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Travel Adventure - Backpacking Latin America's Gringo Trail Backpacking Latin America starting in Cuba, then travelling from East to the west coast of Mexico before making our through Central and finishing in South America.

Lake Atitlan - kayaking the lake and climbing Indian's Nose

GUATEMALA | Sunday, 12 July 2015 | Views [671] | Comments [1]

Finished my first book - Wild (new movie starring Reese Witherspoon) about a girl hiking the PCT in America and 'finding herself' after her mum dIt's. Really good read and quite fitting to the travels I am on. Quite a profound ending and the message at the end pretty much saying Let It Be. Felt like it was perfect timing for finishing it and entering Central America - a new leg of the journey. Thanks for the book voucher for my birthday Al! Bought the Che Guaevera - Bolivian Diaires in Cuba so will now start that. 
Crossing the border in to Guatemala was simple, perhaps coz we were on an organised shuttle and there were no lines. Dropped us off to get our passport stamped to exit Mexico then stopped just before the border that said Benivious Guatemala, all got out, put our backpacks on and walked across. Went in to another small office to get our passport stamped to enter Guatemala, then back on the shuttle. 
The bus dropped us at Lake Atitlan and we had to get a small boat across the lake to the town we were staying at called San Pedro. Wow this lake had a powerful feeling about it when going across the water. It's a large lake surrounded by mountains and volcanoes and the sun was setting and you could see the last glow of light fading behind the silhouette of a volcano as we jetted across on the little boat. The clusters of towns which live by the lake were sparkling as their lights came on and darkness fell. It seemed like a magical land that I read about in a fairy tale. 
We got off our boat and checked in to Hostel Fe, recommended to us by the Aussie we were chatting to in San Cristobal. A party hostel and since we hadn't had many big nights maybe we should try to make some friends and party like most travellers our age do. It was a cool hostel, with lots of travellers, awesome music and a bar/restaurant area right on the lake. Although, the serene vibe I felt from arriving at the lake contrasted greatly to the party scene that was happening at the hostel. We put our bags in our room and were starving so went to the restaurant and ordered food and drinks. There were a few groups formed and maybe coz we were a couple and also coz Matt and I aren't the type of people to just sit ourselves down with a random group of people (although I'm sure they would have welcomed us if we did) we didn't really chat to anyone that night (it almost felt like the 'sitting there waiting for a boy to ask you to dance at a school dance and you never get asked'' thing haha) and were pretty tired from the 10 hour shuttle ride so we went to sleep, although the noise from the bar was very loud from our room. 
The next day I woke up to news that i had been anticipating for the last couple of days Loz was due around the end of June, start of July. Russ had messaged me to let me know that their baby boy  named Felix was born and I was very excited to be an aunty to a cute new nephew, although would love to be with family at this time to meet the little guy and can't wait for cuddles when I get home! We ate our free breakfast which was delicious and a choice o either pancakes with banana and maple syrup, eggs on toast or fruit with yoghurt and granola and sat at a table that overlooked the lake. We then went for a walk around the streets to check everything out then had lunch at a nice little cafe two doors up from the hostel that sold fresh 'make your own' sandwiches, salads and smoothies that also overlooked the lake. It was so yum but the our meals almost took 2 hours to come out coz they ran out f gas and were waiting for the guy to deliver another bottle to cook Matts schnitzel (and we thought Mexican time was bad). The owner was apologetic and didn't want us to pay for anything. It did take ages but we felt bad not paying so went back the next day to eat there again and left a large tip to compensate.
We then hired some kayaks and paddled around the lake which was really cool then jumped in for a swim after. We organised our shuttle for the next afternoon then just had dinner and a couple of drinks again at the hostel. Maybe we might make some friends tonight? Although we wanted to go to bed early as we were getting up at 3:45 in the morning to climb one of the mountains called The Indian's Nose, which from San Pedro looked like a profile of a face and you can climb to the tip of its 'nose'. Everyone was in party mood after playing a beer pong tournament and again we didn't make any friends that night either. 
Lucky enough that night coz it would have been pretty hard to wake up when the alarm sounded at 3:10am. We met with 4 other people and Matt the geologist who would be our tour guide, along with a local tour guide. It was a bit more expensive than other tours but the hostel really recommended going with him and it was worth it! 
We boarded our first chicken bus (the bus the locals catch - much cheaper but a lot dodgier) Chicken buses are typically old American yellow school buses but most in Guatemala look like large mean long trucks with crazy paintings all over them and blue lights. Jumped on, the seats were so squished and by the end of the 45min trip (nothing compared ti the distances we've done so far) the bus was packed with three to a two seated seat. The bus grunted up the mountains, winded through the narrow streets and the driver sounded a loud horn at any given occasion, no doubt waking up the whole town at 4 in the morning. Glad we experienced a chicken bus but don't really want to again, especially if it were long distance! 
We used torches to walk the first leg of the track before the first light came up. It came to a pretty steep part and I was definitely out of breath but could keep up with the guide at the front. It was about an hour hike and we were greeted with a pink sky and an incredible view over the lake and surrounding mountains and volcanoes in the distance. One volcano was highly active and for the last couple of days bursts of lava and ash could be seen rising from the top. We couldn't see any lava at that time but could see a smoke cloud rising from the peak. There were a couple of other groups up there and we all sat and watched the sun rise over the mountains. It was pretty special. 
Matt the geologist then gave the 6 in our group a geology lesson about earthquakes, volcanoes, how they occur and how Lake Atitlan came about. Also how chains of volcanoes exist which gives the 'ring of fire' I cant remember the specifics (Matt would be better at this stuff) but a super volcano existed many thousands of years ago which erupted producing many cubic kilometres of lava and debris which would have wiped out whatever existed in that area (much of Guatemala and beyond) the lake was at the centre of that and over time as rain fall and river systems occurred it filled the lake and the surrounding smaller volcanoes were created around. Pretty mind blowing stuff. He was so passionate and informative, it was so interesting and was amazing to witness the volcanoes and what he was talking about right in front of your eyes from this spectacular view point on top of the Indians Nose. 
We chilled for the rest of the day until our shuttle was leaving at 2:30pm. We met two guys from Colorado who were staying at our hostel and had a big night the night before. We all got lunch together back at Sababa and almost missed our shuttle even though we were there 10minutes beforehand it had started to drive off and had to wave it down. I realised chatting to the guys from Colorado that we are keen to meet new people and make friends and go out and have a few drinks and check out the nightlife but we aren't really here for the party scene. 
Waiting for our shuttle 
Indians Nose - profile of the mountain
Indians Nose - face profile of the mountain
Swimming in the lake
Swimming in the lake
Roding in the back of a pick up truck
View from our hostel
Voew from our hostel

