Monday, August 22, 2011

the Lago

On our first weekend in Xela, we decided to go to Lake Atitlan, about 2 hours away. The drive was highway most of the distance, but once we turned off the highway we hit a couple of small towns and the road was pretty eaten up with a large elevation drop and lots of switchbacks. At one point, you go around yet another bland mountainous curve and suddenly catch a view of the beautiful lake.

(evidence of the eutrophication of Lago de Atitlan in the foreground. Recent years have brought about a lot of cleaning efforts, which have been very helpful, but you still have to wonder what´s being dumped into the water and if the cycle will repeat. Vamos a ver)

(lots of people carry wood and other things this way)

(de facto local trash dump)

The lake is a big tourist draw and has small towns surrounding it. A lot of people either go to Panachel, the largest town, or San Pedro, an ex-pat and traveler haven. We had arranged another stay through couchsurfing and were supposed to call when we got to San Juan. When we called, we learned that Petra, our host, was on the lake with some boat trouble. So we ate in the very small town. When we came outside, a very excited older gentleman wanted to know everything about the bike, including if we would sell it to him. This drew a good portion of the town to come watch.

(in San Juan, where there was also a political rally)

After talking to Petra again, we agreed to meet up in San Pedro, where we found a bar with cheap rum to wait. After a couple of rounds, Petra showed up and we went to her wonderful house just outside of San Pedro.

Petra and her husband had moved to the area 7 years ago after meeting in Seattle and traveling by motorcycle from there. Jack is currently in the states working on a chicken farm. They also lead tours into Petén. Petra is from Czechoslovakia and Jack is from Zimbabwe. They have a 3 year old daughter, who we got to meet the next morning. Emilie was a little shy at first, but soon took a strong liking to Jill (she never quite started to like Mike. Probably the beard). Jill specifically won her heart when they played on the trampoline in the front yard, Emilie´s favorite spot. She was such a cute, energetic, extremely smart little girl, already with a three language repetoire.

(playing on the trampoline)

(view from Petra´s porch)

(Mike making sure we were in good with the guard)

On our first day in town, we went to San Pedro and rented a kayak to play on the water. We paddled over to San Marcos, which has a 10m high platform you can jump off. As soon as we paddled up to shore, a teenage boy began insistently demanding that we pay to tie the kayak to shore and that we pay to jump off the platform.  After refusing to pay, Mike took a couple jumps while Jill manned the kayak offshore to avoid the annoying kid.

After a couple hours on the lake and then exploring San Pedro, we went back to Petra´s, where she cooked an awesome avocado-basil pasta and salad dinner.

(Petra, Emilie and Jill)

The next day we took a boat over to San Marcos and walked to the neighboring indigenous town, Tzununá. We stopped for ice cream outside of town at Las Lomas de Tzununá ( a super swanky hotel - you can tell when you can flush toilet paper down the toilet) and were warned by the waitress not to continue walking to the next town as planned because people were being robbed on that stretch on a regular basis, especially on the weekends, and it was Sunday. So, we caught a boat back instead and brought falafels home for lunch.

(soccer game in Tzununá - note, the tuk tuk is both on the road and in-bounds)

We had parked the bike close to Petra´s house at a health center where she parks her car. We discovered during the first day that our sunglasses had been stolen out of a small front pocket. No big loss because they were cheap and easy to replace. When we were leaving we discovered that someone had tried to steal the mirror unsuccessfully, but went through an awful lot of effort to remove the weather cover and loosen one of the mounting bolts, and had tried to remove the gas cover, also unsuccessfully, because it was locked.

Overall, we really enjoyed hanging out with Petra and Emilie and thought the lake was beautiful, but we thought San Pedro wasn´t as cool as its rep.

On the way out of town back to the highway, we had very low visability due to fog and rain and arrived back to Xela very wet and cold.

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