Lake Atitlan

We’re on to our last night at Lake Atitlan, in the city of Panajachel. If you’re interested in seeing pictures, you can visit the Wikipedia pages (Lake Atitlan, Panajachel), because, for the life of me, this computer doesn’t have USB ports… For that matter, I don’t even know where the computer part is. These sneaky Guatemalan’s know how to protect their valuables! Anyways, I’ve got some neato pictures from around here, and instead of showing you I’ll paint you a mental picture:

Lake Atitlan is like Lake Okanagan (familiar to most of you), only it’s in the crater of a freaking VOLCANO! That and the mountains are a bit steeper, the vegetation is a bit greener and more tropical-y. But besides that, the water quality is about the same. (Side note: when I say “about the same” I mean “about the same minus the fact that if you drink it, it will give you terrible diarrhea. Or, for that matter, give you eye infections, which is what happened to me because I opened my eyes in those Cenotes. But don’t worry, the doctor’s visit and the resulting antibiotics cost about $10 CDN, which is less than the price of goggles the doctor told me to wear next time I go swimming.”) But honestly, it’s beautiful here. Perhaps one day I’ll have the oppotunity to come to one of the lakeside resorts and write a book or something. Also, I should mention that I’m going to try my best to avoid bringing souvenirs back for friends and family. I have my reasons, and it has nothing to do with the people I want to bring souvenirs for, but everything to do with the people making and selling the souvenirs. That’s not to say I haven’t bought anything yet, I have, and I love bartering with the locals, but I’ve purchased things after a lot of thought about what went into making them. Anyway, I will be bringing back some delicious tequila, and we’ll have a nice party and I can tell you about all of my adventures and show you some of my neat pictures.

We visited some of the other lakeside villages as well, and they were all very similar. There seems to be a huge concentration of markets near the main roads and waterways, surrounded by concrete houses, and finally farmland. It’s amazing that they grow plants on such steep terrain; I’ve yet to see any modern agricultural machinery. Despite my negative tone, there’s a lot to say about the culture here that’s hard for me to articulate because I don’t have a lot of experience writing. Almost everyone has a huge smile. They love it when you meaningfully look at their products, and I think they also appreciate a sincere “no thanks”. I see a lot of tourists simply ignoring the locals, which is very disappointing, both for the locals and for the tourists.

Mike commented on my last post about the colourful church, and I wanted to add that the outside of the church wasn’t even a fraction of the beauty on the inside. They don’t allow pictures inside, for good reasons, but that doesn’t stop me from telling you about it. They open the doors to the church a narrow crack for you to get in, and from the outside it looks dark inside. But once you cross the threshold, you see, literally, thousands of candles lighting the interior. There were no pews in the center, and around the walls of the church they had glass cases with all the saints inside. On the floor they have a light layer of fresh pine needles, that smelled incredibly good. The candles are packed onto tables, and also set on the floors in meaningful arrays, with colours that symbolise the Maya’s 5 cardinal directions. I’ll also mention quickly that they bring chickens into the church as offerings (and kill them by twisting their necks), but I’m getting stuck in the description part, but I have a lot more to say about that particular church that’s best over the aforementioned tequila.

Tomorrow: Chichicastenango and Antigua! I’m going to buy a poncho!

Edit: The church was in a village near San Cristobal de las Casas, called San Juan Chamula. I found another traveller who wrote about it, so if you’d like more details you can check it out here: http://www.iubik.com/aventuras/indigenous-chiapas-san-juan-chamula-and-zinacantan/.