Lago de Atitlan - Part 2

Published: March 5th 2011
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I woke up on my 3rd morning in San Pedro, thinking of going to Santiago and then to Panajachel (the most touristy village by the lake) and making a full day of it. But at the same time, I was aware that my new found friends had agreed to meet up at 2.30pm back at Zoola, so I wasn't 100% sure.
As I got to Santiago dock, I got spotted by the ticket man who made me hurry as the boat was about to leave. He charged me Q20 one way, which I thought was more than normal, but it was too early for me to argue. The short journey was great, I was sat on the roof, snapping away at the shore and enjoying the sunshine.
When we arrived in Santiago, the first sight was that of market stalls selling souvenirs all along the road leading to the main plaza. Not quite the authentic feel I was looking for. Then a pretend tourist guide tried to convince me to let him take me to see Maximón (he is a sort of God, whose effigy is kept in a house for most of the year and people can go and see him to make offerings). I wasn't particularly interested and declined the offer but the guy was insisting and followed me halfway up the hill, saying that I couldn't come to Santiago and not see Maximón. Well, he was mistaken!
What I was more interested in was to get to the little back streets of the village, to catch a glimpse of the real population's life. So after a brief walk around the small centre, with the square and church, I started walking higher up, hoping to find a real Guatemalan experience. I wasn't disappointed as I strolled through people's back gardens and witnessed the locals playing football, selling their fruit and vegetables or just getting on with their daily routine. The further up I went, the more stares I got, confirming the idea that not many tourists ventured in this direction. After what could only have been half an hour, I had reached what seemed like the end of the village and got a lovely view over Santiago and the lake. Not sure there was much else I wanted to see around there, I slowly returned to the dock, going the longest way I could possibly find. During My little visit, I had decided that “Pana” (Panajachel) could wait another day and headed back to San Pedro.
By the time I got back and had some lunch, it was just about time to head to Zoola to meet the others and as I arrived, I was greeted by Bethany, Ryan, Serge and David. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon there, only leaving to go and get some food from the “Q3 torta lady”, a woman Ryan had spotted a previous day and who was selling sandwiches for the bargain price of Q3 (about £0.25). I still tried to haggle the price down as there were 5 of us, but she wasn't having it! We then headed to a bar called Alegre, where there was a pool tournament which all the boys entered (but none won) and stayed there until diner time and after that regrouped at Humus Ya for a clown show, which gave a nice end to our evening.
The next morning (Sunday), I had arranged to go for a day trip to Chichi (Chichicastenango) market. This is a town where market days (Thursday and Sunday) are really massive and all the tourists flog to the area to have a look at the arts and crafts. As I waited for the bus to come and pick us up, I bumped into Bethany and Ryan who had come to the end of their stay and were heading back to Rio Dulce. We said goodbye, with the promise that I would try to go and pay them a visit a few days later as this was where I was planning to head next
We got to Chichi at around 10am and were given 4 hours to have a look around. I knew this was more than I needed as I didn't intend on buying anything (other than some lunch), but I set off through the gigantic market, trying to find some decent scenes to snap. I was almost disappointed as the place felt like a tourist attraction rather than the real thing and I couldn't help but think that the markets I'd seen around Xela a few days earlier were more interesting... I spent the last hour in an internet cafe, trying to kill the time until it was time to head back to San Pedro. As I returned to my hotel, I couldn't help but feel like something was missing, knowing that Bethany and Ryan were gone. And I wondered how people who stay in places for a long time and watch new friends come and go cope with the absence... Being always the one who doesn't stay long seemed like it had its advantages after all.
The evening was uneventful, with the only thing worth mentioning being that Serge agreed to show me the “free way” to Indian Nose the next morning. Indian Nose is a hill near San Pedro that (you might have guessed) looks like the face of an Indian lying down, the highest point being his nose. Normally, there is a Q50 entrance fee into the National Park, but Serge had managed to get to the top a week earlier without encountering anyone asking for money. A few days later, Bethany and Ryan had failed in their attempt to find a free route to the top, so I was more than happy to follow Serge up the secret road he'd found.
