We rose early the next day and got the public boat across the lake to visit the small village of San Pedro. There are about 10 villages on the shores of Lake Atitilan and each seems to have a theme. San Pedro tends to be where the backpackers hang out, there’s one that make textiles, one that is an alternative village offering meditation, yoga and retreats, a religious one, and some that are just typical Guatemalan villages that don’t cater at all for tourists. We were time poor so we could only visit a couple and chose two of the most popular.
It took about 40 minutes as we stopped at lots of jetties en route to either pick up people or drop someone off. There is no mass tourism here, just backpackers so everything is quite basic. It was nice to see no big hotels or superyachts – I hope it stays that way.
San Pedro is small albeit the biggest village on the lake. It’s streets go straight up the hill – very steep and tiring to climb. The main street runs along the water though, so we just turned left when we arrived and found a hotel. We were the very first guests at his hotel and had the pick of the rooms. We chose the room with the biggest bed! We headed into the main part of the village and discovered lots of tuk tuks, bars, coffee shops, and cheap hotels. Lazy dogs wandered down the very narrow main street and everyone seemed to be sitting around holding a coffee or beer. We stopped for a bite to eat overlooking he lake- a really beautiful view which I could never tire of.
We took a tuk tuk to the next village of San Juan. This village specialised in textiles which they made themselves at the back of their shops. The streets here were very steep which apart from building up our calf muscles gave us a massive thirst- so of course we needed to replenish our fluids so headed to the nearest coffee shop – which was actually a chocolate factory. We had to have a mocha chocolate instead but it was delicious.. ..
I bought a woven bag here and some scarves – I was completely spoiled for choice with hundreds of different colours, qualities and sizes to choose from. It was my kinda heaven.. and we didn’t even visit one hardware shop but Ian did manage to find a truck which was carrying some parts so he had a rummage.. nothing of interest though!
Everything revolves around the lake here – the women do the washing in it, the kids play in it, the men get their living from it, either by fishing or boating and the tourists come here to see it. Had we stayed longer we would have hiked up to some of the peaks at dawn – the view from there must be amazing but we couldn’t stay more than a couple of days as we had arranged a haul out – another time maybe…
After a few days of R&R by the lake it was time to head back to Antigua. We got the shuttle for the grand sum of A$50 bypassing Guatemala city this time and arrived back at 4pm… Guatemala has to be one of the easiest countries the world for travellers.
When we got back to Catamaran, Darryl had arrived and was moored right next to us. We hadn’t seen him since the San Blas so we had a lot to catch up on. They were only going to be in Guatemala for about a week so we decided to head north and go and visit Tikal a few days later. Tikal is an ancient Mayan citadel situated in the rain forest in northern Guatemala and possibly dates back to the first century AD. It is one of Guatemala’s top attractions so the 5 of us piled into a taxi and headed off to the nearest town of Flores.
We chose the wrong couple of days – as it poured with rain for the entire trip. We were in the rain forest after all so we were expecting a bit of rain, but we got soaked through.
When we got to Flores the rain stopped for just long enough for us to have lunch and a wander round. Flores is small and compact but as with all Guatemalan towns, full of colour and character. We only had a couple of hours here before we were taken off to our hotel in Tikal.
We arrived at the eco lodge in the Tikal national park in time for sundowners. The lodge was amazing, built in the middle of the jungle with all local materials. We had a lovely dinner, a few drinks and headed to bed early so that we would be all energised for the ruins the next morning. The only problem was the rain.. .. it poured and we had to all buy rain jackets with our tickets. Ian and I looked like port and starboard lights in our red and green ones!
Tikal was abandoned sometime after 850AD – no-one really knows why but it was completely taken back by the jungle and is still in the process of being uncovered. The palaces and temples include the temple of the Grand Jaguar which at 70mts is the tallest Mayan temple in the Americas.
We spent a few hours exploring the ruins and the sun did eventually come out but we were soaked so we decided to head back, dry off and get back to the marina before dark.
We spent a few more days at the marina, organising for some canvas with to be done. We had a couple of fun nights before Darry left and headed up for Belize, and then we set about organising for a lift out.
Christmas was fun with a champagne breakfast and a huge Christmas lunch with all the cruisers at Catamaran marina. The staff were all given the day off so we had the run of the place – it was odd being in a resort with no staff.
We had lifted out less than a year ago, but our stays in Trinidad and Cartagena in Colombia had left Indian Summer’s hull covered in barnacles. We were hoping to wait a bit longer and haul out in Panama before our Pacific crossing but Ian reckoned it couldn’t wait so we decided on Nanajuana marina and so it was back to the hard for her annual bum clean and antifoul.
Our time in Guatemala was coming to an end- we had been 6 weeks living in the cheapest marina we had found. It had been wonderful but Belize was calling….