GUATEMALA KEEPS GIVING.

OR HOW LAKE ATITLAN IS SAVING MY LIFE.

ALERT I’m jumping timewise here but will leave Guatemala tomorrow for Mexico so am a bit topsy turvy. Have many more posts for the earlier days of my voyage here.

First view of the lake.

After a mammoth 24 hour journey from Caye Caulker with several buses I have arrived at Lake Atitlan. The last bus journey I will undertake in Guatemala. However I must thank my lovely friend Manuel (Getaway Travels) who seamlessly stitched it together in adversity due to me being a princess and the Guatemala buses being a little, shall we say, older than their ruins. You need this agent.

The lake, volcanos, and Tzutujil people.

Tzutujil means ‘The people that come from the corn flower’. This group settled down on the Atitlán  Lake shore around 1250.

Lake Atitlan.

The beautifully designed buildings crafted in the Tz’utujil manner greeted me from the water taxi that goes to many towns around the lake mine being Santiago for its arty nature.

After resting up on the first day, sleeping and gazing over the lake from time to time I decided to go to the town the next day by tuktuk.

View of moody Atitlan volcano from my terrace.

TOP TIP: This place is chicken soup to the soul as I am so physically exhausted that my body was going into shutdown. My feet and ankles that had started swelling in Caye Caulker had reached monstrous proportions. My inner ankle had actually hardened and was hot, my normally slim feet and ankles resembled foul rotting corpse appendages, and frankly I was scared. I started to imagine I had DVT and would die in Guatemala from DVT from too many bus trips. I AM FIT FOR MY AGE BUT THIS HAS BEEN VERY PUNISHING SEE FITNESS AND THE MATURE SOLO TRAVELLER BLOG So the top tip is as always STOP. REST UP. When I got into my room I lay down and slept with my puffy painful trotters elevated and fell into a deep sleep. I woke and went to the bathroom and was sick so freaking me out even more. Travel exhaustion is a beast and after previous experiences with their buses I shouldn’t have trusted the “luxury sleeper bus” label and transported myself in my more elegant way, I am no longer young and finally braving it out has finally taken its toll. so having been sick I showered and laid down again with trotters up on high pillows and decided to skip even a light soup for dinner, watched a wonderful Prime Indian comedic crime series for an hour that boosted me and stopped me thinking ” Oh god I’m dying. Oh god I’m dying. Oh god I’m dying” like a hideous Halloween mantra! I then listened to my audible book like a good child and slept.

Beautiful local produce viewed from tuktuk.

Like any old bird I do love a tuktuk, but these roads! Most of your teeth will fall out on the short trip into town. I was supposed to be meeting my mate who was staying in next village which requires a short water taxi trip. The Catholic Church was to be the meeting point. I revelled in this church, the oldest one in Central America, and happily gazed at the fountain in the Central courtyard for a while starting to be a bit concerned about my mate. I’d run out of data so couldn’t WhatsApp him at the church but was reluctant to leave it in case I missed him. There was also a strong contingency of beggars and peddlars there and they are very pushy here so I waited and waited….

The “art” street mostly handicrafts

Saint James the Apostle Church.

Although browbeaten by conflict and earthquakes and patched up from time to time this place oozes atmosphere. Lining the walls are their previous priests of old carved in wood and strangely garbed in brightly coloured nylon cloaks. Some of these are vaguely reminiscent of the Russian Perm Christs. However the main reason this church is so poignant is the ghastly execution of its priest originally from Oklahoma. He has since been canonised. He is the much adored Beato Stanley Rother. His church a refuge for the terrified locals but to no avail.

This says it all…

Wooden saints deities. None labelled or marked so I can’t give any names!

The Other Belief : The Deity of Maximon.

In this place, all people of different political and  religious beliefs, show respect for Maximón, a local deity. Its figure, rather short and draped in colorful scarves,  is made of tied wood sticks and its mask, with no face underneath, 

 According to myth, Maximon has two wives, changes house every year, likes drinking and smoking, collects ties and uses perfumes. During Holy Week, the wooden idol  is taken from his home-shrine, and paraded through to the town square where people beat him with sticks. Many ask him favours and  advice for the year.

Maximon

Finally I gave up and went to search for a restaurant with WiFi. Through the busy market square and down a road full of colour with the locals selling their fruit and veg. I found a little less dodgy looking place and said I was having lunch but could I use their WiFi to contact my lost friend. She was very reluctant to do so until I had ordered my lunch, I had to reassure her I wasn’t going to do a runner and then contacted my pal.

Church courtyard with the glowering Atitlan Volcano in the background.

Oh dear. The messages with many expletives explained they had tried to rip him off for the short ride to my village. He was furious and going nowhere. As explained on many sites this place has a very bad reputation for boat scams and sadly we both have found out that they are not unfounded. I was left in my pretty touristy pink flowered skirt and T-shirt looking like the mark I was. My lunch was ruined by the constant worry that a tuktuk back to the hotel would take me to a dark corner and rob me. I was foolishly carrying my wallet with cards and all my cash, I had thought I was meeting up with an ally and not been concerned! Idiot!

Paradise (when sunny)

Finally after much reassurance from the waitress I forged out into the sunlight and grabbed one. I had been thinking of taking a picture of the number on it and knowing I still had WiFi that the info would go to the Cloud for evidence when they finally found me senseless in a ditch somewhere. I got back fine however scaredy pants that I have become since coming to Guatemala.

ALERT: The reason for such anxiety is clear. My mate wanted to do the arduous trek up San Pedro volcano but had found many very recent posts (one last week) of people being mugged on the trail by men with machetes. The life of a solo traveller is not always an easy one and all things must be taken into consideration even when going round the corner to a local shop. This is a third world county and tourists are always targets. just be prudent and plan ahead if you’re coming here! That aside the places I have been here are breath-taking due to the fact they haven’t been ruined.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…..

Safely back I indulged myself!

Cool hot tub!
Hobgoblins door?……..
….Nah. Little door to sweat room!

The excursion the next day was a fiasco, tuktuk to another part of town for the much exalted Iglesia de Arte. Closed! Then in that random part of town my phone suddenly went into negative. Photos and screen after turning off stayed stubbornly in negative and I nearly broke down with worry and frustration. I had ordered a frappuchino at a decent looking place in their “art” street while I desperately tried all the tricks I knew to reset it, but to no avail. It had been playing up for days turning off due to overheating on a regular basis even though it wasn’t that hot, so I really believed I was buggered. I couldn’t even take a pic of the fantastic fracking frappuchino for fracks sake.

I am a drama queen of the highest level so got my coffee in a takeaway vessel and grabbed a tuktuk back already thinking I would bloody well fly home. On getting back the heavens opened to add to my misery. Shivering and wet I got to my iPad and googled how to hopefully fix my Google phone. In the recesses of settings I found the stupid button that somehow I must of gone into while clutching my phone in case of robbers. The odds of doing this must be huge, I really should have bought a lottery ticket that day.

After many mochitos I went to pay my bill and my Mastercard was denied as happens in Guatemala quite a lot, so I had to check on my phone to see it hadn’t been blocked again. It was fine so yet another horrible shock. I went to my room through the pissing rain and prayed for the morning. I wanted out. Atitlan isn’t so funny in the rain

Hooray, I’m leaving!

OVER AND OUT FROM A FREAKED OUT REBECCA X

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