We met up in a café at 9.30am for what was supposed to be a reasonably easy hour and a half climb to the top. First we walked from San Pedro to San Juan (the next village along) and then went off the road, trying to find a way. I followed for a while before asking “so this is the way you went the other day then?”, the answer to which was along the lines of “No, I thought I'd try another side”...
What followed were 3 hours of climbing (yes climbing, rather than hiking) up a very steep hill of coffee plantations, holding on to any branches or solid rocks we could find. As we approached the summit, we were pretty certain that what we were climbing was not Indian Nose but some other random mountain, but it didn't really matter as we'd had a laugh doing it anyway.
It wasn't until we reached “the top” that we realised we were not at the summit of a mountain but we had rejoined the road to Santa Clara (another village quite far away). We were partly disappointed and partly amazed at how far we'd come and after a few snaps, started making our way down along the road. I remembered my guide book saying that we should not be walking around that area as robberies were frequent, but we didn't really have a choice. My partner in crime was keen to cut back through the wilderness, whilst I was more inclined to stay on the road. In the end, we did a little bit of both and managed to get back to San Pedro without getting either mugged or killed (which surprised some of the locals when we related the story). Not much else happened on that day, or if it did, I can't remember it, so it can't have been that exciting!
The next morning was the start of my last full day at Lago de Atitlán, having delayed my departure from Sunday to Wednesday. By that point there were serious talks about David, Serge and I all leaving together to go to Rio Dulce and onwards to rejoin Bethany and Ryan. That was cheering me up as the idea of going off on my own again wasn't really exciting me after a full week of good company.
For my last day, I had decided that I had to go and have a look at Pana, just to see what it was all about. David, who had just received some money for a job he'd done decided to come along for the ride, so we set off in the morning on the boat. Just before leaving San Pedro, we bumped into Serge in the Internet Café and agreed to catch up later when we returned from Pana. The boat ride there was uneventful, the only surprising thing being upon approaching Pana, when I discovered that someone had built 3 huge tower blocks at one end of the town. A real eyesore, especially as David informed me that they were empty and he wasn't sure why they had been built in the first place (probably some developer thinking Pana was going to be the next big thing). I wasn't expecting much from the town, other than a standard tourist resort full of people speaking English and traders trying to get as much money off you as they could. That's pretty much what I got, but I was pleasantly surprised in the fact it wasn't as ugly as I expected (but it wasn't particularly pretty either). We strolled along the streets, stopping for coffee and juice and then for some chocolate. It was a relaxed morning and after buying a few bits from the market for our final dinner, we headed back to San Pedro early in the afternoon. Serge was nowhere to be seen and by the time David and I were sitting down for our diner, we were starting to wonder if we were going to manage to find him to agree we were all leaving together the next day.
He finally turned up at our hostel at about 7 or 8pm, announcing that minutes after he'd seen us that morning, he had been pick-pocketed and therefore had no money to leave with David and I the next morning! But after a brief chat, we agreed that we would cover his costs so that he could come along with us. That evening, we went for a beer at one of the local bars to celebrate our last night in San Pedro. We still had an early night as we had to get up at 5am the next morning in order to catch the 6 o'clock bus. Being the only one in possession of an alarm, I would be in charge of waking up the troops, meaning my start was even closer to 4.30am that 5am!

All in all, a fantastic week in San Pedro where I met some great travelling friends and managed to do quite a lot of visiting too. It's too early to know if those friendships will last further than Facebook, only time will tell, but we were all definitely going to see each other for another couple of days before saying our last goodbyes...

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


David and IDavid and I
David and I

Going to Pana
The Three StoogesThe Three Stooges
The Three Stooges

Our last night in San Pedro

5th March 2011
Chichi's market

Love them, did you buy one??
5th March 2011
Chichi's market

mm des bons legumes bios, ca donne bien envie
5th March 2011

Non! J'ai résisté a la tentation!

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