Operation Badger travel blog

Lake Atilan in the morning

Lake Atilan

Lake from the water

Cotten weaving

Lake fisherman

Sunset over the lake


Watching the sun go down

sunset over Lake Atilan

Sunset from another angle

First, I should point out the good news; I have purchased a new camera. There wasn’t much choice here, and I doubt the small rather dodgy shop I picked it up from has even heard of a warranty, and if they had I wouldn’t know because we were speaking different languages. Our communication only reached absolute synchronicity when we haggled over the price and I got him to throw in a memory card and spare battery. It certainly was no cheaper than UK high street prices and I could have got it much cheaper online, but with our transient existence at present and most importantly, our lack of fixed abode, this was not an option. As it stands I probably got the best and only thing available in this vicinity. For those of you who have no interest in techno-waffle, you may jump to the next paragraph. Those interested, I picked up a Panasonic Lumix TZ3, which is only a pocket sized point and shoot, but seemed to have favourable reviews. It’s my first break with Canon and it’s nothing personal, just supply and demand. While I would have liked Canon to be more sea proof and rain proof, I am willing to take some of the responsibility for what happened and concede that no camera is idiot proof. Anyway, so far the little fella (that’s the camera...) has performed well in a variety of shooting scenarios. Time will tell, but I am postponing the water test indefinitely.

Everywhere you go in Guatemala you see two images thrown at you from t-shirts, coffee mugs, postcards and paintings; if it isn’t Tikal then it’s Lake Atilan. Sometimes, I’ve seen images with the two superimposed together. This was something that was done at Cholula in Mexico as well, the tourist boards taking liberties with locations. Of course, this is only natural, to show a country or a place in the best possible light. However, one must draw the line at neo-Stalinist Photoshop fiddling, adding a temple or two here and there. Indeed, I suspect if we sent posters out to Guatemala showing Stonehenge at the base of Big Ben, intrigued visitors would feel slightly cheated. Anyway, we have already established that Tikal is in the middle of the camera-destroying rain forest, and there are no lakes nearby. So, it was time for us to make the circle complete and visit the iconic sight of Lake Atilan.

All you really need to know is that it’s a large lake, surrounded by towering volcanoes. There are two ways to appreciate the scale of this place. The first is to get down on the lake, which we did in the morning, taking a boat trip. There are several towns and villages around the lake and we visited several of them, going to some local craft shops and watching some weaving. We saw some of this in Mexico but it is impressive how much work and skill goes into the clothes and rugs etc that they make. It’s also rather depressing at how little they sell them for and when you visit the markets and see how ruthless a lot of westerners seem to be in their haggling, (I did haggle my camera but that was a high street shop and I was dealing with a techno bandit) it makes you a bit cross; the people here are absolutely desperate to sell in order to live so ultimately will practically give it away, but what they must think when the people buying it refuse to pay nothing but pennies for it and then fish those pennies out a wallet stuffed with notes, I imagine is considerably negative. Still, life is a rollercoaster in a park that rains shit and some of the carriages just don’t have roofs.

The lake itself is very deep as it’s an old volcanic crater, but the water is pure and blue, the sort of thing you would wash your hair in, if you lived in a rather idyllic hut in the mountains. The sides tower up around you on one side and on the other you are watched by the looming volcanoes, like a red bellied black snake would watch, patiently, a child sticking his small unprotected hands under rocks looking for hidden treasure...

The other way to admire the lake is to go up into the mountains and perch like Golden Eagles in the highest tree, contemplating one’s absolute mastery over all that lies below, whilst gazing philosophically at the broken images reflecting back off the sparkling water. We watched the sun going down, as a kaleidoscope of bright colours jostled for attention on the watery face. The view was so good I celebrated with a handstand shot, which is, in many ways,

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