Lake Atitlan is blue- really blue like someone has been splashing quantities of toilet cleaner in it. Actually they probably have since I hear it’s suffering from pollution. It’s also suffering from lack of drainage and consequently the deepest lake in Central America is getting deeper. Something of a problem for those foreigner owned lakeside villas which are now partially submerged and worthless. Not, however, for the rich-through-waterside-house-sale Mayans who are giggling from their new condos high on the hillsides
The lake sits placidly amongst mountain ridges and volcanoes and has various villages dotted upon its banks. All of which have a different personality and feel to them. Notably: Panajachel is the business village with a big town feel in a little town setting. San Juan is quiet. A few foreigners wander about but its essentially the Guatemalans Village. San Pedro is the party village (although parties have to finish at 11.00pm to stop the locals clubbing the clubbers to death after late night and noisy revelry). Lots of bars, food stalls, hotels and tourists who say awesome a lot and whoop a little too loudly. And, San Marcos which is the hippy hangout and is full of grubby looking people who wear tie dye, baggy Indian style clothes , carry cloth bags and are ever so slightly stinky. That said - each village offers the visitor lovely views of the rippling water and misty backdrops dotted with a diminishing line of volcanoes.
We chose San Pedro as our base but stayed off the main strip in an incredibly cheap charity run place called Rising Minds that cost 30 quid for the week (80 for a month) and, considering it was so cheap was pretty good with good sized private room, shared kitchen and big roof terrace. The only down side being a deaf Italian neighbour who played music really loud between 9.00am and 8.00pm that matched his moods and ran from industrial metal on Mondays to Kylie Minogue on Thursdays.
We were there for a week and had thought we might do more Spanish but couldn’t get motivated so mooched about and also followed up on some business opportunities – one being some land that was for sale but after trekking through jungle for 20 minutes with an elderly Quebecian to the site we decided it was not really a goer. The second op. was a 9 bed guest house we were considering renting for a year. Great place but no financial paperwork and it was set amongst the cheapskate hippies of San Marcos (I’m too old for all that bollocks).
We attempted the lengthy walk up the Nariz de Indio, a big rock formation on the crest of the surrounding hills that resembles (if using a forged artistic license) an Indian’s head looking towards the sky. …The power of suggestion is a wonderful thing. I say attempted because a bush fire stopped us a little short of the final ascent and we had no desire to be roasted alive. A few days later we climbed Volcan San Pedro – a 2.5 hour hike to a collection of rocks on the top where we basked in the sun and ate sandwiches whilst looking down through clouds to the lake below.
Finally we met up with our newly acquired friends Randy and Liz a few times for food in restaurants, saunters around villages and a nice meal at their place high above San Pedro – marred only by noisy buses from the road below and a distant beat of music from a hostel a good mile away. There’s always something! Still we had enjoyable times putting the world to rights and being mildly cynical but i thing we will finally shake them as we are off to El Salvadore tomorrow. Goodbye everyone from Guatemala – You have been entertaining and lovely.