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Guatemala--Lake Atitlan

GUATEMALA | Monday, 27 March 2017 | Views [737]

I'm sitting on a huge boulder on the shore of Lake Atitlan, a high sitting lake in Guatemala surrounded by volcanic mountains. Its rim is dotted with a mix of both local and touristy Mayan towns. It's Sunday and I'm in San Pedro. Today seems to be a day of rest for the locals. As I journal in my notebook I periodically stop to watch the congregation of Mayan families on neighboring rocks chat and swim. The women are hunched over in the water delicately washing brightly colored textiles, briefly stopping to help their children scrub their small bodies down with soap. Men talk in circles with hair still wet from bathing, towels around their shoulders. The children make high pitched screams as they jump off rocks into the chilled lake while the mothers keep tabs with one eye, wringing out water from the wet clothes. Fog rolls in during the afternoon so there's a hazy sheen over the lake. A boat chugs by close to the shore blasting “Blow a Kiss, Fire a Gun” and a dozen or so young gringo girls drunkenly dance on the top floor, waving to the locals on the shore. I cringe. Birds shrill and coo on the branches of a huge 100 foot tall tree directly above me. Two hippies with dreadlocks smoke weed in the near distance.

Rumor has it Lake Atitlan has healing powers. That's what the voodoo hippies say. And to be honest, i might have guessed it too hadn't I been told previously. My time here in Guatemala has passed slowly and without much activity. And for some reason, I'm okay with it. I've been on the road since January- weeks and weeks of activity, fun, stress, loneliness, elation, and God knows how many more emotions. This place is a welcoming pit stop to veg out--and it feels okay because everyone around me is, too.

Today I woke up late, ate a hearty breakfast of poached eggs, avocado, toast and tomatoes with too much coffee. Socialized with some Swedes and said goodbye to a group of solo female travelers I'd been chumming and hiking with. I walked to the Frutería and bought a huge smoothie: pineapple, papaya and coconut, for one dollar fifty. After finishing, I walked through tight labyrinthian graffitied alleys and found Zoola, a hostel with blaring music, a bright blue pool and faux grass overlooking the lake. In the scorching sun I read for two hours, while listening to conversations in the background in a multitude of languages. I did some yoga. After meeting and chatting with a Canadian & Englishman, I learned about a big market in the local part of town. I decided to search for it, navigating around trash littered streets and smog chugging tuk tuks (Guatemalan taxis resembling exaggeratedly bright colored bumper cars). I reached the market square after a hefty hike up cobblestone streets only to find the ground scattered with wrappers and stray dogs desperately ripping apart trash bags for scraps of food. Small women wrapped up the remnants of their goods for sale in black trashbags. I spotted one lady packing up avocados and asked how much for one. She replied “15 quetzales,” and I instantly knew I was being ripped off. Gracias, I said and walked away. I navigated the empty stalls in the marketplace and found another lady still selling. I picked out two large carrots and a big avocado for 4 quetzales. Pleased with my learned street smarts, I left the market gnawing on a carrot and searched for another reading spot. A small dock seemed to do. I reclined in a lawn chair on the bobbing dock and read for another two hours- some awful romance novel I found in the hostel book exchange. It was afternoon and by this time, the fog rolling in on the lake was a pleasing relief for my skin. Thinking about food, I left and ate a chocolate covered banana for 10 cents. Back to the hostel, I met my friends for conversation and drinks.

And this is how most of my days have passed. Enjoying the cuisine, absorbing the Mayan culture, reading in excess, doing light yoga by the lake. For some reason I've allowed myself to slow down, to let the stress roll in and out of my body just as the fog rolls in and out like clockwork every afternoon. It's a peaceful place to be. I don't mind being alone most of the time (something I've struggled with in my prior months traveling). It seems as if I've learned enough on my travels to practice the wisdom here..and whether it has to do with Lake Atitlan’s “special energy” or not, I don't know. I think if I had to choose, I'd say yes. Because believing is more fun.

Tomorrow ends my free days as I hope to find a structured Spanish school to turn my passable Spanish into fluency. I'll stay with a Mayan family and volunteer with community organizations, taking lessons in the morning and studying/volunteering at night. Hopefully soon, I'll be able to confidently say I'm bilingual. With just under a month left in my trip, I think settling down and practicing the language sounds nice for the coming weeks.

Hasta luego chicos!


Tags: america, atitlan, central, guatemala, hiking, lake, lake, travel

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