I’ve been here almost eight weeks. I’ve dug trenches for 4 weeks. I’ve been to Tikal, walking through the jungle and climbing the temples. I’ve been kayaking in Monterrico. And today, with five days left, my thumbnail broke. They were all doing so well too. No breakages until now. And I wouldn’t have minded so much if it had been on the other hand, cuz that one is getting ridiculously long. Anyway, I digress.
Packed up all my stuff. Had to do a bit of re-arranging to get everything in, but just about got there. Went to Cafe Condesa for my favourite breakfast, Panqueques de Andres. Got myself a taxi back to the hotel so I could pick up my bags and leave it at Old Town Outfitters while I was at Lake Atitlan.
So Welber, Liz, Carly, Michael, Mirna, Pacaya the dog, and I all set off for the lake. It’s about a two hour drive, mostly along the Panamerican Highway, which runs from Alaska to southern Argentina. Quite a nice drive through some towns and villages.
We started the bike ride at a school, which had a great view of the lake and the surrounding volcanoes. Michael, Mirna and Pacaya followed in the car in case there were any problems. The road to Panajachel was mostly downhill and windy, through a few small villages. A couple of the uphills were quite hard work, and when we stopped just before lunch, I felt quite sick. I rode in the car for the next ten minutes until lunch, and felt much better after the rest. Realised that my throat was getting constricted after the uphills and I was struggling to breath. Felt like a bit of a wimp, but Michael made me feel better when he said we started the bike ride at an altitiude of 2400m.
We had lunch at a picnic spot quite high above the lake with great views. Didn’t realise the lake was quite so big! After lunch, we got back on the bikes and cycled the last 45 minutes to Panajachel. Welber buckled his back wheel from jumping over speed bumps. We passed quite a few landslides – the whole lake area was affected really badly by Hurricane Stan, and some areas had to be abandoned and declared mass graves. Just north of Panajachel, there was a river valley that had a huge landslide through it, which hit the nearby houses too. Someone had graffitied on ne house “Island in Paradise…Thank you Stan” or something to that effect.
Michael and Mirna met us near the dock and we had about half an hour to look around Panajachel. Isabella also met us here – she didn’t want to do the cycling so went to Chichicastenango on the first day. It’s the biggest town by the lake, about 14,000 inhabitants. There’s a lot of gringos, Spanish schools and travel companies. And a huge market up the main street. I felt quite guilty cuz of all the people in Guatemala who are desperate for money, these people were probably top of the list, but if I bought anything else, I really wouldn’t be able to get it home (not even sure I’ll manage what I’ve already got).
At 4.30pm, we said goodbye to Michael, Mirna and Pacaya (they were driving back to Antigua with the bikes), and the five of us set off in the boat to our hotel, La Casa del Mundo. The boat is an interesting experience. They’re absolutely tiny, 16-seaters (with only 12 life jackets), and the weight has to be balanced equally on either side. And when you hit waves, you hit them with such force that you feel like you keep hitting rocks.
La Casa del Mundo is built into the mountainside, and built in layers so that each room has a lake view. It’s quite a climb from the dock to the reception, but through beautiful grounds. My room is right above the restaurant, and had an amazing view, with the volcanoes right in front of me (I’ll apologise now for all the photos).
I showered and read for a while, then all the guests had supper together at 6.30pm, which gave us a chance to meet some other people – Justine and Pippa, from Australia, just started their 2-year travels; and an American couple from Antigua who were travelling with her parents. So, for supper, we had soup, followed by salad, lasagne, and strawberry sorbet. Very yummy. We stayed up for a while after having a few drinks and chatting to new friends.