A Motley Crew Came to Bitcoin Lake to Learn about Bitcoin and Opportunity

The Holy Grail, a Pot of Gold and Hidden Jewels

Published in
14 min readMay 19, 2022


This is an ongoing series of articles about Bitcoin Lake. If you are just joining, you can start here.

On the 9th of May I had the pleasure of bringing a team of random Bitcoiners to Panajachel, Guatemala to showcase the potential for investment opportunity in the area. It was a smashing success. And as I have always publicly relayed the progress of our work at Bitcoin Lake, I wanted to provide an update for this trip as well. The purpose of providing these updates is for transparency and a living memorial to lessons learned. Secondly and increasingly importantly, it provides an opportunity for those who want to know more about what we are building to see the progress. I began documenting our intentions back in September of 2021 for the purpose of building a community. I love the Bitcoin community because you have stepped up to make this happen, literally from around the world! Gracias!

As a reminder, you can visit bitcoinlake.io to see our full team — multinationals with varied skills and talents — it’s a great team.

The main purpose of this trip was to further explore and validate our thesis that there is abundant, clean, renewable energy for Bitcoin mining. I cast a wide net for business leaders, CEOs and random Bitcoiners to join and while some of the folks I really wanted to come couldn’t come, the team that finally arrived and what we learned far exceeded my expectations. I always go into these trips really not knowing what to expect, but the Lord always provides.

This team consisted of Bill Whittaker and his daughter Madaket and friend Kate Rosa, Jim Shewchuk, Dr. Rick N., Victor Tzorin, Marco Reyes, Cesar Tanchez, Mario Salguero, Juan Fonseca (briefly — thank you), Fabu@69420 and his girlfriend Mel, and Ben Weiss.

Breakfast Meeting for Networking and Sharing Ideas — paid in Bitcoin, of course.

Bill and the girls were coming down to implement a proof of concept for Bitcoin mining using renewable energy sources. Jim is from a Bitcoin services company, Victor and Marco are from Escuintla, Guatemala, Cesar, Mario, and Juan came from Guatemala City. Fabu and Mel are Swiss via Colombia. And Ben is a freelance reporter from NYC who was with us for the entire time to document our project.

Kate (closest to view) and Madaket teaching the children at Centro Educativo Josue. Josue (farthest from view) is translating

In addition, Seedsigner provided Seedsigners for us to deploy in the wild to provide feedback. Seedsigners are “stateless” BTC wallets that allow for creation of keys without storage of the keys on the device. It’s a very clever device with the possibility of being the cold storage solution in developing countries. As part of our ongoing Bitcoin education at Centro Educativo Josue (CEJ), we also had components of the Seedsigner that we used so that the kids could learn how to assemble them. It was really neat to see this nascent technology in the hands of these children in this small Guatemalan town. A technology that very few, if any kids in the world have access to. They were learning a basic technical skill that could be the building blocks for a larger Bitcoin economy in the area.

Fabu teaching the kids to assemble the seed signer

Interestingly, Victor and Marco learned about Bitcoin Lake from Cesar and they want to implement a similar educational and mining program at Mana de Vida which is a school in Escuintla. Marco works in the municipal government and sees great opportunity for Escuintla to diversify its economy using Bitcoin mining based on what he learned in Panajachel.

In fact at a Bitcoin meet up in Guatemala City on the 17th of May, Cesar made the point that because of what we are doing there in Panajachel, he envisions Panajachel being the center of Bitcoin activity in Guatemala. A lofty thought for sure. It would be great to see that happen.

Nancy Cifuentes (founder of CEJ) is laying the foundation for us to get our curriculum formally introduced into the Guatemalan educational system.

Nancy (left) and Mel discussing starting English classes at the school (Eliazar is center)

Since Bitcoin Pizza Day was approaching, we had a Bitcoin Pizza day for the children on the 18th of May as part of the regular educational program. In true fashion, Bitcoiners from around the world contributed to make this happen. They sent money directly to a new pizza vendor we orange pilled the week before. It’s just such an awesome thing to be a part of this and to have a community that is really engaged with what we are doing.

