Tag Archives: Panajachel

Lake Atitlán – Panajachel Again

Feb 17 – Our plan was to take the lancha across the lake from San Pedro to Panajachel, then hop on a bus for the nine hour drive to Cobán. Unfortunately, the Guatemalan equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge caught up with us, so we are spending a few extra days in Panajachel while Jim recovers, eating a bland diet of white rice and boiled potatoes, before attempting the long road trip north.

Here’s the local supermarket, where we stocked up on rice and potatoes. Don’t know what the occasion was, but there was a barker, plenty of loud music, and a dancing mascot.

As you definitely don’t want the details of our recuperation, I’ll share that we completed all our souvenir shopping by strolling Calle Santander and bargaining hard for presents for the grandkids. (Historically, they are underwhelmed by whatever we bring home.) I saw a lovely scarf, and was proud of getting the price down from 60 quetzales to 33, until we walked to the next shop where the same scarf was displayed for 25. I’m embarrassed to report that later in the afternoon, we saw it for 10! I am a very bad haggler.

Eliese and Janice – look at this lovely quilt:

Our other plan was to take all the goodies we purchased to the post office and ship them home so we wouldn’t have to lug them around for the next several weeks. Guess what? Guatemala hasn’t had a postal service in three years! Any service, anywhere in the entire country, since 2016! From what we can gather, the private company contract for the country’s mail services ended in 2016, and the government declined to renew or renegotiate it. So, no mail within or out of the country, period.

Ever resourceful, we googled other options and found a DHL Express office in town. The cost to ship home our paltry little box of cheap souvenirs would be over $120 US! A fellow blogger related his solution when faced with this issue – he took a bus to El Salvador, stayed overnight at a hotel, shipped his box from there and then bused back to Guatemala, saving considerable money over what the DHL charges would have been. Bravo for his resourcefulness, but I think we’re just going to lug our trinkets around. Our grandkids better appreciate them!

Lake Atitlán – Panajachel

Feb 8 – We are running low on quetzales, and Santa Cruz has no ATM, so today we took the public lancha (motorboat) back to Panajachel (Pana-ha-SHELL, or just call it Pana like the locals do). We’ve befriended Canadian sisters Monica and Mary from British Columbia, and Jim offered to cook supper for them, so we will go to the market and see if there are ingredients on offer that will make a meal.

As we approached the dock, a boat was just pulling away, but the pilot called out “Pana?” and when we nodded in the affirmative, he pulled back in so we could hop on. I sat next to an American retired couple who purchased a house here several years ago so they could winter here and summer in Maine. Now, that sounds like a perfect life.

Panajachel has all the hustle of a city, with touts approaching at every turn offering taxi rides, food and souvenirs.

During our search for an ATM, I spied these little cuties. Photographed from the back only, of course.

We were told that every town has its own design for traditional clothing. Ladies from Santa Cruz use blue and green thread, and the triangles represent the volcanoes.

Everywhere we walked a little knot of locals followed us, offering key chains and pencils as well as the more expensive woven, carved and leather goods. When we sat down in a restaurant to eat lunch, they followed us in!

We weren’t buying souvenirs today, so after finding the ATM, we looked for what other things of interest Panajachel had to offer. We found the church of course, Iglesia San Francisco.

As soon as we stepped inside, we heard this god-awful wailing. I feared we had stumbled into a funeral, but as my eyes adjusted, I could see a parade of people crawling on their knees, from the back of the church, down the hard tiled center aisle toward the altar, presumably exhorting the Lord with lamentations and prayer. What a racket!

We sat quietly in a pew, then watched as each person reached the altar, than started the long journey back up the aisle, on their knees, crawling backwards, still wailing. That was enough for me.

We’ve seen this form of penance before, at pilgrimage sites like Lourdes and Fatima. This was the first time we’ve seen it in a local church.

