|After a great night out with the gang, I hit the sheets hard. My host family out in Xela talked me into only staying at the lake for a couple days then coming back to spend more time with them. This is the same family I stayed with 2 years ago (señiora martiza and señor Guiellermo) and by all means, I had to accept their offer. I really love it out here in Xela and it is a shame that I don’t intend to return for a while. There are just a lot more places to see in the world.
Getting from the Xela to the lake was easier than I had expected given that I tried to be cheap and ride the local chicken buses (look out for pictures in Antigua post) instead of the tourist shuttles. This way, it only cost me about $3 but with 3 bus transfers and 0 comfort. My first bus run for about 2 hours from Xela to the junction of Chuchilla then I had to get another 30 minute bus going to Solalá then another 30 minute bus from solalá to Panajachel and to finally get to Santa Cruz La Laguna were I was going, I had to ride a 10 minute boat. All went nice and smooth until I got to the boat. The driver scouted me out then charged me 25Q and took my money up front before we got to the boat. At first, I didn’t think anything of it but after talking to a guy on the boat and a guy in a tourist shop before boarding, I realized the fee was 10Q. After being in Cuba for a long time and dealing with a lot of hustlers, my inner thug appeared upon reaching the Santa Cruz dock. In honor of principle, I descended on the driver in true Ghana w)n fashion and went back and forth with him (impressively, in Spanish) then I told him that if I don’t get my money back, he wasn’t going to move his boat. He held his ground firmly until I put my bags down and took my position in between him and his boat. At 6-3ft and well built, I was stirring down at what must have been this 5-6 skinny weak looking guy and as my temper rose, I could see that he began to get a little nervous. Meanwhile, I had all the locals in this village looking on (I feared they’d gang up on me but they minded their own business). After a couple minutes, the driver refunded 10Q and I wanted to keep going to get the rest of my 5Q but I just felt petty and I thought I had thought him a good enough lesson so I let him go. I hope he learned his lesson – never mess with an African blood!!
After a heated start to Santa Cruz La Laguna, I was not in the mood for any more surprises so I kept a low profile and stayed around the hostel. My plan at the lake at the moment was to spend 3 nights, hike up another dead volcano then do some lake dives. My Aussie friend G was in communication with me trying to convince me to join her on her trip to Honduras for a couple days and do some diving. I wasn’t really interested because I had told my host family I would spend my last days with them but after finding out the price of the dives in Utila, Honduras, I gave in. After all, there wasn’t nothing to really do at the lake and I had exhausted Xela. I edited my plans from 3 days and 2 lake dives to 2 days and 1 Lake Dive and a new plan to be out of the lake early Tuesday morning.
Lago Atitlan de Guatemala was formed the accumulation of water in a volcanic crater surrounded by 3 volcanoes which are currently dead. The lake is surrounded by many small villages that earn their living mostly through tourism at the moment. In the morning, the locals ride various little speed boats to the bigger village of Panajachel to work or catch rides into the bigger towns of Solalá and Chichulla. There isn’t really much to do in the villages surrounding the lake and it is a bit difficult to get from one to the other after 7pm so most people are back in their homes by then and then it’s just time spent relaxing. I met a couple other travelers out there and the vibe was really different. I was more like resort town without belligerent alcoholics. Everyone just chilled in hammocks and shared travel stories. This was actually how I made up my mind to hit up Utila. I met a couple dive instructors from the Dutch Islands of Bonaire who kept going on and on about the dive town and how cheap it was. I was sold after about 30 minutes. Next step was to hit up G and announce that cinders (as she called me) was on board to go to Utila for 2 nights.
The Lake Dive:
Within the last 4-5 years, the lake has been rising faster than ever due to a land slide that blocked a river which the lake fed so most of the properties by the water are now under or in danger of going under water. One of these properties, hotel Casa mundo has half of its property under water and thus it is now property of the state (lake) and thus, diver’s property. It is now the latest and most loved dive spot. Lake dives are usually cold, murky, dirty, dark and have very poor visibility. General lake dive characteristics applied here except visibility was better than usual and there was actually things to see. There was a ton of fresh water fish and we dove at this hotel. Best way to describe this is a ship wreck made out of a building. At some point in the dive, we entered a room that had a faucet that still worked. It was unbelievable to still have water pressure. Another fascinating part of the dive was surfacing up through a well into a patio space that was still in use. Unfortunately, there was no one having breakfast to scare but is was still amazing. Hands down, this is one of my favorite dive spots and I recommend it to anyone who ever ends up around the lake.