<<Backtracking to Guatemala, Oct. 2015>>
After an amazing 2 weeks of Spanish immersion in Xela (Quetzaltenango) Guatemala, I made my way to Lake Atitlan.
3 hours from Xela on a bus on a chicken bus* through VERY winding roads up and down the mountains was quite the ride of a life. The roller coaster ride was in no way comfortable or safe with the constant worry of the bus falling off the narrow mountain roads, tipping over in the deep holes in the road, and the bags thrown on top of the bus not being there upon arrival.
The “chicken bus” is the local transportation in Guatemalan for longer distances, which recycles old school buses, now fully decked out with paint, lights, grills, often heavily decorated with Jesus and other religious artifacts in addition to it being a full blasting boom box. It is fun to look at but not really that fun to ride in. It literally is a “chicken bus” with locals bringing in everything including farm animals on-board.
Perhaps it is the aggressive look of the chicken buses that makes the drivers feel like a race driver.. but the ride is really like a roller coaster, holding on to the rails on the seats to not slip off the slippery seats. It was a tiresome ride, but you can’t beat the price 30 Quetzales ($4) versus the 200 Qs ($26) for a tourist “shuttle”.
By the way, a local bus or a “collectivo” for short distances is likewise or even more questionable in a beat up van, collecting as many people as possible for the ride. The way people keep on boarding the already full bus is astonishing and you’d think it was one of those contests to see how many can fit in this van. Squishing, sitting on top, standing, hanging off the side of the van, the driver and his side kick tried to collect as many people as possible for passage. One time I counted almost 18 or 20 in one ride. Well it is 2 Quetzales (30 cents) so really can’t complain.
The concept of personal space really does not exist.
Questionable and very raw van.
Anyway, so we make it to Lake Atitlan in one piece and thankfully our luggage has not flown off. Whew.
Lake Atitlan has a few towns around the lake but I had decided on San Pedro because I heard that it was one of the more laid back towns, slight hippy-ish feel with an amazing view.
I was looking to wind down after the 2 weeks of studying and relax and San Pedro was just that.
Luscious green hills leading up to the volcanic mountains surround the lake.
The town developed alongside the hills and is quite raw.
The town really had an interesting vibe that was special. Hippyish, spiritual and raw. It catered to tourism but it did not have sophistication or a commercial feel and everything felt home made and raw.
The markets and the fort.
I checked into a hotel right by the lake called Mikaso Hotel and it was a great bargain for the excellent location right by the water.
Sunrise worth getting up for.
The mountains surround the lake
The view from outside my room, where I read, studied, watched movies and napped taking in the view.
There was something off about the lake though. You saw so many houses half way in the water. Those houses that probably used to be a prime property was unfortunately now underwater due to heavy rain a few years ago that filled up the lake and never went down.
Though there are many activities to do such as hiking the volcanoes, kayaking, stand boarding around the lake, unfortunately weather was not on my side the few days, so I spent the majority of my time lake side reading, cooking, relaxing, just the way I wanted.
Going to the market and picking up fresh vegetables was one of my favourite activities here. Finally getting some veggies in my diet.
You can also take a boat across the lake to visit some of the other towns. I tried San Marcos which is a quick 20 min ride to enjoy the small town and its gorgeous lake views. San Marcos is even more spiritual than San Pero and hosts a lot of yoga retreats and spiritual guidance.
What a lovely time to relax by the lake after an intensive 2 weeks of studies.
As always, my heart desired to stay more, but I pushed myself forward to Antigua for the next journey.