Monday, October 20, 2014

Atitlan: Body and Soul

I always tell myself: “Low expectations are often exceeded, whereas high expectations are sometimes met.”  I try to live life with low expectations.  When I can manage that, all of the good things that life become bonuses, and everything seems exponentially better. 

My expectations were pretty low this past long weekend.  We were headed to Lake Atitlan, and I’ve been there plenty of times before.  People kept getting sick and dropping out prior to the trip, nothing was really planned for most of it, and to top it off, our group’s shuttle was leaving on Friday at 3pm right after school…which ensured that we left the city at a crawl that didn’t really ever get much faster, due to the mess that is the town of Chimaltenango, finally to arrive at our hostel at 10pm. 

But here’s the thing:
Lake Atitlan is just good for the soul.

When I woke up on Saturday morning to the view of the volcanos, unshrouded by clouds, the placid lake, and the tranquility that embodies all of it, every bit of frustration I’d had the day before vanished.  It was all worth it. 

That first day, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hostel, Iguana Perdida, then walked along the lake to Isla Verde, the place where some of our other friends were staying.  

The pristine walk to Isla Verde
While we were there, we booked a yoga class for Monday morning and found a peaceful spot to enjoy the view before coming back to our hostel for lunch.  

I could have stayed at Isla Verde in this spot all day! 

In the afternoon, we sunbathed and then took a boat to Panajachel for some shopping and a change of scenery.  

Sunbathing in this spot?  Couldn't really get more perfect.

Delectable coffee on a super cool coffee bean table.
That evening back at our hostel, a 30th birthday celebration took place, which coincidentally brought in a lot of our acquaintances from Antigua.  It was amazing how many familiar faces suddenly filled the place!  Though Amy and I planned to go to bed early to be ready for the next morning’s sunrise hiking departure, we found ourselves talking and dancing for several hours.  I had more fun dancing salsa and merengue that night than I have had in a very long time.  (After the first merengue finished, I was actually a little dizzy from all the spinning I’d done.  I know my footwork was atrocious, yet due to the skill of my partners we kept twirling away!)   

Sunday morning five of us were up and waiting in the darkness at the Santa Cruz dock for our boat to take us across the lake to Santiago, where we began our hike up Volcan Toliman.  Our guide Miguel met us there a little late and immediately took off at a quick, ground-eating pace which we easily and eagerly matched.  

Waiting for our guide in Santiago as the sun rose around us.

The hike was moderate in difficulty (definitely not what I would consider “hard” after having climbed Atitlan and Acatenango) and very enjoyable.  Toward the top of the mountain, the path was overgrown (because really, who is silly enough to climb volcanoes during rainy season except us??), and Miguel had to brandish his machete and chop the path for us.  This slowed us considerably, but we still made it to the top in about 3 hours and 40 minutes.  Of course, by the time we got there at 10am, there was no view save that of a white cloud enveloping the mountain.  I didn’t mind.  As we’d climbed, I’d thought about the fact that through my various hikes, I’ve seen the lake from so many angles already…while a view would have been nice, for once I was in it for the hike itself.
A view of Volcan San Pedro from a corn field on the way up.
At the top, sometimes the clouds would lift just enough
for us to see Toliman's twin peak.

We spent about half an hour at the top enjoying snacks and each other’s’ company.  Miguel had brought “tipico food” for us, which turned out to consist of tortillas, beef in a tomato sauce, avocado, lime, and salt.  It was much more than I was expecting, and was quite delicious.

We started a leisurely decent, but when rain began falling about halfway down, we picked up our pace quite a bit.  Thankfully, the rain stayed gentle and never drenched us with a heavy downpour.  (Yet by the end, we were all quite soaked and, though still generally in good spirits, ready for hot showers and dry clothing). 

That afternoon, we showered and napped, then met up with our friends who had gone to San Juan (another village on the lake) for the afternoon.  We swapped stories over a three course meal at Isla Verde that night.  When we returned at 9pm that night, it was bedtime, and we all slept soundly.

Took a nap on the hammock on Jen and Nadine's balcony.  Lovely spot.
Monday morning, four of us padded back over to Isla Verde for the yoga class we’d signed up for.  The yoga studio there took my breath away.  It is by far the most peaceful setting I’ve ever done yoga in, and I left completely refreshed, body and soul.

Nadine was a good sport and faked a yoga-esque pose for
my picture before class started.  

After packing and checking out, we hopped a boat to Panajachel and took our shuttle from there back to the city.  We avoided major traffic, making it to the Guatemala City by mid-afternoon.  A perfect end to a much needed weekend! 


  1. This is absolutely beautiful and I'm very jealous of all the wonderful adventures you seem to be having! Keep writing so I can continue to live vicariously through you... :)

    1. COME VISIT! So you can live vicariously through yourself. :)