People from around the world sent satoshis to Monkey Pizza so the kids could enjoy pizza!

The orange pilling is continuing. Admittedly, it’s hard work. I visit as many shops and businesses as I can with Eliazar. Introducing and teaching about Bitcoin in a seemingly digitally naive community. Sure, most everyone has access to computers and smart phones but as a utility device, not as devices that are meant to transform their lives. In a sense, this makes this very “missionary” like. I think we have made tremendous success in the short amount of time since our launch. And I must admit that if it had not been for Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador and the Bitcoin revolution going on next door, that we could not have had this type of success.

Current state of Bitcoin Adoption in Panajachel

However, in a short amount of time (we started in mid January 2022), you can now come to Panajachel and use Bitcoin in nearly 40 businesses. You can come and eat at a restaurant, go to a bar, get ice cream, souvenirs, get around town in a tuk tuk, get across the lake, buy groceries and stay in various hotels while paying in Bitcoin. On my most recent trip about 85% of my total spend was in Bitcoin.

Mike Peterson and Bitcoin Beach have been very supportive or our efforts. And Galoy Money has been very responsive to suggestions and technical help with the Bitcoin Beach Wallet.

Bitcoin Beach Wallet “Hack” — telephone #’s added to tuk tuk driver pins so you can call for a BTC ride — thanks to support from BBW and Galoy

The two main concerns that we have to address every time is the volatility and the cash out issue with Bitcoin. While there, Bitcoin dropped over 20% in value and the Luna mess unraveled. Not that we promote or are involved in Luna but it provides context and timing for where we are. Despite this drop in value, one of our first business owners gave a glowing report of the progress of Bitcoin Lake. You can find the recording here starting at about the 2 hour mark. We are always very upfront about the volatility of Bitcoin. And as Ben Weiss asked during our interview, “what is the moment of baptism into Bitcoin?” And I said, “When the price drops like this and you remain committed to Bitcoin, then you have been baptized into Bitcoin.” I think for many Bitcoiners, a full cycle with a crash makes them Bitcoin Maxis. I’m not sure the businesses we are onboarding will need to go through a full cycle. I think their entry now is only going to reinforce our efforts in a year or so. As far as Luna goes, it effectively proves out the tragedy of introducing anything other than a hard asset like Bitcoin into a community like this. Imagine introducing Luna to a community of marginalized people only to see them lose everything.

The Holy Grail

If you know anything about Bitcoin mining, you know what the Holy Grail is: free energy. I asked Dr. Rick N. to come down and describe his technology. I learned about it several months ago. He was unaware of Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining at the time, he was focused on exploiting other energy markets. When I learned about his tech, I told him that he needs to deploy it into the Bitcoin mining space. In the process of vetting this technology I wanted him to come down and describe it to two other Bitcoiners: Bill and Jim. Both Bitcoin miners. Their eyes were bulging out of their heads as they learned about Rick’s tech: Mission accomplished! We are still vetting this tech but it is the Holy Grail. If we can deploy it in Panajachel, Pana will become a Bitcoin mining haven. Super excited to see where this goes — definitely stay tuned.

The Pot of Gold at The End of The Rainbow

If you have been following our story, you know that we have discovered a significant problem at the waste waster treatment facility (WWTF). While the original plan involved using solar as an energy source, at the recommendation of Ricardo Carmona, we started looking into the possibility of using bio waste. We started in January looking at the WWTF and found that while the facility has a large biodigester, it is not flaring methane because of cracks in the biodigester. Methane is a more harmful environmental gas than CO2. So we are actively looking into fixing this problem and using the wasted energy to mine Bitcoin. This is an ongoing project.

