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Published: March 1st 2006
Last Sunday I had the urge to do something a little different. I felt like moving around just for it's own sake. Trying to find a good loop or route is something often installed in a travellers' mind. Bearing in mind I only had a day, I decided to set myself the target of trying to work my way around the lake stopping at every town along the way. I started off with the ferry to Santiago. On arrival I moved through town fairly quickly, asking around in the market where pick-ups left from. On a relatively uncrowded pick-up, locals gave me that bemused/intrigued look I often seem to receive (probably my towering height), I smiled and nodded and after a while there eyes wondered elsewhere.
A beautiful clear blue sky stretched out above us as we zoomed along surprisingly good quality roads through attractive landscape. The temperature was perfect as the wind rushed by us, a much more comfortable and preferable from of transport over the chicken buses. On arrival in San Lucas I moved around the centre of town, which seemed a little lifeless, before heading down to see the view of the lake from a different angle.
The lake enters a small under-developed bay. I sat down, with various thoughts moving through mind as local women scrubbed hard on carefully-shaped stones to wash their things. It seemed tough work and reminds one about how the differences in lifestyle can at times be hidden at times.
I tried to take some photos but they didn't come out too well. I felt the urge to keep moving and subsquently I took a chicken bus on to the next town, Godinez, where I knew I could do a good walk from. Forced to stand, I could see nothing and I wished I had looked for another pick-up.
Godinez stands high above the lake at a major fork in the road. From here it's possible to walk down a track to San Antonio. Looking for the start of the track I got talking to a Indigena guy with strongly accented Spanish and a lack of teeth. I struggled to understand much of what he was saying, but I nodded along politely trying to do the best I could. I got the impression he was randomly rambling different things and was a little oblivious to difficulties. I thanked him for the directions (basically go straight on) and went onwards. The track was straight forwards as promised and it quickly worsened to point where it was difficult to access by car.
The way eyes followed my steps and conversations stopped as I walked through the edge of town suggested this track wasn't frequently walked by travellers. I said my share of buenos dias's to break the ice and received warm, if nervous, responses in reply.
Not long after leaving the bulk over the town, the track moved through beautiful woodland for a short time before emerging into maiz fields with fantastics views of the lake in the background. I sat on an embankment to take it all in, outside a small hut. A women in full mayan dress emerged with a baby in arm. She didn't notice me at first, once she did she burst into laughter and ran back into the hut. A little puzzled by this reaction I thought I should probably start moving again. Her husband re-appeared with her as I was leaving, I said hello, he nodded as she looked on nervously. 100 metre further down the track I glanced around to see that they were following my progress.
The track narrowed and steepened in it's descent, with wider, more open views of the lake visiable. As I descended into town the number of tracks multiplied and a mixture of friendly old men and young girls trying to sell traditional dress greeted me. The town itself has fantastic lake views and an attractive feel to the narrow streets. It seemed full of things for sale for tourists but strangely lacking in tourists. Being Sunday many normal places were closed, after a bit of time chilling by the lake next to a biker gang, I moved on. The next road followed close to the lake with a high barbed wire fence marking off all the best spots to private property. A shortage of cars meant it was some time before I got a ride as I walked along the long, winding road to Santa Catarina. Santa Catarina had a more touristy feel to it, accompanied with the most presistent street sellers I have ever seen. One little girl was talking to me for nearly twenty minutes as I tried to sit in peace near the lake. I tried all polite ways to tell here I wasn't interested before eventually resorting to ignoring here completely. Undettered she carried on talking. I could have paid her to leave but I don't believe in encouraging this type of behaviour, while I will frequently buy things off the friendly children in San Pedro. It's not productive to act like this and there are better approaches to make money. Not enjoying the constant hassle I quickly moved on, coming across again some type of cycle race which seemed to moving at a similar pace to me. They didn't strike me as worldclass athletes from the way the majority were walking their bikes up any slight incline.
After passing through more hurricane damaged areas on the pick-up to Panahachel the light was disappearing on me and I decided to call it a day, somehow satisified and happy for travelling just for purist, romantic reasons pleased by small things.
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