Beautiful Lake Atitlan

It is absolutely stunning here. We have enjoyed the lake from the shores and from a boat. The mountains are lovely shapes, all tree covered. The gardens at the hotel beautifully tended and full of exotic birdsong. As I begin writing this the sky is cloudless and the lake a deep blue. There is a fisherman standing up paddling his boat, probably off to check his nets.

The Lake Atitlan story so far.

We had an extremely soggy arrival on Monday afternoon. We took an Uber from Antigua, and stopped at Iximche on the way so Anna could see some Mayan ruins. It is a small site but what we thought was just for Anna to see something new turned out to be a very different experience for us too, as it is still in daily use as a Mayan place of worship.

The remains of the buildings and the model of how it used to be.

The ball court, only two players in each team here and no human sacrifices after the match!

The remains of an earlier sacrifice that morning, the chicken carcass still burning and the chicken head on the altar.

Round the other side where the shaman (disappointingly dressed in jeans and a shirt) was conducting a ritual for the kneeling lady, while a young man (her son, perhaps) looked on while paying more attention to his mobile phone!

We proceeded towards Panajachel and the driver said we would find it quicker to take a boat over the lake to our hotel. We should have insisted he brought us all the way, but hindsight is a great gift, and we didn’t. It started to pour, he found us a boat and instead of phoning the hotel to get them to send one, we paid well over the odds for the boat, double what the hotel would have charged we subsequently discovered. We were truly diddled! We had a very bumpy journey across the lake in the storm and got even wetter. We arrived here absolutely dripping, and very chilly. Looking down on Panajachel and a couple of photos on the boat.

The hotel is in an idyllic setting on the shore of the lake, the gardens are stunning, there is a lovely pool, though we have only sat by it so far and not ventured in. The staff are delightful and the food is good. They are going to cook us pepian tonight, as Anna was told she had to try it while here, it is a very ancient and typical Guatemalan dish apparently, but we haven’t found it on any menu so far. We will hold her entirely responsible if we don’t like it! Some views from and around the hotel.

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Pity then that the rooms are damp, and everything in them, clothes, bedding etc. We are surviving though, and no pneumonia as yet! Matthew has given them a free architectural lesson in what they need to do about it.

First sunset here.

On Tuesday we set off to explore Santiago, the town we are staying in. We had a good wander round and then a tuc-tuc driver took us on a ‘sightseeing tour’ of the town. It was great fun, three in the back of the tuc-tuc. He took us to the church, the market, the washing area by the lake, the ‘viewpoint’, and to the house where the local Mayan god, Maximon, is currently lodging. That was fun. He was smoking, and worshippers were sharing a glass of beer with him. In the same house there were images of Christ and the Virgin Mary. ‘Syncretism’ our guide told us.

Yesterday we had planned to take the public boat to San Pedro or Panajachel and headed for the little port. We had been reliably informed that boats went every half hour, but when we got there it wasn’t quite that organised! A young man with a boat, Pedro, started offering us his services, but we were insistent about taking the public boat, especially after our experience on the day we arrived. Our bargaining skills are clearly improving because in the end we agreed a price to have him and his boat to ourselves for the day and decided instead to do a grand lake tour of the villages. We had a super day. It was wonderful out on the lake, though it did get a bit choppy later on in the afternoon on our way back. It is the way the boat slaps down on the waves that is so disconcerting!

The lovely Pedro and his boat.

Our first stop was San Antonio Palopo, famous for its pottery, but I note we didn’t take a photo of any of it, too busy looking at it!

Santa Caterina Palopo where there is an ongoing community project to paint all the houses bright colours with Mayan patterns. It was a delightful village.

After that was the tourist hub and biggest town on the lake of Panajachel, which was indeed very touristy!

Onto San Juan la Laguna, a most delightful village which seems to be a centre for local artists and weaving. All the artists are self taught, and their art very vivid and naive. There were also coffee shops with delicious organic coffee. Sadly there was a power cut so we could only have filter coffee as the espresso machine was stymied by the power cut.

Last stop was San Pedro la Laguna, probably the nearest village to us here in Santiago. It was new agey, backpacker territory with quite a few ageing hippies around too. The main drag, and looking across to the Mayan’s Nose – look sideways you see his face on the ridge of the hills.

Some views of the hills round the lake.

It was a great day and we were so pleased we changed our minds and hired Pedro and his boat for the day.

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