Kat's Guatemala Journal travel blog

San Pedro panarama

Washing clothes in Lake Atitlan

Morning stroll down mainstreet

Waiting in shuttle at airport for van to fill

My room at Jose's

Hola familia y amigos! Yo llego en San Pedro La Laguna los cincos y media del tarde 5/23/10. Although it was not without some challenge. Left Tampa for Atlanta on time at 7:30am for Atlanta and arrived a bit early. I had a long trip to make the connection and thought it would be no problem until the plane stopped on the tarmac for 15 minutes waiting for traffic to clear. It finally deplaned at 9:30am and made a made dash from terminal A --> B --> C --> D --> E to make my 9:50am flight. Not only did I make it but when I got to my seat I had a whole row to myself! Double Yay!

We landed in Guatemala early and I had no problems getting off the plane - with my carry ons. Customs line took 5 minutes, exchanged some money to quetzals, but not as much as I was going to because the exchange was much less than it should have been. 7.16 to $1US instead of 8 to $1US. Walked right outside with no further wait and like all I read there were the shuttle and taxi drivers with signs to destinations trying to get customers. No signs for San Pedro though so I started asking if anyone went there. The one guy from Asturra travel who spoke English told me that he could get me there possibly on a 2:30 from Antigua. He called in and said they were all full and that the shuttle companies all networked with one another. All he had was a 4:30 shuttle to Panachejal, which meant I wouldn't make San Pedro that day and would have to stay in Pana for the night. I didn't think I had a choice so I agreed and waited in the shuttle before they got one more customer to share.

Lucy - from England, living in Australia, and taking a 9 month holiday starting with 1 month in Fiji working as a dive instructor, a few weeks in San Francisco, now Guatemala, and playing it by ear for what's next. Fascinating lady and the other shuttle customer. She was staying in Antigua but urged me to look around for another shuttle option. She got off at the Black Cat hostel while I continued on.

The shuttle driver took me to the office where I paid the 120Q ($15) for the trip to Pana, against my better judgement since it was 1:30pm and I had a 3 hour wait. So I decided to walk down the block to check another travel agency out, and guess what? They had a shuttle to San Pedro leaving at 2pm with room for me...for 80Q ($10). Imagine that! Of course I told him uno momento and went back to get my refund from the other place. It was like pulling teeth. The girl at the office called a manager on her cellphone and made me talk to her. According to her the other agency's vans were unsafe, I had reserved the shuttle at the airport, blah, blah, blah. We debated for about 15 minutes on the cellphone and she would not agree to let the girl give me my money back.

At this point in came Chad to reserve a shuttle. Bilingual in Spanish and English with a floppy hat over dregs he had been living in Antigua and told me he had used the other agency and they were fine. He then helped me with the phone woman who finally agreed to give me my money back after I said the words "I want to cancel my reservation". The girl had my 100Q in her hand which I took from her but she said that I had to give her 20Q of it back. I told her no, that she could keep the $20Q that she didn't give back and I left, still 20Q ahead.

It's funny how every time I got into a bit of a pickle there was someone to help bail me out. But maybe not it's not so funny at all - wink.

Oh, and Guatemala is on mountain time - 2 hours behind Tampa. So with the jetlag and time difference I was starting to get a bit weary.

The trip from the airport to Antigua was about 1 hour. The trip from Antigua to San Pedro was 3 1/2 hours. And the shuttle driver was great. Took excellent care of his vehicle and even washed it when we made a pitstop, so you could tell we were in good hands. I highly recommend this agency - Liberty Travel, www.libertytotravel.tk.

We disembarked in San Pedro around 5:30pm and I was immediately met by Juan who asked me where I was going. I thought he was getting me a Tuk Tuk but he took my suitcase and carried it all the way to the Escuela Cooperative - which was no short walk. There were signs directing us so I had no fear that he was leading me on a goosechase as we snaked in and out of streets and alleys. He got me there safe and sound where I checked in and my 'familia' guy Jose came to collect me then we took a Tuk Tuk to his home where he gave me the grand tour of my room the shared, shower, toilet, and wash area, then the kitchen which is upstairs on the roof.

I was very tired by this time but hungry as well so I ventured out in the night upon Jose's instruction to a restaurant where I had some rice especial. After this it was time to hit the sack. I am so glad I packed earplugs. Silenced out the dogs.

Got up around 6am and met my roommate Traci who is also staying at Jose's home in a room across the hall from me. She was getting up to go on an adventure with some friends and invited me to go but I didn't want to miss my first day at school. I walked with her to the meetup place up mainstreet - and I mean UP. It was a great workout at 6:00 in the morning and very quiet. I was trying to get my bearings so I wouldn't get lost and could venture farther than Jose's street. It was a nice morning hike to the Catholic church. I met her amigos who were also students playing hooky on Monday. We said our good-byes and I headed back to the house for breakfast.

It looks like Monday is washday in San Pedro's Lake Atitlan.

Monday breakfast is pancakes. According to Traci, Maria cooks breakfast and lunch which is better than her sister who cooks dinner. The roof of Jose's home looks out on the lake. It was a beautiful morning today.

I had to be at school at 8am so Jose walked me my first day to make sure I didn't get lost. Traci had given me some basic instructions and there are signs for the Cooperative Escuela on the way so I would have been fine. I passed a couple hostels that I had read about and decided to check them out for week #2 option - privacy the key. Jose and Maria are great and they have an adorable 4 year old Felix, but I'd rather have my own bath in a more private room where when someone turns on a light you don't see it through a door or window. Plus a window that has an outside view and can be opened.

I will need to write about the school the next time. I am at D'Noz which is a really cool restaurant on the lake with WiFi. I'll probably be quite the regular here. Cerveza es frio, Bueno! Traci, the boys, and I are going to dinner and I need to get back to the house and shower. Plus maybe get to the hostel to reserve a room for next week... either that or tomorrow on my way to school. So far I am having a great time, meeting cool people, and learning spanish. Life doesn't get much better than that.

Hasta luego!

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