Category Archives: Guatemala

Lake Atitlan

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!

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Besides this, its beautiful and the views are pretty great.

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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.


 

Panajechal

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!

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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.

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San Marcos

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.

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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.


 

San Pedro

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.

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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.

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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.

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Also, Taco’s mom lives here.

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And just like that, we were out!

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Guatemala Dream Days

Guatemala is strikingly different than the other countries we had blown through in the past week or so. It’s startlingly green and so jungley. One of the most beautiful countries to drive through, even if the roads leave a bit to be imagined. Despite its recent, and pretty disturbing past, Guatemalans are some of the nicest people we have met so far. They remind us of Colombia! Extremely eager to share whatever they have with you, and welcome you to their tables without a second thought.

Although we literally had no plans when crossing the border, Antiqua was a good accidental first stop. Pretty much the perfect city; all walkable, all colonially beautiful, and endless things to explore. The gringos may be plentiful, but they haven’t destroyed its character yet!

To top off all these awesome parts to the city, is absolutely free and secure camping within the Tourism police campground. We counted upwards of 6 Overlanders either parked or camping there, including these two who we exchanged tons of advice with as they are going south and we are going north. They are traveling for 5 years. We aren’t jealous.

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We upped out street food intake by 100% while in the city, and also we assume our parasite intake. Something is still mucking around with our insides (2.5 weeks later), but at least it seems friendly. It did cause some problems at the campsite, as you are not allowed to use their bathrooms and must run like crazy down the street 3 blocks to the dominos pizza.

Maybe it was this tostada that gave us the friends…

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In any case,  slowly the arepas are getting thinner as we travel north, turning into tortillas… and slowly Mexican food like tacos and tostadas are filling our souls.

The food market in Antiqua is fucking fantastic. Not only price range, but also simply what they have on offer. So many weird and amazing things like dried chilis, candle makers, candy makers, old lady mushroom sellers, and seamstresses whose primary market is frilly aprons. Seriously, every single Guatemalan lady must have the frilliest of aprons. So naturally, does Jessica.

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The prices are the cheapest we have seen yet, definitely get much cheaper the farther you get away from the front most visited areas. We got this carrot, which compares in size to a small child for 2 Q (30 cents). Also a pound of beans for 4 Q (60 cents).

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Because we loved the city so much, and we wanted to stay one more night and enjoy the new bike cop recruits do more awesome bike obstacle courses around the police compound (full set of orange safety gear on, of course), we planned a day of being touristy. This meant using the handy map we got at the border (thanks friendly border guard) and targeting the oldest most beautiful colonial buildings in town. Then taking pictures. Do we remember what they are? Nope! We totally lost the map.

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DSC02104We do remember the Church and  of Capuchins though, one of the only places we paid entry into due to recommendations by both our mothers. It is worth the $7  to get in. Even for the uneducated like ourselves, seeing the remaining structure, and living quarters (arranged in a perfect circle of small rooms) was interesting.

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At the end of our Tourist day, I jumped in front of a fountain (again) and Brett was commandeered by a bunch of highschool girls for a photo-shoot-with-the-cute gringo, obviously. No big deal.

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We also made friends, and nearly adopted, the police dog seen below. He followed us all throughout town one day, staying with us as we worked outside the coffee shop for hours. Whining when we didn’t pet him enough. It was a close call not taking him.

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We have a brief mention for El Paredon, a surfside village in the country. The Pacific Coast of Guatemala is seriously underdeveloped; leaving it at once stunning and untouched, but also in extreme poverty. Since the surf is out of season, we were the only ones at Paredon Surf Camp, but still it was lovely. Met some wonderful locals, and Brett got in some good surfing and kayaking while Jessica threw her back trying to drag him into the waves.

DSC02184A good place to be laid up in a hammock though. Great view.

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