Bill Whittaker assessing essentially “NIB” Biodigesters that have never been used

As we have thought about it, though, amazingly, Bitcoin forces a decentralized approach so we are getting farther and farther down the waste trail to the point of potentially collecting food waste and organic waste using small digesters to produce methane for energy to mine Bitcoin. This methane is cleaner than the methane from the WWTF and allows us to completely decentralize collection and mining. As part of this investigation, we had meetings with landowners that might be interested in a new business opportunity. With that in mind, we met with Casper who is a local community leader. Within five minutes of meeting with him, Bill was explicit about our desire to build a biodigester on someone’s property as a proof of concept for this waste-to-energy concept. Casper is very concerned about the environment and we were completely in alignment. Remarkably, though, we got about an hour in to the conversation and he informed us, “I’ve already installed three biodigesters but they aren’t being used.” STOP THE SHOW, “Timeout” I said, “We need to go see these biodigesters right now.” It was a bit of bad timing because it was already mid-afternoon and we actually met to have lunch, but we needed to go see these digesters. So we all get into vehicles and drove up to his community and low and behold we saw a pot of gold. In fact, three pots of gold. There were three 10000+ liter biodigesters that cost over $300K to install but were never used! After Casper got them installed, the person that took over for him, didn’t know what to do with them and didn’t complete the project. While intended for waste water, we think we can convert these to use organic waste to produce methane. The beauty of this is they belong to the community and are situated right next to a high school. I think we can start to see the vision of a UBI created with the Bitcoin for the citizens of the community and all of the money would stay in the community.

With the high school next door, we can do some cross pollination with the kids at Centro Educativo Josue. The possibilities are amazing.

Bill and I were also part of another technology review several weeks prior to our arrival that would also be another amazing technology to help turn waste to energy. This energy project would require more capital but we effectively have discovered a complete road map from decentralized energy production using organic waste to a more centralized and capital intensive waste-to-energy solution. This road map can be used around the lake “a la carte.” Each community could pick a solution that fits them best. The eventual goal is that all incentives align to reduce waste making its way down into the lake!

Hidden Jewels

On the 17th of May, Cesar, Mario & Diego organized a Bitcoin meet-up in Guatemala city for Bitcoin Pizza Day. Since I was leaving the next day, they planned this for me to participate even though the actual day was on the 21st. Humbled. Cesar told the attendees (about 20) that, “In two days at Bitcoin Lake I learned more than I learned in a week at Bitcoin 2022 in Miami.” Wow! Thanks Cesar!

Bitcoin Pizza Day meet up in Guatemala City. Cesar Tanchez — standing (left)

It was a great meeting. I got to share the vision of Bitcoin Lake. We were able to onboard twenty new Bitcoin Beach Wallet users and 6 businesses! I brought copies of my book and they were used as give-aways. The networking was fantastic. It was in this networking that I uncovered some hidden jewels for Bitcoin mining. I discovered more very large bio-digesters that were flaring methane, a tire pyrolysis device that is not being used, and met someone who works for a very large trash disposal company working with Coca-Cola to produce a net-zero carbon foot print. Enter, Bitcoin mining. There are plenty of untapped resources in Guatemala that could attract a lot of capital for Bitcoin mining.

While all of our work is serious, a very important part of this work for us is to make sure that it is inclusive and transparent. Panajachel is in the heart of the indigenous communities of Guatemala. It’s vitally important that they be included in the process and benefit from its bounty. So on this trip I arranged to meet with the indigenous community leaders. It was a long two hours of starting from scratch about Bitcoin as a technology, how it would help Guatemalans and why I was talking to them. They asked tough questions about the municipality’s involvement, what promises have been made, etc. Healthy, skeptical questions. I think the one question and then the answer I provided gave them pause to consider that what we were proposing is vastly different than all the other projects before. They asked what I was promising. I simply said I’m not promising anything. “I’m giving you the tools to help change what is going on in your community.” People come into this area promising something for something else in return. Unfortunately, they usually get something and never give what they promised.

