Me at a boat dock at Lake Atitlan
a short report about my mediocre visit to Lake Atitlán with my crazy Bulgarian buddy
Together with my Bulgarian buddy Stan I took a shuttle bus from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, a very popular lake among tourists, surrounded by numerous volcanoes and many small villages.
It was created by the explosion of a very large volcano, which created a giant crater, where the lake is now located. The term Atitlán in the language of Nahuatl means "place with much water". With a length of 18 kilometres it is the second largest lake in Guatemala.
The thrifty Bulgarian had already chosen the Hotel El Sol in the biggest village called Panajachel on the Internet. Despite the fact that it is a hotel, it also offers dormitories. The good reviews and the good price are in favor of it and it was indeed a very good accomodation. It is managed by a Japanese and is located a bit away from the center, but still within walking distance of the centre of the village.
Salesmen and travel agencies everywhere
After our arrival we explored the central street of the village with all its restaurants, souvenir shops and travel agencies. Commerce ruled here too. The tour operators here wanted to talk us into an overpriced transport to Chichicastenango, the largest market in Central America. Good thing we didn't listen to them. With the public buses you get there much cheaper. We went to this place the next day. Read here.
We walked along the shore of Lake Atitlán, where countless boatmen surrounded us and kept asking us: "Lancha? Lancha para San Pedro?" (boat? boat to San Pedro). Even if this was the second time we'd walk by there. These words are still haunting my mind today.
Backpackers prefer the small village San Pedro on the other side. Especially hippies feel very comfortable there.
to the rescue, a boat!
The next day we explored five small villages of Lake Atitlán by boat. My Bulgarian friend was terrified of it. Although he had already travelled to almost 100 countries, he is still getting queasy in boats and airplanes, not least because he cannot swim. He was the only passenger to buckle on his life jacket, although the boat hadn't even gotten into distress yet.
Unfortunately, my buddy doesn't write a blog because he travels so much that he doesn't have time to write a blog. He could tell an endless number of bizarre stories:
In Brazil he ran out of money and almost couldn't get home
in India he broke his arm because the sidewalk collapsed in front of him
in the Philippines he lost his mobile several times when drunk
in Senegal his taxi driver was watching porn while driving
He travels extremely spontaneous and counts every penny. In a city he stays a maximum of 3 nights. Even more than I do, he tries to avoid tourist sites (like Machu Picchu or Cartagena) or tourist activities (like zip lining or volcano boarding) at all costs. He has been practically on the road for several years.
Comfortable boat tour with mediocre weather
For a small price the boat took us to the respective villages, which we explored then for almost one hour on our own before the journey went on.
In my opinion, the villages do not outdo each other in beauty. But the scenery of Lake Atitlán with the mountains in the background compensates for this (normally). However, the weather had scotched that. The sun could be seen only rarely, the sky seemed grey and brought us again and again an unwanted, cool precipitation. So we couldn't enjoy the wonderful panoramas that I had seen on many beautiful pictures before. After all, it was a nice trip.
Injured American woman
When we got back to the hostel, we met an injured American girl. She was attacked by a local teenager in one of the 5 villages while she was alone on the beach. He had tried to snatch her cell phone, but the woman didn't give in and the two started beating each other. The American woman was able to save her cell phone, but emerged from the robbery with a broken arm and had to go to hospital. It was the first time I heard such an evil story in Latin America.
With the Bulgarian I later went to the village center to dinner for a very reasonable price. Many street dogs were eagerly waiting by our table hoping that we would give them something. They were not particulary interested in my vegetarian meal but much more in that of my friend who shared the remnants of his meal with them. Later he even started cuddling the dogs.
After 3 nights at Lake Atitlán the next stop of my journey was Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala.