Guatemala trip tribute Part II

Sep 19th, 2016, 07:44 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 197
Guatemala trip tribute Part II

Part II: Lake Atitlan and Antigua

I got up crazy early again and took a flight from Flores to Guatemala City where I met up with a driver for the ride to Panajachel. The drive was very long due to an accident on the road. When we finally passed the site of the accident it was a big truck full of pineapples that had overturned. It smelled delicious. After a bumpy, wet ride across the lake from Panajachel (maybe not the best idea to sit in the front on a windy day), I arrived at San Pedro. I stayed in Hotel Sak’cari, which was great. I had splurged and reserved one of the lake view rooms which was one of my best travel decisions ever. The view from my room was lovely. The first night I was tired and just went into the first place I saw for dinner. I ate at Bar Clover and it was not good at all.

The next day, I went on a morning kayaking tour on the lake. No one else had signed up, so it was just the guide and I. The guide, Alex, was an incredibly friendly, enthusiastic twenty something. He was very happy to tell me about the region, the culture and current politics there. I had a great time paddling across part of the lake and looking at the seaside towns. For lunch, I had a sandwich at Idea Connections and later a beer and some hummus at Shanti Shanti for dinner. Both meals were excellent, and I ate in both places again during my stay in San Pedro.

The following day I went on a hike up Cara Maya. I thought about the volcano hike, but it was misty and rainy. Although I am an experienced hiker, I did not want to be on a very long, steep, and slippery trail. I am pretty adventurous, but getting injured while traveling alone would be a real drag. Also, getting up at 4 am was starting to be less and less appealing. The hike up Cara Maya was slippery, but not hard at all. Unfortunately, there was no view due to the mist and rain, but I enjoyed the exercise. The trip there and back was kind of interesting. Alex the guide met me at my hotel and put me in a cab. The cab driver took me to the trailhead and handed me off to a local guide for a hike. We reversed the process for the trip back.

I had an interesting conversation with the taxi driver on the way back. He was a colorful guy with lots to say about the governments (theirs and ours), and the Mayan culture. At one point he told me there is a group of “arabes” living in one of the towns near the lake and that they have a restaurant. He went on to tell me they put rats and snakes in their dishes. At that point I thought perhaps I had mistaken the Spanish word for snakes, but I asked and I had not. He was completely serious and went on to say the locals would like that group to leave but they won’t go. The snakes and rats bit seems like such an outlandish rumor to me. I decided my Spanish was not up to sorting out what he was talking about so I changed the subject.

After changing out of my wet clothes and muddy boots, I had a fantastic lunch at Café La Puerta. It was some sort of traditional chicken stew and it was awesome. The tortillas were great too, but I have to admit I gave most of those to a skinny dog with one eye when the waitress was not looking. He kept giving me sad hungry looks with his one eye. After he finished the last tortilla, he stretched out next to my chair looking happy. So much for being sneaky about the tortillas.

The next day I went out with one of the hotel’s kayaks. It was great to do something by myself rather than as part of a group or with a guide. I spent a few hours on the lake thinking deep thoughts and taking pictures. As soon as I got back to my room, it starting to rain which I took as a sign from the weather gods that I should have another great lunch next door at Café La Puerta and then lay around with a good book. I did stop by the Museo Tz’unum which was small but very interesting. I enjoyed the short film on life in San Pedro in the early 40’s.

The day of my trip to Antigua, I woke up with a very upset stomach. For breakfast I had a little yoghurt, Pepto Bismal, and Bonnine. Not exactly he breakfast of champions. About the last thing in the world I needed was a 3 hour drive on winding roads in a completely full colectivo, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I felt seriously bad by the time we arrived, but I managed not to barf on anyone. I was so relieved to get out of that van.

Antigua was lovely, but I have to admit it was a bit of a shock to the system after laid back, friendly San Pedro. I was there on a weekend, so there were quite a few people out and about. I stayed in Casa Cristina which was wonderful. The hotel is quiet, charming and well-located. I was planning on a dinner at Luna Miel, but once I got in there I started to feel pretty dicey and had to leave. Unfortunately, my stomach trouble lasted for several days. During my time in Antigua all I could manage to eat was a little bread and yoghurt. I felt good enough for sightseeing, so it was not a problem. I look forward to checking out the restaurants on a future trip.

I spent a couple of days wandering around the beautiful city and fabulous ruins. There are so many. My favorite was Las Capuchinas. Looking at all those little cells, I tried to imagine what the nuns lives were like. I know some of the women were sent there by their families. Even for the ones that went there willingly, I wonder how many ended up regretting their choice? What a life, to be so isolated from the world and cut off from their families.

One afternoon I went to Museo Tejido. If you are at all interested in Mayan textiles, but sure to stop by. They have a lovely collection. I also enjoyed the Museos Archaeologicos at Santo Domingo. One of them, I forget which, has a collection of ancient art with plaques explaining some of the symbolism. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Antigua. The best time was early in the morning, just walking around the pretty streets and watching the city wake up.

My trip back home was horrible as my flight from Guatemala City was the day after the Delta shut down. Of course it was cancelled and the airport was complete chaos. It took me two and half days to get home. Enough said about that! I am trying to block the entire thing from my memory.

To wrap up this long winded report…..
I was really looking forward to my trip, and Guatemala did not disappoint. The country is lovely and the people are incredibly nice and welcoming. I barely scratched the surface of all the wonderful things to see there, and I hope to go back with DH sometime.

Many thanks to hopefulist and other the other Fodorites who helped me with planning!
AnaBelen is offline  
Sep 19th, 2016, 08:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,957

I too enjoyed Antigua very much early in the morning, before things got busy (although at times the energy when things were busier could be electric). So picturesque. It looks like you decided against going to Pacaya (probably wise considering how you felt).

Glad you enjoyed Guatemala and sorry to hear about the stomach bug and the Delta fiasco.

Thanks for posting this trip report, which I enjoyed perusing!

Best wishes, Daniel
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Sep 19th, 2016, 11:01 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,181
Another great report - thanks! I'm always happy when people who take my advice on lodging like where they stayed.

I '3rd' the Antigua early morning recommendation, especially the gorgeous produce market - if you didn't walk through there, catch it next time.

As above, I'm sorry for the yicky bits but happy (and not surprised) that Guatemala will call you back. Happy trails!

- - - - - -

For future reference, here is the report for the 1st part of AnaBelen's trip:
hopefulist is online now  
Sep 25th, 2016, 04:58 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,181
I forgot to comment about the taxi driver and the conversation about 'arabes'. I think he might have meant the controversial settlement of xxx Jews that lived in San Juan for awhile. They finally left, resettled in Guatemala City, and are being forced to move on again:
hopefulist is online now  
Sep 25th, 2016, 08:07 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 197
Thanks for posting the link. I was very curious about the real story behind the strange rumor.
AnaBelen is offline  

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