Guatemala 2020 - Days 9-11 (San Pedro la Laguna)
Updated: Feb 20, 2020
If you've done any travelling at all, then you've probably had something go wrong at some point trying to get from A to B. There was that time my flight was cancelled after waiting the better part of the day at the airport, after which I had to scramble to find a place to stay overnight and book another flight from another nearby airport. Pretty much every time I've arranged for an airport pick-up, my driver was *not* one of the people patiently waiting with my name on a sign by the exit - always disconcerting when I'm in another country with no cell reception. So I think I can be forgiven for experiencing a bit of anxiety whenever I change location, even if in the end, things always end up working out. In fact, things couldn't have gone more smoothly on my trip over to San Pedro from Antigua. The 8:00 shuttle showed up at 8:15, and after a stomach churning ride full of hairpin turns, dropped me off at the pier where I immediately caught a lancha to San Pedro. I met a retired Quebecoise who was also heading there so we made our way to the pier together and found a place to grab lunch once we arrived.
I meant to grab a tuk-tuk to take me to Wachalal Lake Lodge since I had my backpack on me but when I asked someone about getting a tuk-tuk, he suggested I walk and gave me directions so I headed off, secure in the fact that Google Maps could save my ass if I got lost. And got lost I did. The gringo section of San Pedro is a veritable maze of alleyways and foot paths with no signage. It also turns out the person who gave me directions had no idea where the lodge was! But I eventually made my way over to the unsigned entrance off the road thanks to a kind Guatemalan who sensed I needed help and pointed me in the right direction. The entrance took me down a dusty path towards the lake.
Wachalal Lake Lodge is quite literally "off the beaten path".
Lovely though it may be, Antigua is also very busy. With no stop signs or street lights, the stream of cars is endless. Thanks to the cobblestone, at least they drive slowly....
So between the cars, the people, and the busy schedule of Spanish classes, salsa classes, and excursions, my 8 days in Antigua weren't exactly relaxing. Lying in a hammock reading a book to the sound of birds in the trees at Wachalal Lake Lodge felt like a real vacation. The lodge was hosting a dinner that evening. For roughly $13 CAD, the dinner included live entertainment, an appetizer, main course, desert, and a glass of wine. The evening started with a fire lighting ceremony that had all the guests sitting around a fire pit and lighting the campfire together with candles. I ended up staying by the fire for the rest of the evening chatting with a guy from Toulouse. The entire menu at Wachalal is vegetarian, with most of it also being vegan. He ordered a vegan burger for his main and I ordered a vegan Asian wrap. We both had the same reaction on our first bite: wow! High praise for the Guatemalan and Canadian chefs.
For $15 CAD/night, I'm staying in a little cabin with 2 bedrooms, a shared bathroom, and a surprisingly large open space with a couch and table. The space is very basic but the bed is very comfortable. On my first night, I woke up to a loud "boom" and in my half asleep state, I thought a nearby volcano was erupting, but the sound of firecrackers that followed cleared my confusion pretty quick. I've heard these booms a number of times over the past 3 days, no idea what, if any, fiesta they're celebrating.
It gets quite cool here at night but the thin Mayan blanket is very effective at keeping me warm. Which is saying something because I'm a completely wimp when it comes to cold. Speaking of which, the morning shower didn't quite make it as far as "warm". Cool maybe? Refreshing? Suffice to say, it was a quick shower but for the price, I'm not complaining.
Wide awake after my brisk shower, I met up with Monique, the French Canadian lady I'd met the day before, so we could head out to San Marcos together. I wanted to check it out before committing to spending a couple of nights there.
The pueblos around Lake Atitlan are like the 7 dwarves. They each come with their unique, merchandisable personality, and every blog will tell you the same thing: Panajachel is busy and just a stepping stone to the rest of the lake, San Pedro is the party town, San Juan is the town to shop for works by local artisans, Santa Cruz is for relaxing, and San Marcos is the hippie town. I'd originally planned on staying in Santa Cruz for the week, and then considered San Marcos to relax and take yoga classes, but after reading a few blogs that snidely commented on crystals, Reiki, and chakras, I was afraid San Marcos might be a little too much for me. Turns out it's not - but more on San Marcos after my stay there.
The lancha heading back to San Pedro stopped off in San Juan on the way so I impulsively hopped off to check it out, knowing I could take a tuk-tuk the rest of the way. San Juan is the "artisan" pueblo and the entire "calle" up from the dock is lined on both sides with shops filled with all kinds of artwork. Monique and I especially enjoyed a gallery displaying paintings. That said, I'm glad we dropped by San Juan on our way back from San Marcos because, as someone travelling with just a single backpack, shopping is out of the question and a special trip to San Juan as I'd originally planned would have been a waste of time. Plus, I finally got to go on a tuk-tuk ride.
Back in San Pedro, I quickly headed back to Wachalal so I could get there before dark, and still managed to take a wrong turn on the foot path to the lodge.
This morning, I left the lodge bright and early to find some breakfast. Breakfast is served at the lodge, but I hadn't explored San Pedro much yet and wanted to walk around a bit more. I stumbled upon Mikaso, a hotel that people often recommend as the best place to stay in San Pedro. Mikaso has a public restaurant on its 3rd floor terrace and I had it, and its amazing view, all to myself.
I'd originally planned on taking a weaving class but after a bit of research, I learned that the typical workshop consists of 8 hours to make a 3-4 foot scarf. Since I didn't have that much time, and since I was enjoying the whole sitting around with a nice view reading a book thing a whole lot, I decided to skip the class and head back to the lodge for some more laziness. At 2:00, I pried myself out of my hammock and headed back to gringolandia to find a place to eat.
I need to explain here. The area in San Pedro closest to the pier is filled with a maze of narrow streets, alleys, and paths housing hotels, cafes, and shops that cater to tourists. Wachalal Lake Lodge is a 10-20 minute walk away, depending on where in gringo land you happen to be. The road in between has nothing much of interest - convenience stores, some street food stands selling fries, a couple of schools, a shop selling toilets and other housing related things, etc. Someone going to San Pedro for its party town reputation will likely want to be staying near the pier where the action is. Sure, you could go out at night and take a tuk-tuk back to the start of the dirt path to Wachalal for 10Q (<$2 CAD), but having managed to take a wrong turn on the dirt path in broad daylight, I wasn't about to attempt that in the dark. I felt I had the best of both worlds - the quiet lakeside hammock for reading and a quick walk to the cafes otherwise. That said, the walk in between is neither scenic, nor peaceful. Tuk-tuks are surprisingly loud and fast - faster than the slow moving traffic on Antigua cobblestone. So although I enjoyed my 3 days in San Pedro, I was looking forward to heading to Santa Cruz in the morning.
A typical cafe in San Pedro - Canadian burgers are on the menu!
Even these narrow alleys see plenty of loud motorcycles, so although this area in San Pedro is quieter than the main streets, they also get a fair bit of noise.
At some point over the past 3 days I decided to commit to my plan to follow up my stay in Lake Atitlan with a week in Copan Ruinas. I was hesitant because this takes A to B to a whole new level. After returning to Antigua for a couple of nights, on Sunday morning I will be picked up at 3:00 am from my hostel and driven to a shuttle that will take a group of people to Guatemala City to catch a bus to Copan Ruinas, arriving around 10:30 am. Another A to B (A to C?) to worry about!