Day 6-7 Border Crossing, Panajachel & Lake Atitlan

Trip Start Jun 26, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 6 - It was a very early start, departing at 5.15am today, everybody is tired and cold with the cockerels starting their 'cock-a-doodle-doo' morning ritual. However this early departure was well rewarded with dawn views like this....

Sunrise over a clouded valley, Panajachel, Guatemala
Sunrise looking down into clouded valleys.

Several hours later we finally at the Mexico - Guatemala border. This crossing has got to go down a the bizzarest border crossing I have come across, with a busy market located in the road between the two countries in what is defined as no-mans land and full credit to our driver who managed to reach the Guatemalan border avoiding the wandering pedestrians and without hitting any market stalls in this narrow street. We were stucked at the border for at least an hour as our bus was fumigated and the hassles of registrating our vehicle. However in that time we had the chance to exchange our Mexican Pesos for the local Guatemalan Quetzales with some random casual-dressed men waving their cash at the border. Within a few hours driving in Guatemala you soon realised that Mexico has a good road network as we continually slowed down by the topes (spanish for speed bumps) which must have appeared every kilometer in the road. Fortunately the drive to Panajachel passed relatively quickly as we admired the overcrowded chicken buses and the wrecklessness of some Guatemalan drivers. And finally 10 hours after we setted off from San Cristobal we arrived at our final destination, Panajachel located beside one of the largest lakes in Guatemala, Lagos de Atitlan.

Aproach road to Guatemalan Border, Panajachel, Guatemala
The approach road to the Guatemalan border, market gets busier around the next corner

This is where my day ended as I gave dinner a miss in exchange for an early night and some much needed sleep. But it sounded a good night as the duo of Bobbie and Jenny stayed out for a few drinks after their meal, which resulted in Bobbie giving her Cayote Ugly impression as she danced upon the table in just her underwear. We have photgrahic evidence of this deed, however I am not going to embarrass the poor girl by posting it on this blog.   

Day 7 - Lagos de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan)

I must have really needed that sleep as I slept for over 12 hours the previous night, but not eating yesterday may prove to be a mistake as I don't feel too good however at least I am not suffering from diarrhoea today as there is nothing to pass. Still that is not going to stop me doing the guided tour around Lake Atitlan. I am afraid I can't describe this to well as I wasn't my observent self today.

Firstly the background on the picturesque Lake Atitlan, its located in the central highland in southwestern Guatemala and it occupies a flooded valley surrounded by three volconoes. Its 19km long and 10km wide and lies at an altitude of 5,000 feet and the shores are dotted with Indian villages where Mayan culture still rules and of which three of these we got to visit to today.

Lake Atitlan 04, Panajachel, Guatemala
A view of Lake Atitlan from San Pedro

The first village, San Pedro, here we stopped at a local coffee shop where we were given some background information on the coffee production around Lake Atitlan. This was followed up by a visit to the church and our local guide who was like a hobbit (less than 5ft in height) gave us a tour of the church as well as the problems of promoting family planning and the use of condoms with local Mayans.

The second village (San Lucas?) is where we stopped for lunch to taste the local cuisine, saw a local woman wrap up a hat with a long piece of elongated cloth and finallt I got conned out of a few Quetzales as I and a few others visited a Mayan temple, which was just a room with a shrine in it with locals eating their lunch.

And finally we stopped at San Antonio. We visited a shop where the local woman weave together clothes to sell to tourists. All looks very good quality and is more expensive than the cheaper souvenirs in the markets, so I brought a nice warm blue scarf, although the question is do I send it home as a christmas present or do I keep it ready for the winter in New Zealand?

Local Guatemalan Girl, Panajachel, Guatemala
A local Guatemalan girl. By the end of the day all of the girls on our group wanted to adopt at least one local child.

After about 6 and a half hour and travelling across the whole lake on our private boat we arrive back at Panajachel for dinner and an odd drink. Unfortunately we have to leave tomorrow as the whole group have enjoyed the relaxing lifestyle here and if I was travelling here independently I would probably stay at the hostel in San Pedro that look so appealing, relaxing in the glorious sunshine and the stunning scenery. Perfect surroundings to relax and read my Lord of the Rings book or to stay a bit longer and learn spanish at the nearby school.    
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catherinetodd on

Our Beloved Lake Atitlan
You have the most beautiful, endearing photos here of my beloved Lake Atitlan, where I am lucky enough to live in Panajachel part of the year. Thank you so much for your enjoyable description of all there is to see and do. Hope we meet one day in person: write to me anytime at Yours, Catherine Todd

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