We arrived in San Pedro after a bumpy shuttle ride down the side of a mountain to the actual lake. We got a Tuk-Tuk to Hotel Playa Linda which was situated down a dirt path very close to the lake in amongst vegetable plots. The couple that owned the hotel were very nice but didn't really speak a word of English. The garden cafe had views overlooking the lake and we could choose a free breakfast.
At lunch we set about exploring the town and found a lush little eatery called HUMMUS YA, serving us huge pittas filled with falafel and salad, delicious. we bimbled around the little streets venturing up to a local market. San Pedro has some quite touristy parts too especially down by the docks, venders selling trinkets, locally made wares and coffee shops.
The next day we caught a small boat from San Pedro to San Marcos a short 10 minute boat ride away for £2 each. The lake was really tranquil and the volcanoes overlooking it were stunning. San Marcos has a more chilled out vibe, hipsters and locals intermingle. We stopped at a local cafe, where liquado's and healthy snacks featured heavily on the menu. We sat on pillows at low tables slurping the morning away in this superb chilled out watering hole. We walked up into the heights of the village and explored local life, small houses made of breeze blocks and corrugated metal roofs lined the steep cobbled streets. Smoke from burning stoves filled the air and hounds lay out in the bright sunlight. We completed our tour with a visit to another eatery, where padded pallet seats were sprawled out in a lush green tropical garden. Unfortunately let down by the crud service.
In the afternoon, we commenced our first Spanish lesson at Escuela Cooperativa from 1-6pm. Afterwards we were utterly drained and brain dead as we had taken in so much information.
On Thursday, we had our standard breakfast of Omlette and beans for me and fruit and granola for Mel. We took a boat from the dock to San Juan only 3 minutes away, only 10Q's each. This was a small little villlage and the Main Street going up into the centre was lined with grockle shops selling paintings, rugs and pottery. For some reason we both adopted a very touristy approach and ended up buying local chocolate, natural shampoo (for Mel), 2 small hessian coffee bags and a pencil case for Mel. Random!! We stopped in a coffee shop and slurped down a particularly tasty soya coffee and got the choppy boat back to San Pedro in time for our Spanish lesson. Our Spanish teacher was called Esther and she adopted a humourous approach to learning. The lesson seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were saying Hasta Mañana. We both found it pretty tough and decided that a week would not be enough, so we enrolled for a further 4 days.
On Friday, we had a free morning so we decided to start with a tasty natural shake from Da' Juice girls along the Main Street, we booked a trek up the Indians nose (that's not a metaphor for anything), it's the shape of the mountain overlooking San Pedro looking like a face donning a massive nose. We also booked a transfer to ChiChi market on Sunday. We spent the morning at a lake side cafe where we sat on swings doing our Spanish homework. I could think of worse ways to spend a morning. More Spanish in the afternoon followed by our standard find a place to dine and then back to the hotel for relaxation.
On Saturday, we woke early at 330am and walked up to the street to be picked up ready for our morning trek. Unfortunately, a small puppy was lying in the middle of the road and wasn't moving. I think I had been hit in the night by a tuktuk or car. I moved it onto the side of the road, it had definitely passed away. We took a chicken bus with our guide up the mountain and were dropped in a rural farming area. Here we trekked in the dark for 25 minutes or so to the view point on the side of the Indians nose. We sat on benches with tea and bread rolls watching the sunrise come up over the lake. You could see the whole lake and the lights from all the towns. Stunning, worth the early wake up I'd say.
On Sunday, yet another early start at 7am we caught a chicken bus to Chi Chi market (the biggest market in Central America). Unfortunately, there was a huge cock up and the driver forgot to pick up 2 tourists, increasing the travelling time by 45 minutes.
Eventually we arrived at the market. I asked the driver, " SO DO WE GET PICKED UP FROM HERE AT 3pm?" Response: "YES MAYBE, OR FROM HERE OR FROM OVER THERE." Good I'm glad that was cleared up. Very informative!!!
Anyway, we headed into the maze of bustling streets crawling with extremely small locals selling everything but their kitchen sinks. it was very difficult to navigate ourselves around as you could only see as far as the end of the next street or pathway. We managed to orientate ourselves and happened upon the main plaza which was, you guessed it, surrounded by market stalls and crammed with locals twiddling their thumbs. Not very pleasing to the eye. We scampered off promptly in hope of finding the Church with lively ceremonies out the front. Minutes later we were not disappointed, we walked straight into a small parade/ceremony with local folk dressed up in costume parading around handmade worship displays. Then suddenly, gun fire right in front of the Church, our hearts both skipped a beat. We turned instantly toward the noise and thankfully realised it had in fact been an old chap setting of some fireworks from make shift pipes. Every minute or so BANG BANG!!! The church itself had sporadic groups of locals lighting numerous tapir candles and burning incense.
Mel had researched a place 10 minutes from the market where you could see Ancient Mayan Ceromies being performed. After getting lost a few times we trudged up a steep weaving pathway on a hill and came across a ceremony in progress. Women dressed in full Mayan outfits were prancing around a wildly burning fire, whilst they threw in candles, herbs and other offerings. Whilst some men stirred the fire with a large stick and played the xylophone and blew into a conch. Honestly, very interesting to watch.
After we dined in a cafe and looked around the food section of the market where there were reems and reems of stalls selling deep fried chicken and popusas.
Before the pickup we sat in a small cafe people watching the market streets. Mel was conned by a 6 year old girl and bought another sympathy bracelet.
Mon - Thurs
Standard breakie at the hotel testing our newly learnt Spanish on the staff. Followed by smoothie bar/coffee shops then lunch at either Hummous Ya or Fifth dimension. Afternoons, 5 hours of Spanish: best bits:
Having to introduce ourselves unexpectedly at break time to everyone.
Comments made by Me to the Teacher in Spanish: "I HAVE TO FIT MY MONKEY WITH A BANANA" ( Brilliant, I meant I have to give my monkey a banana)
Teacher says in Spanish: Mark what did you eat for lunch?
I say: I had a sandwich with lettuce, Avacados, cucumber, tomato and some horse. (Horse.....omg I mean onion)
Thoroughly enjoyed learning Spanish for two weeks. We hope to continue learning along the way.
Lake Atitlan, simply outstanding natural beauty, charming villages amazing people, would recommend to anyone.
Top tip: Try to avoid using the 5b cash point by the dock in San Pedro as can be dodgy. There is another ATM near the local fresh market whic is better. Cash runs out after weekend too.