The road into Panajachel is not so much a road as potholes with patches in between. Sometimes just potholes. Endeavouring wannabe gangster children fill the holes and then demand money, or simply hold up a road trying to get some change out of you. To bad little dudes, we are bigger and badder than you, and you don’t have guns!
Besides this, its beautiful and the views are pretty great.
We’re going to split this entry into three parts, because each city around the lake has a completely different personality. There are three defining features we will point out in each town: Expat community, activities, and food.
This is the first point of entry for many, so really resembles a ruff and tumble frontier town. Although, not really ruff or tumble. The accommodations in town (for overlanders), are pretty expensive as well. We negotiated down for 2 nights and still paid too much (200Q 1st night, 150 Q second). Also, beware of the size of streets which can quickly go from two lanes to one way pedestrian size without you really noticing you are going to get stuck. Oops!
The expat community in town is entrenched. It seems to be where people first settled, and then got a little weird. Many seem to be running from some former criminal past, maybe a felony back home? Joe, a friend who lured us into his mosquito filled bar and then proceeded to talk near gibberish to us while spraying us with his homemade mosquito repellent (brown and sticky, maybe tobacco related)…. Really proved to us both how crazy the locals can be but also how genuine. Whatever Joe was on, we don’t want it, but he gave us some really good intel on “love, love love, love, love; Rituals with shit-sodomy necromancy, cannibalism, human sacrifice, rituals with blood, spiritual or alien contact, magic fallen angels, mixing of alien and human genes, and age old lies”
No we didn’t just have a stroke, we are giving you a little info from Joe’s pamphlet.
Things to do sort of align with food, because one of the primary things to do is wander around and eat the street food. We ate nearly 10 tacos in one day. Also Mexican corn on the cob and some tostadas. We sat down to dinner at a street stall and had some seriously delicious home cooked food in the company of regional travelers who complimented us on our Spanish. HA!
Another thing is shopping, this is where all the handicrafts go to be sold around the lake, so don’t wait for other towns.. this is where you are going to find all the trinkets you littler heart desires. We, being broke, pretty much bought nothing.
Although only a 20 minute boat ride away was really a 3 hour drive away on seriously striking mountain roads. The switchbacks into the lake really should be appreciated on a chicken bus howevr, because they literally cannot make the switchbacks without a 16 point turn each time. Our truck wasn’t that much better.
The town is notoriously hippy. And although I thought the guidebook was joking, we really did hear people talk about life forces, energy vortexes and chakras when we were there. The town center is all a labyrinth of walkways between healing centers, yoga studios and meditation intensives. These were all out of our budget, San Marcos is not really for the budget savvy, unless of course the universe provided it.
We stayed at a hostel with really great people and scenery, however we were not pleased with the price (and the 2 for 3 night sale that was not applicable because we didn’t ask for it on the first night….excuse me we didn’t even know about it!). Also, the dogs and screaming out of control children really made us feel like grumps until we heard everyone else complaining about it. Seriously, they were awful.
But nevertheless, we explored the town. Brett finally forced Jessica into a cliff jump (he pep talked me for nearly an hour, it was brutal), and we bought some of Keith’s famous cacao.
The expats here are all retired hippies. Maybe they just bought in when the prices were lower, and the lake was lower… because now the lake is rising and silly foreigners are losing their properties to the rise of the lake. The things to do are aligning your chakra, yoga and ceremonial cacao experiences… which we did not do. The food, gringo oriented and obviously organic. Expensive.
Last city! Took us a bit to find reasonable truck accommodation, because there is a fair coming to town and ALL THE STREETS ARE BLOCKED OFF. Damn. But we did, and although admittedly a little grungy, the price was right, the hosts oh-so-sweet and the grounds lovely. The grunge didn’t even bother us. The electrifying shower was only slightly off-putting.
Since we were both eating for two thanks to our parasite issue, we ate a lot. Just really anything we could get our hands on. If you see someone setting up tables in a street corner, wait. Seriously just wait for the best tortas, empanadas or tostadas you’ve ever had. And the cheapest food you’ll find. Also, we will mention that tequila shots & cuba libres were 5Q. Danger zone!
Here is the town’s volcanic namesake.
The expats in San Pedro are more discrete, but the backpackers are partiers. The music is loud and not always good. Besides wander around a bit, there isn’t much to do besides drink and eat. We did however stumble on a women’s weavers cooperative and learned SO much about the process. From picking the cotton to the finished scarf…. So much work goes into a product. We promise we will never barter for hand woven anything ever again.
Also, Taco’s mom lives here.
And just like that, we were out!