This past weekend was AMAZING! One great way to spend the Fourth of July when you are out of the country. Around 8am on Saturday morning nine other volunteers, two girls we didn’t know, two tour guides and I made our way to Panajachel, where Lake Atitlan is located. This lake has been described as one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire world. I was a little skeptical and didn’t want to believe all the hype just to be disappointed. The ride itself had outstanding scenery, but little did we know what spectacular views were awaiting us.
Once we arrived, our first activity was mountain biking. I haven’t ridden a bike in probably about 10 years, if not longer so I was a bit nervous. This nervousness grew when all of the bikes were way too tall for me. The tour guides didn’t allow my vertical challenges to stop me from having this experience. They actually drove into town, in the middle of nowhere, to get the seat of my bike cut shorter. It was still a little tall, but I figured it was good enough.
This bike ride was possibly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was pretty much all downhill at the fastest speeds possible. My hands actually ached from gripping the breaks so hard the entire time. We were on a road, not on some rugged path, so that made it easier, but being on a road means cars and chicken buses. Our ride was very curvy and most of the time you had no clue what would be around the corner. Had I fallen off that bike or not seen a car, I most definitely would not be around to write this blog right now. The ride was seriously insane.
About half way through the ride we stopped at this point for a picnic lunch. The view was seriously unbelievable. We were staring at Lake Atitlan, which we were headed towards, and the three mountains surrounding it; Atitlan, Toliman, and San Pedro. Check it out.
When our bike ride was over we hit up the town for some shopping in the market. It was my first time bargaining and I was actually pretty good at it. I bought a jade necklace for 25 Quetzales, which is about $3. Not bad.
Next, we climbed aboard a boat and made our way to Jaibalito, one of the tiny villages right on Lake Atitlan. We crossed the lake and set eyes on our hotel, which was literally built into the mountains. It was possibly the coolest place I have ever stayed. Our rooms were amazing, there were hammocks all over to lie in, and the view was unbeatable.
The rest of the day consisted of swimming in the pool, an amazing dinner, time in the hammock, and the night in a hot tub. The hot tub was an interesting experience. The water was being heated by a wood burning stove. Also, from the hot tub we could see the most amazing lightning storm in the distance. It was once HUGE cloud with constant lightning that we kept thinking was getting closer and closer but never made its way to us. By us the night was perfectly clear with a million stars in the sky and a full moon shining.
When we woke up the next morning, it was a delicious breakfast followed by kayaking and hiking. I’ve been kayaking a few times and by no means am I an expert. However, when I got in that kayak there was nothing stopping me and I was leading the pack the entire time. Then, at the very, very end of the kayaking, I somehow managed to tip over. From then on it was just a lost cause but it was okay because we soon arrived at the place we were going to begin our hike back to the hotel. I really wanted to bring my camera with kayaking and on the hike, but if I had it would be laying at the bottom of the lake right now and not much good to me anyways.
The hiking was what I was most nervous about. At first I thought, this isn’t so bad; it’s more of a walk than a hike. I have been on hikes way more difficult than this. Then, out of nowhere, we were headed up, up, up. It was tough. After making my way up, the real hike began. It was a narrow path where you pretty much had to put one foot in front of the other to fit. If your foot went off the path, you were basically going to fall off the mountain into oblivion. This part of the path went on for about an hour and a half. There were areas where we had to climb down rocks where I seriously thought this is it. I’m going to die.
But, I made it. I was the last one to finish the hike, but hey, I finished, and that is one big accomplishment for me. I really had no other choice because there was no other way back to the hotel.
After another good meal for lunch, we were headed back to Antigua.
It was really one incredible weekend. One thing that made it even more amazing than I could have thought was the weather. It was clear and sunny the entire time. Not a drop of rain. It’s the rainy season in Guatemala, which means it rains just about every single day. But the weather god really was looking out for us this past weekend. We’ve been back less than 24 hours and it’s already rained. Had it rained, the view would not have been nearly as spectacular and it’s possible we wouldn’t have been able to do everything we did.
This weekend will definitely be one that’s hard to beat.
“Plush” -Stone Temple Pilots