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