Monday, August 14, 2006

adventures in atitlan

One of the places I really wanted to see in Guatemala was Lake Atitlan, which is a crater filled lake outlined by volcanoes. Very pretty, there will be pictures soon I promise. The only problem was...I didn't want to go alone, and I was having trouble finding travel companions. Eventually I found Steve from my school...he had a couple of friends coming in this weekend, and they wanted to go too. I met up with Steve around 11:30 on Saturday morning, and we sat around waiting for his friends for about an hour. We got some food, then headed to a travel agency to find a shuttle. They said they had one that left at 4, but they ended up calling about 12 places before they actually found something. Then they asked for our address so they could pick us up, and they said Steve's street did not exist. Right. Somehow Steve convinced them that it did, so we headed back to his house.

We started waiting around 4...and waiting, and waiting. We called the agency, gave better directions, and finally at 4:45 the shuttle came. Only we still had to pick up 8 more people at about 5 more stops, and our driver had only been to Antigua twice. Steve helped navigate through the heavy Saturday afternoon traffic, but we ended up driving around the cobble-stoned streets of Antigua for 45 minutes or so, which gave me a major headache. FINALLY we were on our way to Panajachel, always following cars and buses with noxious fumes.

We got to Pana around 8, and the streets were full of people. It was fun to see, since it's way different than Antigua. We found a place to stay, ate dinner, wandered around some more and then went to sleep.

The next morning we headed on a boat to San Pedro, which is across the lake from Pana (about a half hour ride). Steve and I were planning to take the 4pm shuttle back, which gave us about 4-5 hours in San Pedro. Steve and his friends were set on doing a hike, and the travel agency we stopped at said the shortest one (up to a peak called Big Nose) was 5 hours, which was cutting it close. But somehow they managed to find a kid on the street who said we could do it in 4 hours. I was skeptical but somehow willing to take a chance (oh, how trusting one becomes when they travel). We walked to the kid's dad's house, where his dad came out with a machete. No worries! He's got a machete! (A lot of the hikes around the area are considered unsafe because of robberies, etc.) So we set off. I immediately thought I wouldn't be able to make it, since I knew there wouldn't be a lunch stop and I had eaten a plaintain and half a baguette for breakfast. But we kept going and it got much better, and as we got higher and higher I really appreciated the views of the lake from above. At one point I stopped to change into my boxer shorts because I was so fricking hot and sweaty.

It got progressively harder along the way, and Steve needed to stop to get some air here and there. We finally made it to the top, took in the views for a few minutes, and then started to book it back down the hill. I almost fell about 7 times, but always managed to stay up. By the time we started getting back to town, it was nearing 3pm and I was starting to freak out since I wasn't keen on spending the night in San Pedro or Pana. We kept walking, and I tried to go faster, but Steve was struggling. At one point we split up so I could find a bathroom to change in (I was feeling a little ridiculous walking around town in my pajamas) and also a place to buy some water. We thought Steve would catch up but he wasn't coming. Eventually his friend showed up, saying he couldn't make it and was going to stay the night. I knew I needed to go fast if I wanted to make it home (which I did), so I got on the boat straight away. It left about a minute later at 3:30. The water was really rocky and every bump in the ride made my head pound. We got to shore a few minutes before 4. I knew we weren't near the main street where most of the travel agencies were, so I started to run but really couldn't get the energy together to do that. I walked briskly and was about the head towards the center of town when I saw it - a travel agency! With shuttles! The man immediately said, Antigua? Si. He only had one space left. At that point I was about ready to collapse, since I was so grateful to have a way home for the night. I grabbed some snacks from a bodega and got on the shuttle.

Today my muscles are very sore and my shoulders are sunburned but all is good. I haven't heard back from Steve, but I trust he's in good care with his med school friends and I should see him tomorrow. Less than 2 days left in Antigua! Ay....