Mayans, Monkeys and Micheladas: A Central American Adventure travel blog

Guatemala.....Proudly brought to you by Gallo Beer!

Maike, Rolf & me @ Fuentes Georginas

Looking across Lago de Atitlan

Sunday 03.04.05

Despite being close to freezing as we emerged from the warmth of our sleeping bags at Fuentes Georginas, we couldn't resist going down for one last swim in the hot springs. Down the mountain on the way to Xela, a Mayan family climbed aboard our pickup, laughing as we hung on to the rails for dear life and dodged overhanging plants.

It appears carbonated beverages run Central America. Everywhere one turns, there are advertisements for Pepsi, Coca Cola and the local cervezas, such as Gallo here. It probably should come as no surprise that Mexico's ex-President Vicente Fox was previously the president of Coca-Cola in Mexico....

We boarded the chicken bus the following morning for Panajachel, on the shores of Lago de Atitlan. As usual, the bus was packed with Guatemalans so tightly, respiration stopped becoming an involuntary movement. The town of Panajachel didn't provide us with a great impression when it became apparent there was no escape from the seemingly omnipresent beggars and street vendors, chasing us down the street with their fake watches and knitted garments. The food too was nigh on terrible in this neck of the woods but thankfully after only the fortieth time of being ripped off, disappointed or frustrated, we were on a launch crossing the lake to San Pedro la Laguna. The lake itself is in the caldera formed from a previous volcanic eruption, and now itself is surrounded by three volcanos.

San Pedro, a town of several thousand residents holds somewhat of an infamous reputation within backpacker circles for its wild parties. Four Australian dollars bought me a room with a double bed and lake view, and the pepper steaks in the local haunt D'Noz were fantastic. Upstairs at Alegre the drinking of the one-dollar Cuba Libres (Rum and Coke) continued with what i hoped would be impunity, but i soon found out i would get rather more than i paid for.

I had one of those hangovers where you can't leave your bed, but can't sleep either. Bottled water (my usual cure) was in the shop probably few minutes walk away. At the very least it wasn't withing rolling-over distance. I was truly in a bad place. I tried to sleep in a hammock after breakfast, and after failing even at that, maybe getting stuck into the Gallo would help. This last-ditch hangover cure was only mildly effective, but at least i was drunk by mid afternoon.

I attempted to rescue my drowning spirit on Thursday by hauling myself across the lake to San Marcos la Laguna, and a different energy greeted us once we reached dry land. San Marcos, and in particular Los Piramides Retreat was a place of spirituality and meditation. True to their name, Los Piramides has Pyramid-shaped houses to stay in, a great selection of vegetarian food, delicious herbal teas and random naked people praying to the sky. They run one month courses from full moon to full moon, the final five days of which are done without any food or communication. Splitting headaches aside, i enjoyed the remainder of daylight, relaxing and diving into deep cool water, but it was high time for an early night and in hindsight, maybe a skyward prayer or two wouldn't have gone astray.

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