Guatemala 2020 - day 13-15 (San Marcos)
Updated: Feb 28, 2020
After going in circles a number of times trying to decide how long and where to stay on my visit to Lake Atitlan, I'd finally decided to book just 3 nights in San Pedro and one night in Santa Cruz, visit other pueblos from there, and then decide where/how long to stay. By the time I realized I'd want to spend a couple of nights in San Marcos, most places were already full. I ended up getting a room at Casa Madera, just up the road from Hostel del Lago, a veritable institution in San Marcos. Similar to my room in Santa Cruz, my room in Casa Madera was a rustic space with daylight streaming through cracks in the plywood walls and a shared bathroom down a set of stairs. Unlike the room in Santa Cruz, my room in Casa Madera was bright and sunny and one of my favorite so far. The room was huge, with ~12' ceilings at its highest point, and enough space to put two beds end to end lengthwise. Between the door and the large window opening (with no actual window), it felt like I had my own sunny terrace to lounge around in. I still had to trek down stairs in the cold in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, though the stairs were in better shape than those at Santa Cruz, and the bathroom much closer.
Cute kitty visited me both evenings I was there.
As with San Pedro, San Marcos had narrow "streets" lined with shops and restaurants. Unlike San Pedro, I saw no motorcycles or tuk-tuks on these streets, making them very pleasant places to walk.
On reading about San Marcos on other people's blogs, I had the impression that the place would be teeming with crystal wearing hippies trying to read my chakras. True, the words "sacred" and "spiritual" came up a lot on the bulletin boards and San Marcos had a noticeable population of Caucasians-with-dreads and clothing could best be characterized as "flowing". Still, the hippie vibe wasn't uncomfortable and on the plus side, it meant San Marcos had a nice selection of Indian restaurants. On my first day, I found myself sitting on the ground at a low table in my own personal tent inside Shambalah cafe for a very decent dahl and a turmeric milk made from home made macadamia milk. I visited Hostel del Lago before heading back to my hotel and it's got a fantastic restaurant and lounge space for those who are into the party hostel scene. And party they did. At night, I could hear the party go on... and on... and on... but it was far enough away from Casa Madera that it was more of a background rumble and I slept fine, only to be woken up at 3 am by a rooster with a very poor sense of time. In the morning, I settled in to Restaurant Fe for breakfast where I had an obscenely large plate of fresh fruit covered in yogurt and granola for $5 CAD (it doesn't look huge in the picture but trust me, it was):
I stopped at Shambalah where I had a delicious macchiato made using their honey coffee beans, beans that are dried with the mucilage still on the bean. I then head out to Cerro Tzankujil, a nature reserve I'd briefly visited with Monique a few days before. This time, I come wearing proper shoes. I made my way up to the highest mirador which ended up being much higher than I expected. I was nervous coming back down - the path was covered in dusty, loose soil that appeared to have been washed away in previous rains.
I then made my way to the bottom along the dusty, slippery, steep path (can you tell I wasn't a fan?) and went for a quick swim. The temperature was perfect - a bit crisp for a second on the way in, quickly becoming comfortable and refreshing.
I then spent an hour admiring the view, taking it all in for one last time since this would be my last full day at the lake.
In the evening, I ate supper at Konojel, a restaurant that uses all its profits to support programs to address malnutrition in Guatemala. I had a cauliflower stew with a side salad of cucumber and tomato with avocado dressing and a fruit smoothie and it was delicious. From my sample of 3 Guatemalan meals and some street food, I'm going to broadly generalize now to say that Guatemalan food is damned good, and is completely different from food I've had anywhere else in Latin America. I tried making a donation through their website but it didn't work using their preferred link, but I will try again through PayPal when I get home. If you want to read more about the organization or make a donation, click here: http://www.konojel.org/
In the morning, I had one last breakfast in San Marcos, in the beautiful Il Giardino restaurant. Not in the picture is the giant cappucino that I had with my breakfast, made with home made macadamia milk. It was delicious.
At some point while on the lake, I settled into my solo traveler routine and became much more comfortable, to the point where I experienced no anxiety before my trip back to Antigua from San Marcos, even though I had no idea where in Pana the shuttle I'd booked would be picking me up. I made my way up the road from the dock until I found a place where a large number of people were standing around waiting, and I joined them. Sure enough, shortly after 12:00 when my shuttle was supposed to arrive, a driver yelled out my name and I made my way over to his shuttle.
In Antigua, I was dropped off at the Yellow House Hostel where I'd booked a private room for $34 CAD/night incl. breakfast. I'm moving up in the world - I went from stairs and a walk to the bathroom in Santa Cruz to stairs in San Marcos to a shared bathroom right beside my room in Yellow House. I'm going to feel positively spoiled in Copan Ruinas where I will have my very own bathroom all to myself!
I headed out for some street food and remembered to take a picture of my tostada this time. I had the simple avocado one since I was walking and eating and I still managed to get it all over my face!
I then headed to the storefront for the bus company I'm using to get to Copan Ruinas, Hedman Alas, to get my tickets. I will be picked up at 3:15 am from the hostel on Sunday morning, heading off on another adventure.