The Guatemalan highlands

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Mario's Rooms

Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Sunday, July 4, 2010

When the modern minibus to panajachel pulled up we thought "this is more like it... wont be as cramped as the chicken bus!". When we got into the modern minibus that had 14 seats fitted into the back and 12 of them already filled with other backpackers packed in like sardines and each with a bag by their feet we thought "is it too late to catch the chicken bus?". We squeezed onboard after throwing our backpacks onto the roof and being the last on headed straight out of Antigua for the Guatamalan highlands. The journey was very scenic with huge rolling green hills, fields of corn and volcanoes in almost every direction. We began chatting to a couple from Belgium, Hans and Stephanie, that had landed in Guatemala city the same night as us, stayed in the same hotel as us, arrived in Antigua the same day as us and were now obviously on the same minibus to Panajachel as us too!

We arrived in the high street of 'Pana' in the afternoon and found a nice hostel with an adjoining resturaunt and huge plants and hammocks outside the bedrooms. While checking in at the desk, Hans and Stephanie walked out of one of the rooms to pay too...its a small world. The weather in Guatemala at this time of year in the highlands is generally sunny mornings with not a breeze and then storms in the afternoons with strong winds and heavy rain. We made our way down to Lago Atitlan, a huge lake created thousands of years ago when a volcanic eruption blocked the path of the rio panajachel on its way to the ocean. It is an awesome view with three huge volanoes surrounding a deep blue lake which was very choppy in the afternoon wind. We found a resturaunt close by to our hostel and after dinner were heading in for the night when Hans and Stephanie walked into the reception at exactly the same time as us. We decided that our paths had crossed too many times not to go out for a few Guatemalan cocktails so went in search of a bar. Not the liveliest of villages as you can imagine we ended up being the only four sitting on plastic chairs in what appeared to be a very small, closed shopping center. The young girl working in the 'cocktail bar' came running over to us saying "happy hour! happy hour!" and when we asked what drinks were on offer she ran back out into the street, returning with the five foot tall wooden sign that listed the drinks they can make. A few very weak, 10 minute in the making mojitos and cuba libres later we called it a night.

The following morning was a bright and sunny one so making the most of the weather we walked along the south coast of the lake for a few hours past dozens of locals offering boat rides to mayan markets, other coastal villages and scenic tours. Some of the local men were fishing from a small jetty while others fished from traditional canoes on the water. Whilst walking to the other end of town to see what else was around we walked past a school as the final bell rang and witnessed a Guatemalan 'icecream man' (selling crushed ice in small plastic bags with your choice of fruit flavour syrup) get swarmed by hundreds of kids at once. We found some interesting shops and stalls selling brightly coloured mayan clothing, bags and jewellery amongst other souvenirs. We booked a bus ticket for early in the morning to our first destination in mexico and made plans for what we will do while taking it in turns to lie in the hammock outside our room and spent the rest of the day sheltering from the torrential downpour outside.
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pilgrims-nest on

Such a lovely place, it hasn't changed in the last 30 years.

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