We were all getting a little tired
of the city, so when Isabel (our friend at the language school) suggested we
take a weekend field trip, we were all over it! For only 13 Quetzales
(about $1.50) you can take a "chicken bus" to Panajachel, a tiny
tourist town on Lake Atitlan, which is rumored to be one of the most beautiful
places on the earth.
The lake is surrounded by three
volcanoes, some of which are active. The lake itself is an old volcano
that collapsed and is now filled by a bunch of water. Sure, my
description really stinks, but take a look at the pics to see how beautiful this
Lake Atitlan is a study in
contrasts. Many of the residents of the tiny towns surrounding the lake
live in poverty. It's a stark contrast to the beauty of the
surroundings. However, there also exists a pretty strong hippie population
that is comfortably residing here on money from the states, and helping to boost
the local marijuana economy. Our room for the night cost 30 Quetzales (a
little less than $4 U.S.) While this sounds pretty cheap, the trip was a
decent splurge, given that 80% of Guatemalans pull in about 300-1000 Quetzales
per month ($40- $120). We're at the top end of that range. So... for
$4, the view was beautiful and the bed was
comfortable. In reality, that's about all we needed.
The town where we stayed for the
night is called San Pedro. It's a relatively sleepy town with stone
streets and tons of buildings adorned with Christian sayings. Interesting
stuff! While this was not a missionary trip by any means, it gave us an
opportunity to see the touristy side of Guatemala, and experience first-hand the
"gringo discrimination" that exists here. For instance, even
after haggling 30-40 minutes, we still couldn't obtain the same price the locals
pay for a simple boat ride to another town across the lake.
The views and a really wonderful
Sunday morning swim made the entire trip a worthwhile experience. This is
a must-see for anyone coming to Central America.