So I’ve been in Guatemala for almost 7 weeks and it feels like I just got here yesterday. I’ve really enjoyed volunteering through Pop Wuj, and I’ve somehow found the time to take a few side trips. A couple weeks ago Stacy, Nick and I went travelling to Lake Atitlan. Stacy and I were hesitant to go because of the frat-boy-esque stories we’ve heard, but we just had to get out of Xela!
Our first stop was Panajachel, a super touristy little town on the lake. Our bus got stuck on a narrow street when it tried to pass a different tourist bus. Before asphyxiating, because the other bus’s exhaust was flowing directly into our windows, we escaped to a different chicken bus. Chicken busses are a pretty exciting and affordable way of travelling. They are old U.S. school busses that are pimped out with paint, but not maintenance. Therefore they are brightly colored buses spewing out toxic diesel fumes with as many people as possible crammed onto torn leather seats. There were about 8 other students from our school who also happened to be heading to Panajachel and we followed them to their hotel. We got a super luxurious room (by Guatemalan standards) for 10 dollars each for the night. I even got the double bed! Despite not wanting to be stereotypical tourists we went out drinking for the night. Why? Because Stacy and I wanted to prove we weren’t old!
The next day we took a water taxi to San Marcos, as we heard it was the least populated and therefore most beautiful town on the lake. It was quite beautiful, but tiny. It appeared the only thing to do there was go on a yoga retreat, and maybe study some Spanish. We spent about 20 minutes walking around and then headed over to San Pedro, where we planned to stay the night. It was the first time I’ve ever gone somewhere without any hotel reservation. Stacy and I walked into a few places before settling on a great hotel with a beautiful view and hammocks outside every room, setting us back an astounding $6.25 per night.
Stacy and I chose to go swimming in the dirty Lake Atitlan. Our first swimming spot was just over from some ladies doing their laundry. Bleach kills micro-organisms, right? We met a friendly Canadian who told us about some rocks down the way we could jump off of. They weren’t spectacular, but the water was slightly cleaner (meaning we couldn’t actually see the floating garbage we were swimming with). I jumped off a rock that was maybe 8 feet high. Big day!
For the rest of the day we just walked around the streets and ended up going out again that night. The call of youth was hounding us again. It was a fun night, but I definitely was ready to return to Xela the next day. I needed to get back to a structured week!
The worst part of going home was the lack of direct busses. On the second of three legs the roads were extremely curvy and I got quite carsick. It was one of the only times I actually wished I was crammed in with people so that I wasn’t getting flung around the bus. I was literally green as I got on the third and final bus, and one of our travel companions gave me a plastic bag in case I had to use it. As I sat curled over in the aisle, praying I would feel better I reflected on the fun weekend. Definitely a touristy mini-vacay, but also well worth it. And we even got back in time for me to watch Spain beat Netherlands. Woop Woop!