Tags: hike, indians nose, kayaking, lake, mountain, sunrise, volcano



Robbery and Attempted Murder at the Summit of La Nariz

On February 13, 2018, a friend and I hiked to the popular La Nariz on Atitlan for the sunrise. What started as a promising sunrise excursion turned into a harrowing experience that highlights how I believe tourists are openly targeted for violent crime by the locals with the tacit permission of the local authorities.

On our journey up the mountain, guides and other tourists accompanied us. After the sunrise, my friend and I followed behind the group. However, as my friend tried to descend from the peak, a young guatemalan man in front of my friend turned, pulled out a machete, put it to my friend’s throat and demanded his money. My friend quickly backed away and ran down the hill through the brush. As my friend ran, the man picked up and threw grapefruit sized rocks trying to kill him. Already being further down the mountain, the guides and the other tourists fled.

Unfortunately, everyone else’s escape left the young man shoving me at machete point demanding my money. After a tense few minutes of talking, I gave him my money (120Q) and ran down behind my friend. As we descended, another man with a machete blocked our path and demanded even more money. We ran through the brush and escaped.

When we arrived at the town below, we stopped at a small tienda and told the lady what had happened. While talking with her, the two bandits walked past. We told the lady they were the criminals who had assaulted us. She knew who they were and gave us their names. She also called the police for us and told us that she was afraid to get involved.

Twenty minutes later, when the Guatemala national police arrived, we told them what happened and gave them the criminals’ names and a picture. The police asked us if we wanted to file a report. We told them that this was their community. If it helped the community, we would. Otherwise, we would just leave. They said they wanted us to file a report so we followed them to the police station.

As it turned out, we didn’t need the criminals’ pictures or names. They met us and the police as we walked through town. As expected, they denied holding us at knifepoint, kidnapping me, or trying to kill my friend. When we arrived at the police station, neither the town police nor the national police took a report. We reviewed nothing. We signed nothing. Neither man was arrested. We left enlightened.

Upon returning, I researched La Nariz more thoroughly combing through travel blogs. I found that the two criminals are a father and son team who have been committing violent crime against tourists for years. Here is a blog entry from 2016 that spells out their activities:


It’s highly unlikely that the local authorities don’t know this.

In the end, going to La Nariz is simply dangerous. It is remote and away from town giving criminals the time and space they need for their dirty work. With proper support from the police, it could be safe. But in my experience you, as a tourist, are considered by the police and the guides to be fair game to the locals who are regularly committing violent crime against foreigners.

If you are the adventuresome type and don’t mind being robbed at knifepoint for a few bucks, then the sunrise at La Nariz is nice enough. You’ll get some exercise and see a pretty sunrise. If you are squeamish about being subjected to violent crime, you may want to consider other sightseeing options.

After talking with lot of people, it also seems that virtually all paths around the lake are being worked similarly by violent criminals. The guides will tell you that it’s safe if you go with them, but it’s not.

  Michael Feb 14, 2018 5:12 PM

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