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Wednesday 15 Mar 2006
Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala

El tour del Lago

I've been debating what to do at Lago de Atitlan ever since I decided I was gonna 'do' Guatemala back in the day (aboot 2 months ago)...

Should I take the boat tour, climb the volcanoes, hire a bike and cycle around, or do a hike through the villages.

Not being much of an organised-tour-person I decided to climb the volcano of San Pedro (which would involve getting a boat across from Panajachel to San Pedro). Unfortunately, not knowing what was involved in organising this thing I found out the following morning - too late - that the trip left at 8am.. and I actually got out of bed at 8.30 am! Doh!

OK well that idea is at least scratched off my list.. so I got some desayuño and decided to read up on the other options over a cup of cafe...

After brekkie I wandered around.. it was a nice lazy sort of day and I wasn't really in the mood for any hard-core trekking, so when a boatman came over to me offering a triple-village tour of the lake for only 60 quetzals leaving at 9.30 I jumped at the opportunity.

And a damn good choice it was.. the boat trip was great fun with a cool bunch of people (although a fair few of em were pretty overweight americans which tipped the stability of the boat on the waves somewhat). Guess you WOULD only get overweight people doing the only non-strenuous activity available in Panajachel .. *cough* Wink

Anyhoo, the boat trip took in 3 villages in Lago de Atitlan, each with it's own charms (or lack thereof), and each with a different sort of volcanic backdrop. The 3 villages were San Pedro, Santiago and San Antonio.
Unfortunately, we only got about 45-60 minutes at each place.. which provided only a brief glimpse. Better than nothing though. The trips on the water between villages lasted about 30 mins each, so that was fun too.

I'd heard nothing but good things about San Pedro from folks on the interweb, but I gotta be honest, I wasn't too impressed. In fact I'd say that Gringontenango (i.e. Panajachel) has more goin for it, despite it's overt touristy kitsch. It was pretty dusty and had a sort of seedy atmos... pass

Santiago.. now we're talking. Populated in the main by villagers who wear their traditional dress out of convenience, not for tourists it was a lovely place despite one main street lined with tourist shops and the inevitable kids begging to be your guides as you arrive at the lancha. We got 1hr 20 mins here which was barely enough time, but I got some great pics.
I also took a detour off the main tourist path and wandered through a non-descript small doorway in a large building whereupon I entered a massive 4 storey marketplace filled with colourful locals bartering with each other selling their fruits and wares.
Evidently I was the only tourist in this market for days, because everyone stopped and stared as I wandered in, stepping over women sitting on the floor with baskets full of red peppers and mangoes. I purchased some fruit while here (also a good excuse to steal a photo too, without being obnoxious)

Finally, San Antonio, was a small town, but also filled with very charming and genuine locals dressed in their local garb; kids jumping off the lanchas into the lake while the 3 volcanoes loomed on the horizon.

Lovely day.. got back around 4pm, pretty damn exhausted. I don't think I'd have made it to the top of the volcano after all Cool

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