Escape


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Published: September 30th 2017
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San Juan la Laguna ...San Juan la Laguna ...San Juan la Laguna ...

... the first stop on our lake tour today. Many years ago, the level of Lake Atitlan dropped significantly, which scientists attributed to an earthquake - they believe that cracks opened up in the lake bed, allowing water to drain. Locals moved closer to the new shore line and one day, the water level rose, ending up back near the original level - that's why you see half-submerged buildings around the lake.
Geo: 14.6335, -91.2313

Despite being overrun with backpackers, Pana has been a fun place to relax for the past couple of days; however, today was all about escaping from it all, to the smaller towns that surround Lake Atitlan. These other towns are still touristy, but nowhere near as overdeveloped as Pana - but what they lack in amenities, they more than make up for with charm.

There are those that would avoid Pana altogether in favour of Santiago Atitlan, San Pedro, or San Juan, and its easy to see why - they simply offer something different from Pana, be it tranquility, or some shred of Guatemalan cultural authenticity. For all the fun of Pana, there's nothing quiet or real about it; it exists solely to service the constant procession of backpackers passing through.

It's a shame that we don't have more time to see the other towns in Lake Atitlan, because our tour for the day, no matter how refreshing and enjoyable it was, simply wasn't enough to even properly enjoy the three towns we did visit, let alone experience the other towns. It was all a bit rushed - a walk through San Juan, a short visit to a
Local Artists ...Local Artists ...Local Artists ...

... as with any touristy town, there are a number of art galleries in San Juan. The work of this artist was particularly interesting because of the level of detail - it's less than half-finished, but the remainder of that white space will be filled with people. The artist discussed how challenging it was to remain creative and original while painting several hundred people in the crowd.
coffee roaster in San Pedro, and a quick lunch in Santiago ... at least a few more hours would have been nice, but this is all the time that the standard Lake Atitlan day tour offers.

Perhaps our limited time here was a good thing in the end, since today's forecast was completely wrong, and the weather was hot and sunny, instead of cool and overcast. Normally this would be a good thing, but not today - we were starting to burn in the hot sun, because based on the forecast, we didn't bother with sunscreen today! And even though we encountered a nice German couple on the tour, that was balanced out by a real SOB on the tour that we couldn't wait to get away from. Had the tour lasted much longer, I would've ended up in a Guatemalan jail after drowning the arrogant, ignorant piece of shit ...

Luckily for us, we were able to forget all about that stuff back in Pana - being a backpacker hub it does offer a number of distractions, in the form of excellent cafes and coffee shops all over town. A cup of coffee, a chunk of tiramisu, and a few
Our Guide Alejandro ...Our Guide Alejandro ...Our Guide Alejandro ...

... explaining this small mural, which depicts Guatemalans visiting a traditional medicine man. The patient is screaming in agony as the shaman is rubbing medicine on his injured leg.
two-for-one mojitos does a lot to make you forget about SOBs and sunburn!


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San Pedro La Laguna ...San Pedro La Laguna ...
San Pedro La Laguna ...

... the former mayor of the town, who now makes ends meet by carving and selling stone figures, since there is no such thing as a pension for public service in such a small town.
Corn is Life ...Corn is Life ...
Corn is Life ...

... the mayor's massive corn stockpile, which we were told can be stored for months. If there was any question as to what Guatemalans consider to be their staple crop, this picture provides the answer.
Lobsided Game of One-On-One ...Lobsided Game of One-On-One ...
Lobsided Game of One-On-One ...

... the guy was about 6'-6", while the toddler was about 2' tall. But give him credit - the kid refused to give ground, firmly planting himself at the top of the key!
El Pescador ...El Pescador ...
El Pescador ...

... perhaps the best traditional Guatemalan restaurant of our entire trip. Fried plantains, guacamole, rice, and the obligatory piece of grilled meat. A bonus - the beef was ALMOST tender!
Fresh Fish From Atitlan...Fresh Fish From Atitlan...
Fresh Fish From Atitlan...

... absolutely delicious, perfectly cooked and nice and crispy. But it does make you wonder - though appearing to be pristine, Lake Atitlan is polluted to the point that swimming in the lake isn't recommended. So how clean would the fish be?
Traditional Guatemalan Dessert ...Traditional Guatemalan Dessert ...
Traditional Guatemalan Dessert ...

... tiramisu!!! Panajachel has been overrun by the international backpacker crowd, resulting in items like this on the menu. You can argue whether or not such outside influence is a good thing, as it can dilute the local character and culture of a place. But who cares, when you get something this damn good? Crossroads Cafe is owned by an American family, and were taught how to make tiramisu by a Sicilian woman, so we knew this was going to be a damn fine dessert! I was curious as to how they were able to get their hands on mascarpone cheese, thinking it would have to be imported - turns out there is a cheese producer in Guatemala that makes the stuff.
Taste of El Salvador ...Taste of El Salvador ...
Taste of El Salvador ...

... pupusas at Cheros Pupuseria! A corn-based dough stuffed with a combination of meat, cheese, and vegetables, and slowly grilled, and served with hot sauce and spicy pickled vegetables. A very light dinner compared to what we've been eating so far.


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