Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City
Day 9 – Lake Atitlan – Guatemala City
I was up at 05:45 hoping for a spectacular sunrise. I was out on the balcony in my nightshirt and got some mildly pink shots. Try that in Canada at this time of year.
I noticed that there were no screens on any of the windows and that the restaurant and bar were wide open to the outside. Perhaps bugs cannot fly at 5,000 feet ;-)
Wake up was 07:30, bags out at 08:00 and bag identification at the coach at 08:45. Then at 09:00 we could take the coach into Panajachel for a visit or we could remain at the hotel until the coach departed at 11:00 to pick up the “Pana Pack”.
The more daring had departed at 08:00 for a zip line experience. I would love to try it, but the insurance does not cover such daring exploits and I did not want to jeopardize my trip to Costa Rica. Colour me chicken.
So, after a lovely omelette and great coffee, I made sure my bag went into the coach luggage compartment.
At 09:00 only 11 out of the 41 decided to go into Pana. It turned out to be a great choice. The weather was excellent and the vendors in Pana were much more subdued. In short, it was more enjoyable than Santiago.
Our group walked all the way down “Tourist Trap Street” to the lake. The TukTuks were a constant hazard. Then there was the garbage truck that intermittently let out a siren blast to warn people to bring out their garbage.
There is a lovely stone paved walk along the lake front. Indeed the lake level has risen substantially. A lakefront hotel used to have an exclusive beach front, complete with bar. The beach is underwater and only the roof of the bar is above water.
There were some great photos of boats, whose owners all wanted us to hire them to take us to Santiago – sorry, been there, done that.
In this area we walked by a couple of Special Forces wearing flak jackets and carrying fully
automatic assault rifles. Their van had blacked out windows. It gave me an uneasy feeling.
The thought occurred that Pana would make a great place for a winter long stay. We learned that there are easy shuttles from Antigua to Pana. We did see a Porta Hotel, but it was a shadow of the one in Antigua –We found an ex-pat restaurant to get a coke and to use the washroom.
Our compatriots picked us up on time and we laboriously climbed back up to Solala, passing a prettyspectacular waterfall en route. This time the sun was shining so we got to see the town in all its glory. At one point the regular street was not quite wide enough for the coach so we actually had to go the wrong way on a one-way street to get back up to the Pan American Highway.
We learned that after the 1973 earthquake people started using rebar in construction. Most new construction has bare rebar sticking out of the upper storey so that more structure can be added should the need arise. In the old days, adult children would have built above the parents. More and more the extended family concept is fading with children moving away, and sometimes living with a partner without getting married.
The drive back was the same twisty highway we had ascended two days before. It was real dramamine territory. Along the way, roadside stalls were selling crafted sheep and deer for Christmas decorations. The animal forms are made from willow branches.
We stopped for lunch where I had been twice on the previous visit. Namely, the ” Kotak” restaurant, which means “Welcome” in Mayan. I forgot that I had ordered chicken for the Farewell Dinner, and had chicken for lunch. For dessert I had plantain covered with chocolate – it did not hold a candle tothe banana and chocolate at the Hotel Atitilan.
At lunch the Tour Manager passed around a Contact List sign up. It was made clear that only those signing up would get a copy. It was the most fully subscribed list I have ever seen.
We passed a nursery selling hanging baskets. They do that in Toronto at the end of May.
After lunch you could sense that the trip had lost its momentum. When I saw the sprawl of Guatemala City I groaned – too big.
Only a few hundred yards from the hotel, we saw a muscular young man, stark naked bathing himself in a park pond right beside the busy street.
At 15:25 we were back at the Barcelo hotel.
At 18:30 we gathered in the lobby we went into the Farewell Dinner. The waiter poured a sample of twelve year old rum in a snifter. Good, but I prefer twelve year old Scotch. It was a good dinner, but some of our group had hideously early flights so the gathering broke up early. Those with later flights made arrangements for a relaxed breakfast.
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