As we were about to leave, the caretaker of the church approached Jim and asked if we wanted to see the side chapels. He unlocked the gates and let us in.

Then he asked if we wanted to see upstairs. We gamely climbed into the choir loft, which was just a dusty space devoid of organ or pews.

Then he showed us another circular stone stair that led up to the bell tower. From the narrow step I was standing on, I would have to leap across empty space to access the other stair – no thanks! Of course, long-legged Jim was up for the challenge. Do you know what was up there? A bell!

That was enough excitement for one day. We found a modern supermarket, Jim bought provisions for the next few days, and we took the lancha back home to Santa Cruz.

Jim set to work in the big kitchen, managing to slice his thumb in addition to the mushrooms, peppers, onion, garlic and chorizo that went into his super spaghetti sauce. With fresh garlic bread, cold cervesa, and the good company of Monica and Mary, it was a meal that couldn’t be beat!

Monica and Mary, adventure-loving sisters from British Columbia

After supper, it started to get windy, than really windy. At about 8pm the town lost electricity, and we prepared for bed by candlelight. I wonder how long the battery in my iPad will last?

Lake Atitlán – Santa Cruz la Laguna

Feb 5 – Today is a travel day, so we had our last cooked breakfast and last (?) hot shower at Central Bougainvillea, then went back to our favorite panderia (bakery) to pick up some of their yummy chicken and beef filled pies to take on our journey. The mini-bus picked us up at 12:30 for the three hour ride to Lake Atitlán.

We were dropped off at the dock in Panajachel, the main village on the lake, then immediately whisked onto a small boat that ferried visitors to the surrounding villages. Once again, we were the only not-twenty-somethings in sight.

We are staying at Santa Cruz la Laguna, in an abandoned school that has been reclaimed as a B and B – Casa Kaktus – a bit of a climb from the water’s edge.

Each of the guest rooms is a former classroom, huge by regular room standards. The toilets and showers are down the hall – a boys room and a girls room, of course. Happy to report, the showers have warm water, and the WiFi is excellent!

It is warmer here than Antigua, and we immediately exchanged our long pants for shorts, and our boots for sandals. As soon as the sun went down, however, the temperature cooled and we needed our sweatshirts.

On the roof is a veranda that gives us a great view of the lake and the volcano beyond. I believe this one is Volcán Toliman.I can feel the stress of the day’s travels melting away. I think we’re going to like it here!

Feb 6 – After two cups of excellent hot coffee and our Guatemalan standard daily breakfast of scrambled eggs, fried plantains and black beans with fruit and toast, we set out to explore the tiny town of Santa Cruz.

There are three hotels at the water’s edge that serve dinner (our place does not) so we stopped at each to peruse the menus and the prices. There is also a little comida that serves typical Guatemalan food and does not require a reservation – looks like our kind of place.

In addition to the hotels is a place called Free Cervesa (free beer) where the kids sleep in tents. Here the music was blasting and the kids in their teeny bikinis were soaking up the morning sun.

We stopped to converse with a woman environmentalist from Guatemala City who is going back to school to become an attorney, and a native man selling alpaca blankets from Peru. The woman needed help hooking up the gas tank at her house, and asked Jim to help her. He got the job done – my hero!

Then it was time for lunch. Santa Cruz is called “the vertical village” as you have to climb an extremely steep path to reach the place where the Mayan natives live. We heard that there is a good restaurant up there that helps the local community, so up we went.

We ordered pepian, a stew made with a complex mix of seeds and spices that is considered the national dish of Guatemala. This version was made with chicken, and was delicious.

Up the hill was a school, a little tienda (shop) offering sodas and snacks, and (of course) a church.

Inside the church, the walls were lined with statues – some of saints and some of kings.

On our walk back down the hill (which was much easier than the walk up) we spoke to a woman from New Hampshire who was here for a yoga retreat. This is certainly a groovy place.

Tonight the mist obscured the volcano.

Still a pretty sight.