Heaven is a place on Earth: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

              A week ago we were still in Antigua, Guatemala. Life was challenging us and we took it on the chin more than a few times. Especially Laura. That is part of traveling. Hell it’s part of life. But with every challenge and every down moment we find that there’s at least one reward/vindication moment that reminds you why it’s all worth it. This week has been just that. After leaving Antigua Guatemala last Saturday we made our way to the enchanting Lago de Atitlan. The volcano lake. Itself a collapsed volcanic cone, the pristine blue lake Atitlan, a spiritual Mayan location for thousands of years, is ringed by three great volcanos creating one of the most spectacular natural locations imaginable. Along its shores and in the surrounding hills survive a dozen small villages and a minimal amount of outside development. “Lanchas” or small open air motor boats are the primary means of transport on the lake as roads scarcely exist.

                Arriving in San Pedro, one of the largest villages and one of two gringo-ized towns on Atitlan, we reached the hotel we had booked the night before on the internet. Wow. The “bungalow” we had been promised was in fact a shack made of scrap wood with cardboard ceilings and structurally incorporated duct tape. Seriously. Large gaps in the walls were filled with crumpled paper and plastic bags to keep the insects out; what a joke that was.  Deciding to tough it out for the night, we found ourselves hiding under our sheets as the room quickly filled with giant brown and black spiders once dark struck. They still haunt our nightmares. Waking up at 7am and looking for an immediate change, we left the tuk tuk filled street of San Pedro and our amazing shack in search of greener pastures, something we hoped would be easily attainable. Village hopping around the lake on lanchas all day we discovered the spectacularly gorgeous village of Santa Cruz La Laguna and it was love at first sight. We moved into our small room at the idyllic Iguana Perdido on the shores of the lake.  Our beautifully rustic room with sweeping views of the lake, the docks in front dotted with Mayan children fishing with fishing line wrapped around tin cans, and the twin giants Volcan Toliman and Volcan San Pedro directly across the water from us, was a mere 100 quetzales a night, about $12 US.

                This week has been a piece of heaven. Studying Espanol in the mornings on a lakeside patio,  swimming in the lake off secluded docks with new friends and hiking from village to village in the afternoon. The community dinners served at large tables by the water by candlelight with locals and travelers from throughout the world turn into amazing and inspiring conversations of life, travel, the world and adventure. Spilling out by the fire pit at night under millions of stars over the lake, most nights we get treated to dazzling light shows of lighting striking the tops of the volcanoes across the lake every few seconds. Loose shirts and shorts are the norm as the temperature on the lake is typically 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Late nights eventually turn into large groups drinking beers and mezcal around whichever collection of talented musicians decides to put on a concert for the night with the guitars, banjos, piano, etc.  that fill the common spaces of the Iguana. Every night someone new, a local, a traveler, whoever, seems to blow us all away with a performance that sets the heart in motion. I can’t even put in to words the dynamic here, the community, the music and the shear beauty of the place. It’s inspiring on so many levels.

                Our friend Roland who joined us in Antigua (and is traveling with us now) will join us this next week as we make our way north to Semuc Champey. A collection of turquoise river fed pools in the middle of the jungle that tier into each other down the hillside through the two dozen waterfalls that connect them. Should make for a great swimming/adventure spot as we make our way further north to the spectacular Mayan ruins of Tikal. This is why we’re doing this. This is what we needed to be doing with our lives.

Hasta Luego. Dan


The fair city of Antigua

We’ve been in lovely Antigua Guatemala for two and a half weeks now . Antigua is a small city surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. It is located about an hour outside of Guatemala City. Our first week here was mostly spent acclimating ourselves to the city and appreciating finally being in our first location on this great journey.

This week however, has been less than perfect. I got terribly sick and had to get on an antibiotic regimen for 3 days. On top of that I was the victim of a random wild dog attack. Yes you read that correctly, I was attacked by a wild dog on the streets of the fair city of Antigua. Luckily I only suffered minor injuries and was able to recover after only a few days. Dan has been experiencing major migraines due to technological and internet issues, including getting locked out of all his email and internet accounts due to logging in internationally. Just yesterday we thought the ceiling of our room was literally going to cave in. At that point we finally just had to start laughing.

Besides all of that mess, we’ve had a wonderful time at Spanish school, meeting new people and learning more about the Maya culture. Some of our activities include the All Saints Day festival weekend, a visit to a macadamia nut farm, hiking up to el Cerro de la Cruz, visiting Ciudad Vieja at the base of Volcan de Agua and visiting a Maya pueblo where we were taught how to make tortillas by hand.

Overall things are going well and we are excited to be traveling on to San Pedro and Lago de Atitlan next week.

Ramble On


Road Wisdom: Of Showers and Parrots

A Hot Trickle is Better than a Cold Deluge

Our house in Antigua has one of those crazy looking electric shower head heaters that make it seem like you’re about one misplaced arm overhead from certain death by electrocution. Well, our first day we turned the water on and found ourselves gently awoken by an endless deluge of completely freezing water. It was relentless. I feel much ill will towards that water. Anyway, after a few days of these morning assaults we finally asked our host family why we couldn’t get hot water and found out those ridiculous shower heads can only heat a little water at a time. So we were taught to barely turn the water on to get a luxuriously hot shower. The downside…we now have to shower in a slow drizzle of water as turning up the pressure pushes the cold water past the heater too fast. Lesson learned. A hot trickle is better than a cold deluge though. There has got to be a Buddhist proverb in their somewhere.

The Parrot of the Baskervilles

Our place in Guatemala has a beautiful central courtyard that all the rooms face into. There are many green plants and flowers, a small grassy yard, a fountain and last but not least… a caged parrot. A beautiful green parrot who literally says ¨Hola¨ as you walk in the door and ¨Hasta Luego¨as you leave. Cute, right? That’s what we thought. We soon realized that as soon as you lie down for a mid day nap (seriously every time) we slowly begin hearing the parrot say ¨hola¨over and over again. But it keeps getting louder and louder and it begins to change… Hola… Hooolaaaa…. HOOOOOLAAAAA!!!!…. AAAAAAAGGHHHH!!!… AAAAAAGGHHHH!!! It sounds like someone is screaming outside our door every 5 seconds! So terrifying. If  you ever find yourself living with a parrot. Invest in some quality earplugs and spare yourself the nightmares.