Lago de Atitlan & PanajachelBus to Pana
This morning I caught the tourist bus to Panajachel. Pana is a small mountain town on the northwest coast of Lago de Atitlan. The bus ride was about 2 1/2 hours from Antigua but scaled on my map it looks like the distance is about 60 miles. It wasn´t just going up the hills that slowed our bus, it was the Toyota pickups with 23 men in the back going up those hills. Luckily, there are not many regulations and even less enforcement when it comes to driving. Surprisingly though, the highways were very smooth and appeared nearly new between Antigua and Panajachel.
At the beginning of our drive, the fog was so beautiful. It hovered over the mountains, volcanoes and fields and I could see the true distance of all the layers of scenery beyond by the hue of the silhouette. All along the road, there were Guatemalans of all ages towing vegetables and other goods. The most amazing thing about this is that there were men and women who must be 80 years old or more who are carrying huge bundles up those steep, steep hills to their family or to sell them at some roadside shack. Some women were even barefoot. The countryside before the mountains was mostly farmland- a patchwork of veggies with a random tree or shade hut or native Guatemalan spraying pesticides or fertilizer.
Until today I hadn´t seen any men in traditional dress. In the ¨highlands¨ these adorable old men wear bright patchwork pants and cowbot boots or rain boots with a bright top and a cowboy hat. I saw many old, old men riding their bikes uphill.
Most public restrooms in Guatemala charge for their use. Sometimes they even give you a receipt... for Q2 (about 30 cents, that includes a small wad of neatly folded toilet paper.... they assume you aren't having stomach problems.) After paying and peeing at the sanitarios in Pana, I could not find the handle to flush. Hmm.... So I just left, no big deal- only #1. When I exited, the guy who sold me my tp greeted me with "Buenos tardes!" and flushed my toilet from the opposite side of the wall.
Lago de Atitlan
The lake itself is enormous and absolutely gorgeous. The mountains surrounding the lake are so steep that it looks like nobody could possibly build a sensible structure there. The mountains and volcanoes were pretty clouded over, but you could still see the volcanoes and perimeter around the lake. It is hard to believe there weren´t more broken down buses than we saw.
I met a guy at breakfast in Pana who is from Arizona and we talked for a good while about BioDiesel and vegetarianism. He is here for his job- he buys, sells and converts cars to BioDiesel. He is here to purchase a car for client in the US. He and his grumpy girlfriend will drive it all the way back to Oregon to get it licensed. He claims to have a few clients in Portland and says he visits there often. What a small world this is.
I was very indecisive about taking a boatride across the lake mostly because I brought a limited amount of cash with me (no debit card which I will explain more later). After sitting down for a rest under a thatched roof for a Coca-Cola Dieta, I finally decided it was something I should do because I may never be back. I walked around to find the cheapest ride. Although I don´t believe I found the cheapest one, I made the trip- arriving back in Pana at 3:30- two and a half hours round trip.
My captain, Carlos, took me and 13 others on a bumpy ride to Santiago Atitlan in his small fiberglass boat. The ride there was very enchanting. One way took 30 minutes or so and once in Santiago Atitlan, I wondered why anyone would want to spend an hour and a half here. I walked around looking at the same crafts that I have seen a million times here in Guatemala. So I found a little tienda and bought an ice cream bar and soaked up some sun, constantly being harassed by little Guatemalan girls to buy some bracelets and keychains from China.
I am now safely back in Antigua and I must prepare for another week of español....