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Published: October 4th 2015
Lago Atitlan was a stunning location to arrive on my birthday, having had birthday cake and leftover pizza for breakfast on the bus ride over. We checked into our hostel, who insisted on giving me birthday tequila, and had a pretty relaxed afternoon in front of the lake. We also visited the local women's weaving cooperative- so many beautiful handmade materials, but unfortunately no space in our bags (well, none in mine, which is ridiculously heavy and full. Amateur first time backpacking mistake...!)
The next day we went on a horse trek up to a coffee plantation and factory, and to a view point just outside San Pedro with stunning views across the lake. The coffee plantation and factory was super interesting - the factory is basically owned be a cooperative of local growers, and buys local coffee by weight at a fair price to process and sell on. Our guide at the factory also explained where the coffee plants came from (Spain brought them over as decorative plants, from Ethiopia!) and how the plants are all maintained and harvested by hand, as the crops are nearly always grown on steep volcanoes and mountains, and because they are grown under
avocado trees to optimise their environment and provide a second crop to the farmer! We were shown the coffee trees and shown the insides of a ripe coffee "cherry" - did you know three layers have to be removed at the factory before the beans can be roasted?
I had been nervous about horseriding, but my horse was very well behaved on the climb up, so was pretty confident about heading back down after the viewpoint. This was where everything changed. She didn't want to move. So I was stranded for a few minutes while Sam and the guide disappeared down the hill, until she spontaneously decided she'd go. And go she did. I have never galloped on a horse (I don't even know if that's how you say it), and I certainly have never jumped over anything on a horse.
Now I have.
But I survived. Excellent.
On our final day in San Pedro, we took a tuk tuk (yes, tuk tuk. In Guatemala!) to San Juan La Laguna to hike up the Indian's Nose - a mountain named by the locals as it looks like the profile of a Mayan dignitary. The climb was
STEEP and went through coffee and maize crops - I literally don't know how the farmers look after or harvest some of the crops as the slope was as near to vertical as you can get! When we finally arrived at the top, and to be honest I wasn't convinced the top would ever appear, the views were breathtaking for about 5 minutes before everything disappeared into the cloud - still pretty cool - and we resigned ourselves to a rainy, very slippery and precarious walk down (it didn't rain though!)
When we arrived back at the hostel we were surprised to find Grace and Lisa - who we'd met at Semuc Champey- at our hostel after their three day hike to San Pedro, which put my achy legs rather back into place! We went out for a fab curry at a little restaurant in town, via a little detour down an alley way which had turned into a stream thanks to a sudden downpour!
I think we could have stayed at Lago Atitlan for days more, visiting the other towns and doing millions of outdoor activities on offer, but our time line is pretty fixed, and it
was definitely time to move onto country number 4 - Honduras!
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