Panajachel and Santiago Aitilan
Cath again here. As you may have noticed from the last entry I have been writing most of the blog today as Rusty isn't feeling too well. He has got a nasty ear infection, so I have sent him to bed with some Ibroprofen and a good book! Think the cup of tea we had earlier and the fact we watched Notting Hill last night have made him a bit homesick too so lots of sympathy messages would be good
Anyway let me tell you about our little side trip to Lake Aitilan in the Guatemalan highlands...We got a chicken bus cross country to get there, and saw some beautiful agricultural countryside on the way...
The last part of the journey involved a truly hair-raising ride down this crazy mountain road which wound down to the lake really steeply; my nerves were not helped by the cavalier approach of the bus driver, like most other drivers here he seems to think it's a good idea to drive on the left until something is actually coming the other way (yes they are supposed to drive on the right!) I have discovered that if you sit on the left of the bus though you are either looking at the side of the mountain or at least have another lane (supposedly) between you and the drop...anyway I digress...
We decided to stay in Panajachel which is probably the most touristy of the lakeside villages, but is also the easiest to get to by bus and has the most accomodation etc. We found somewhere to stay and wandered down to the Lake which is easily the most beautiful lake we have seen yet (and that's saying something). The water is really, really clear and its setting in a bowl surrounded by volcanoes is really peaceful and has a totally cut-off from civilisation feel.
We wandered round Pana's artisan markets that afternoon and overall felt a bit depressed by it I think. The stuff they are selling is so lovely but the place is completely saturated with it, I swear there are more stalls than tourists. Just makes you wonder how these people make a living. Everyone is very friendly and smiley though so they are obviously doing ok.
The next day we took a boat trip across the lake to Santiago Aitilan which is one of the more traditional lakeside villages. The journey across the lake was top- speeding along on one of the little lanchas and marvelling at some of the crazy houses set into the side of the volcanoes (obviously some people have got lots of money here!) Here's the view as we pulled into Santiago...
The village itself was not that pretty actually. Lots of the houses here are half finished concrete affairs that don't look half as nice when they've not been painted pretty colours and they've still got steel rods sticking out the top waiting for the next floor to be built! We had a fun time wandering round the local market though and watching what seemed to be some kind of schools performance with the village kids all dressed up in crazy costumes. (You'll notice that the pic below isn't too close up to the villagers, as apparently they're not keen on tourists taking pictures of their children).
Anyway we did manage to ask a friendly local girl to take a picture of us on the lancha ride back, a pretty good one I think!
So we're safely back in Antigua today and have been enjoying the fine food and atmosphere of civilisation again; even went to a live jazz concert in the atrium of an old church last night! We're off to Rio Dulce in the east of Guatemala tomorrow (a tiny place where most of the buildings are on stilts in the water!) Wish us luck!! Keep those comments and emails coming as lovely to hear from you all, all our love, C&R xxx