning to go to San Marcos as well, then back to Pana. But all this had to happen before 4:30 PM because after that, there are some currents that make it dangerous to take a boat for Pana after that. And it also started raining... I did not know at the time, but that was tropical storm Alex ...I modified my plans and headed straight to Pana; the rain stopped for a brief period, but then it started again and it did not stop for days. When I left Pana on Sunday, it was still raining and uprooted trees were in the middle of the carretera. Solola is one of the pueblos that were most affected by Alex ...

Oh, and Pana is a cute place, with stored of all kinds, including a health food store with gluten-free products and such. It is much more touristic than Xela and that is sometimes a nuisance ...