Meeting with Indigenous leaders in the public library. Ben Weiss far left corner taking notes.

This was the first of many meetings, I’m sure, to make sure this vital community is a part of this process. We have another meeting scheduled on the 24th of May.

Out of the Wood Work

Three people that came on this trip follow the project on Twitter and randomly asked if they could come and be a part of this trip. YES! Jim, Fabu and Mel came to see what Bitcoin Lake was all about and to be a part of it. I’m truly humbled for the investment in time and energy.

Jim Shewchuk — enjoying pizza at Amaranto. Paid in Bitcoin, of course.
Fabu and Mel. Swiss nationals by way of Colombia.

For the first time we will have a someone (Mel) doing English classes for the children! Fabu will be teaching every week about Bitcoin. Super excited to have him involved at that level.

One of our founding members, Eric, is very active on Bitcoin telegram channels. Because of his efforts, we’ve been able to actually host our first Bitcoin tourists! Shortly thereafter, we had more come. Hopefully it is just a matter of time before more make it here to Panajachel and discover this beautiful region of Guatemala.

Our first Bitcoin tourists (Eliazar center)

With a generous donation from Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador, we are starting to ramp up our signage in the area. It took time because we had to orange pill the print shop first. As we do business in the community, we want to work with businesses that accept Bitcoin if possible. We’ve also started creating Lago Bitcoin/Bitcoin Lake merchandise — all paid for with Bitcoin!

Eliazar showing off one of our Ts

Nancy has also graciously allowed us to use one of the rooms in the school as a Bitcoin educational room. As part of our community inclusion, we want Bitcoiners to come and sign their names when they visit. People have loved the idea.

Jim signing the Bitcoin wall at the school

After a long search, we have finally identified a Tuk Tuk driver that will allow us to paint his Tuk Tuk. He was actually one of the first people to come to one of my educational meetings in January. However, on my last trip, we found someone who expressed interest in getting his tuk tuk painted. A day before it was to be painted, he said he couldn’t do it. As they say in Guatemala “it’s complicated.” So for several weeks we were scratching our heads and reaching out to different drivers to see who might be interested and then Augusto stepped forward and said he would do it. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we can do a reveal of the first Bitcoin themed tuk tuk in the world! Special thanks to Diego and his crew at VRC motorsports for making this possible. We also did a little hack of the Bitcoin Beach wallet so that the tuk tuk driver’s phone number appears on the map so you can call for a tuk tuk and pay in bitcoin.

Of course, I met with the mayor of Panajachel, Cesar Piedenstra, while we were there. He’s been very supportive. I know for certain that had it not been for Nancy and her status in the community that we could not have this type of access to the mayor. Gracias, Nancy!

From left to right: Mario, Me, Mayor Piedrasanta, Cesar, Marco, Victor

The girls, Bill and I also did a live stream with BTC sessions on Friday the 13th! You can catch it here.

And last, but not least, Ben Weiss tagged along. Ben is a freelance reporter who basically shadowed us the entire trip. I’m looking forward to his piece once it’s published — thanks for coming Ben and seeing this incredible work!

Lago Bitcoin and the Quetzal

If you follow the various Bitcoin projects around the world like many use English for their project i.e. Beach vs. Playa. It’s a great approach with the widest appeal. Because of the special nature of the Indigenous community in Guatemala and we wanted to be as rooted in the culture of Guatemala we are known as Lago (Lake) Bitcoin in country and our merchandise reflects that as well. Our stylized “G” in Lago is a quetzal bird. The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala and is also the name of the official currency: The Quetzal or Q.

People seem to really like our little bird! We are happy about that.

Just an explanation for our nomenclature and logo — we are uniquely the only Bitcoin project that does not use a form of the Bitcoin “B” in our logo.

Stylized Quetzal Bird in Lago Bitcon

Bitcoin Lake, BitcoinLake, Lago Bitcoin, LagoBitcoin and the “G” logo are trademarks of Patrick C. Melder, MD

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