Snate's Six-Month Sojourn travel blog

The pizza, guacamole and donut party

Lago de Atitlan from our roof

Forest fires above San Pedro - they glow bright orange at night

Footpath #1

Footpath #2

The grounds of the San Pedro School

What a beauty!


Sam and I have finally moved on from Xela. I know it seemed as if it would never happen, but it is done. Friday night, Sam and I bought some guacamole fixins, some creme filled pastries (from a place called XelaPan) and a couple of pizzas (from TelePizza) and had ourselves a pizza, guacamole and donut party, just like old times. We also went for a liter of wine with our friends Hemp and Angie at one of the best restaurants in Xela called Casa Babylon. Yum. Any which way, Saturday morning we said a tear filled goodbye to our family, caught a taxi to Terminal Minerva where hordes of chicken buses and squawking ayudantes await travelers, and boarded a chicken bus for San Pedro la Laguna, a small village on the western slop of the volcano ringed Lago de Atitlan.

The ride to San Pedro deserves a quick mention. First of all, backpacks get strapped to the top of the bus and then hopefully are there when you arrive at your destination. After the long absence of Sam's backpack, it was a bit difficult to hand it over, but hand it over we did. The ayudante throws one arm through the straps and scurries to the top of the bus via a ladder on the back. There are times where the ayudante is on top of the bus when it is moving, and we've heard tell of belongings disappearing, so we procured four mini locks from a hardware store in Xela to make the thieving a little more difficult. Second point of interest is the descent to the village of San Pedro. Chicken buses are old American school buses, and they handle like old American school buses. The road to the village is a series of hairpin turns with a nice looking precipice to one side. There were two or three times where the driver would start the turn, get as far as he could, back up a little, go a little further and thus shimmy around some of the bends. Fantastic. But, we arrived in quite good shape, our backpacks were still tied to the roof, and voila.

San Pedro is quite a bit different than Xela, and it's a welcome change. The lake itself is absolutely gorgeous. It is VERY similar to Crater Lake in Oregon: steep walls on all sides and deep blue waters. The main part of San Pedro is built on the slope, and there are some reasonably steep climbs to the center of town. On the other hand, the area next to the water is flat and made up nearly entirely of footpaths. These footpaths are labyrinthine and are laden with restaurants, cafes and such. After one night in a somewhat dank room in the center of town (we didn't feel like wandering with backpacks), Sam and I found a nice little place amongst the twists and turns of the lower city. We rented the place for about $25 for the week - we've got our own bathroom (!!!!!), hot shower (!!!!!!!!), patio, hammock and cooking area.

We've also signed up at a Spanish school that's right across the street from our current abode. The grounds are awesome and it is SO much warmer here, so we can study very comfortably in the shade by the lake. Unfortunately there were no morning classes available, so Sam and I are taking afternoon classes from 2-5. We definitely wanted a break from the five hours a day, but three hours in the afternoon was pretty difficult yesterday. It's tricky speaking English for most of the morning while lazing about and then listening to a barrage of Spanish in class. However, it's quite nice grabbing a pineapple and some banana bread from stands nearby and eating breakfast on our patio with nothing to do for several hours. We've been doing quite a bit of reading and another bit of nothing.

One aspect of San Pedro that is awesome/interesting/annoying is the giant hippie population that has taken up residence here. Brian, you would absolutely love the main drag by the lake. Awesome = great restaurants that cater a bit to the large gringo crowd. Interesting = the distinct difference between the culturally conservative Mayan center of town and the marijuana haze near the lake. Annoying = dred locks, bongos and barefeet everywhere (by the lake, that is). So, it's a strange paradox: the food and coffee down by the lake is definitely better than the center of town, but the center of town is awesome due to its LACK of hippies and plethora of incredibly kind Mayans.

One last thing before signing off: Lago de Atitlan is one of the main coffee harvesting area of Guatemala, so Sam and I are surrounded by coffee plants here. I felt a bit verklempt staring at my first coffee plant. I almost wanted to curl up under it and nap, but I'm not sure that the farmers would appreciate that. I'm not kidding, it was a very emotional experience. All right, I'm retarded.

Must go for coffee. Hasta luego - adios.

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