Tourist office told us when and where we needed to be to catch the 06:15 bus from Pana to the Los Tarrales Reserve. So we got up early, had a cup of joe, called our tuc tuc buddy Eddie, and arrived at the bus stop at 06:00. There we learned that the bus actually passes by at 05:45. But not to worry there are resourceful Guatemalans always at hand to suggest a solution - of which they are a commercial component. So into a full 8 person van we climb (luggage on roof) and are driven to the next city over, about 15 minutes. Then we rapidly retrieve luggage from said roof, transfer luggage to the roof of the 'chicken bus'and board said bus. The complete transfer took about 30 seconds ! The 'chicken bus' is a vintage 1960's Bluebird (used-to-be yellow, now tricked-out with chrome and vivid bright rainbow colors) school bus I distinctly recall from grade school days. It is chock full of people - three to seat. That was easily done when we were 8 years old, but a slightly different contortion at this stage in life ! But, off we go down a winding mountain road till our driver stops at the Tarrales roadside sign and we retrieve our luggage and walk the dirt road, looking for smooth lanes for our luggage wheels, to the office and then our cottage.
We actually are upgraded to the large house which was built in 1890, and has a large bedroom, dining room, screened-in veranda, kitchen, and a few other rooms. Lots of space for two. We go into the backyard and there are many types of birds, a couple deer, and an agouti enjoying their space. That afternoon we decide to hire the resident guide, Josue, for a birding walk the next morning so he can show us the best spots for sighting them. Starting at sunrise we spend about 6 hours with Josue. He can identify birds by their song, silhouette, flight pattern, and probably cologne ! We saw at least 25 new different birds that day. The Reserve is a working coffee and ornamental flower plantation that has about 30 families living and working there. We toured the coffee processing facility where the beans are sorted (by hand), husked (by machine), dried in the sun, and packaged for shipment. After a couple days we decided to take another chicken bus to Santiago Atitlan, located on the south shore of the lake. It is the center of the indigenous Mayan peoples of the area. The Spanish, nor the 36 year long civil war, were ever able to bring them under control. We checked out a couple hotels and they were either too far out of town or very cheap/scary. The former we didn't want to 'splurge' on, and the latter we didn't want to sleep in. So, into a tuc tuc and down to the docks we go. Immediately board a lancha and depart for Panajachel across the lake. The lake (Lago Atitlan) is the crater of a volcano which 'blew its top' 85,000 years ago. The caldera in the center of the lake (and comprising about 25% of the lake area) is about 1,000 ft (340 m)deep; the rest of the lake is about 600 ft deep. It is the lgargest volcanic lake in Central America. In Pana we learned that there is a direct shuttle van departing for Quezaltenango, our next desrired destination, in one hour. Quick lunch, and off we go !