“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” -Helen Keller
We’d heard all sorts of stories about Guatemala. Be careful not to get robbed, always hike with a guide (with a machete) and the chicken bus stories are a bragging right amongst fellow travelers. We were on our guard a bit more here, but had a great time, came out unscathed and found the Guatemalan people very kind and welcoming.
We spent a couple weeks making our way through the country, stopping first in Flores. A cute little town on the water with nice restaurants and bars with cheap beer and soccer on TV. This was also the jumping off point for the not to be missed Mayan Ruins of Tikal. We expected our day at Tikal to be a bit of a circus given its popularity, but found ourselves relatively alone most of the day wandering the grounds in peace.
From here we bussed it to the picturesque city of Antigua. We enjoyed some great coffee, walks around town, a free jazz concert, hiked Volcan Pacaya and toured a small coffee plantation.
We happened to be in town during Semana Santa (holy week) and watched the elaborate processions with hundreds if not thousands of people. Guatemalans take their religion seriously and everyone seemed involved. There were food stands, balloons and cotton candy everywhere, it was quite the event. Ezra referred to this as “religious tailgating” and couldn’t help wondering if everyone wanted to take part in this Brotherhood because they had really cool cloaks and costumes? Why has this not caught on back home?
As much fun as Antigua was, I felt ready to get out of all the pollution and head to Lake Atitlan for some quiet. The first night or two we stayed in the little hippy town of San Marcos. We met some very nice people and it was replete with interesting food choices at the market (nori and goat cheese!) and we decided to treat ourselves because, as we joked, our meals of late were a choice of rice and beans or beans and rice. We decided to take an all day hike to a village called Santa Cruz and had some amazing views of the lake while we traversed on small paths. We saw avocado trees, coffee bushes, lots of chickens and a few dogs that were awfully aggressive. A few times we got lost but ended up finding our way.
We enjoyed Santa Cruz so much we packed our bags in San Marcos and decided to stay a few more days at a nice little place with grass walls and a view of the lake. Santa Cruz felt a little more grounded to me than San Marcos. While I love all things metaphysical the town felt a little forced to me. I tend to gravitate to free (or by donation) meditation courses and the yoga was expensive. And while I’ve been known to forgo shaving, showering and fashion. It became a little joke people watching. (As a disclaimer: I am ALL for free expression and even more so for renouncing image.) I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a special “hippy” shop I missed and the goal was to come out with the most mismatched crazy clown outfit. Ha ha. They probably just have more creativity than me.
We played around with staying in Guatemala longer, but by this time we were talking with several different boats about being crew and knew we needed to start picking up the speed to make it to Panama before the end of the sailing season.