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¿Dónde está Alyssa? Looking for the next destination.....the hunger will never be quelled.

Ahhh Lago de Atitlàn

GUATEMALA | Friday, 30 March 2007 | Views [1042] | Comments [3]

Ahhhh this is serenity

Ahhhh this is serenity

I am officially in love with Guatemala. I guess I had to come to the lake to figure this out so I´m very glad we made the trip. After departing Antigua Trish and I had a few lovely hours on a shuttle bus viewing Guatemala´s highland region.  Here the cornfields are plentiful and indigenous people are everywhere. Mayan dialects are spoken first in this region, with Spanish as a distant second language. This is where you come to take photos of the locals--the women carry massive bags of supplies on their heads and dress in the most colorful clothing I´ve ever seen. I am constantly stunned and amazed at the sight of the people in the highlands.

But getting back to the lake...Lago de Atitlàn is a caldera (a collapsed volcanic cone) shimmering the most beautiful waters surrounded by hills (occupied by small villages) and volcanoes. During the rainy season I hear it´s quite dreary but right now it´s absolutely stunning. The mornings have provided for clear calm days on the lake and the haze moves in during the afternoon blocking the tips of the volcanoes. 

There are many towns that dot the landscape so we decided the best way to enjoy a few days on the lake would be in the tranquil San Marcos. This town is paved with cobble stone paths and vegetation looming over all pathways.  There are no lights at night on the ¨streets¨ so we carry a small torch with us when we walk around.  However, there isn´t much to do in town other than sit back, relax and enjoy the view.  On the other hand San Marcos is also the center for meditation, holistic therapies, massage, etc. So people come to San Marcos to do nothing or explore their spiritual side.  I feel like it´s a combination of Berkeley, CA meets Sedona, AZ. I passed on the sun and moon courses (you need a full month to take the course while you live in a pyramid hut, eat vegetarian food and practice a period of silence). Though I did take advantage of the free yoga offered in a beautiful pavilion at the neighboring hotel and had a wonderful Swedish massage today.  It was hard to pass up a 90 minute massage for $30US. Who can say no to that?

Other than the yoga and massage we spent a few days exploring the neighboring villages and their markets. Through shuttle rides and hostels we have run into the same people several times and realized we could arrange cheap tours around the lake if we joined a group.  Luckily we met a Swiss couple that is almost fluent in Spanish so we tagged along with them for a few days.  This was to our advantage as their bargaining skills are far superior than mine. I´m growing quite tired of being told a bus or boat fare is one price only to find the price suddenly goes up 5Q upon arrival at our destination.

The local markets we´ve seen in the past few days are a colorful affair.  Generally the front of the markets cater to tourists: masks, weavings, handicrafts, jewelry, etc. Once you push through the tourist section you find yourself crushed within a crowd of locals buying fruit, vegetables, meat, housewares and clothing. Yesterday´s journey to Sololá was by far the most amazing market yet.  This was not a tourist´s market--indigenous Mayan people from nearby villages travel here to bulk up on supplies during the market held every Friday.  I found myself towering over the Mayan men, women and children as they pushed and shoved their way through the stalls.  I´ll try to upload photos of the Mayan traders in their beautifully embroidered cloth and garments the next time I´m at an internet cafe.  Words cannot describe the incredible clothing....you have to see it to appreciate their fine work.

I´ve managed to escape the markets with only a few new Guatemalan tokens that I plan to send home next week. I´ll need to make room for other markets in the future as I´ve been told markets in Ecuador and Peru are just as tempting.

Other than my market adventures I´ve had some interesting transportation experiences in the past few days.  We rode standing up on the back of a truck for 3Q, holding on for our lives as the driver drove over huge potholes (which I am convinced was on purpose). In each town we had to jump out and onto another truck for 3Q...we did this about three times until we reached our destination.  It was only a little scary....mostly we were amazed with the lake views it provided.  And finally, I had my first brush with death a few days ago on one of the many boat rides to San Marcos.  The big, slow ferries are built to carry about 12 or so passengers..or so I´m assuming as there are only 12 life vests on board. Unfortunately our adventurous captain decided to pick everyone up during commute hours at each stop so people were pouring out of every corner of the boat. I think I counted at least 40 people...and that´s not counting the passengers sitting on top of the boat. I was sure each time we slowed down we were going to topple over and drown. I kept my eye on the closest life vest to me as I knew I´d have to fight for it if necessary. Every other foreigner aboard seemed to think the same thing as I saw their eyes dart to the jackets whenever we began to lean too far over. Somehow or another we safely arrived at San Marcos despite the water that was slowing filling at our feet. I was quite happy not to drown in Lago de Atitlán. It is a beautiful place but I´m not quite prepared to end my life here.

Tomorrow we head to Chichicastenango for one final Guatemalan market. After a few days of the markets I feel prepared for the Big One. Market vendors are vicious here---you don´t get your full change, usually losing about 5Q (less than a dollar, but I´m still annoyed). People won´t accept large notes yet you only receive 100Q from ATMs so it´s difficult to break them without getting ripped off.  Now I know better: withdraw money from ATM, go inside bank and have the teller change your notes for smaller bills. Too bad I didn´t have this knowledge a week ago. Oh well...you live and learn. ¡Hasta luego!

Tags: Markets




I've just read your last five posts all in one sitting and I must say it sounds like a fantastic time! Now that I'm back I'm subscribed to your feed and can keep up!
We missed you in Boston =(

  Tami Apr 2, 2007 6:56 AM


hey alyssa!forget the other email i just send you!i am VERY jellous!about the snorkelling (right next to stingrays and shraks) and your sunrise and waking-up of the jungel and all the adventures you have right now!i am looking forward for the fotos you show one time!and hopefully we see each other again on a beatyful adventure...take care and enjoy!sandra

  Sandra Apr 5, 2007 2:46 AM


im going there with Wally!!!!! ha.

  andrea Jan 26, 2008 10:10 AM

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