Alisa says this post sounds really negative

Our little hotel

We had a really long and busy day today. We decided last night that we were going to move to a different part of the lake called San Pedro la laguna. However, before we moved we had a boat tour to go on. Most hotels have you clear out your room and check out at 11am. Here it’s completely different. We didn’t have any place for tonight lined up so we were kind of in a bind. We have these two giant backpacks with us which we couldn’t possibly take on the tour. I asked the lady the office, who happened to own the hotel, if we could leave our things in our room while we went on our trip and pick them up after check out time. She said no, but we could keep our things in her house while we went on our trip. I was not expecting that at all, but we were really thankful.

We ran down to the dock around 8:20 and jumped on the boat as soon as everyone else arrived. The ride across the lake was awesome. When you stand at the shore, it’s really hard to appreciate how big the lake actually is. It took us more than 40 or so minuets to get to the first town called San Marcos. We took a lot of pictures of the volcanos and different houses around the lake. It was completely breath taking.

The lake is rising and
swallowing the houses near by
We arrived at a beautiful little city called San Marcos. This place was completely surreal. It was almost dream like. We noticed right away that there were a lot of people there that looked like they would fit in better in Portland rather than Guatemala. We decided to stop at a small coffee shop and have some breakfast. There was another group there talking in english that stuck out just like we do. They were super loud and talked about everything from working in the corporate world to metaphysics. There were a few people in yoga robe like things and almost all the signs were in english. A younger girl walked in the cafe and gave us a card for yoga sessions by donation. The card was completely in english. The owner of the cafe, who only spoke spanish, came over to our table, gave us a lit candle, then said some thing hokey to ward off evil spirits, laughed sarcastically and then walked away. It wasn’t till we opened up our lonely planet book that we realized what was going on. It turns out that this small town has been some kind of hokey spiritual place where people who are… let’s see-how should I put it… not brown or dark skinned come to find themselves in a Spanish speaking country by setting up “super foods” stores and yoga classes entirely in English. We weren’t terribly sad when it was time for the boat to move on. I must say, however, it was a 

beautiful little town; we can see why they like it here.

Our Tuktuk guide showing us some
coffee plants

Our next trip took us to San Juan del Lago. We were told by our boat guide that it was better to pay a Tuk Tuk driver to take us around town and show us a different sights rather than walking because of the size of the city. We took them up on their offer. The tuktuk driver said that we would visit four places, seeing a presentation at a coffee farm, learning how to make yarn from cotton, and going to an art gallery. All this in an hour. I was skeptic, but we actually did all of it. For our first stop, we pulled off the side of the road and actually saw some shade grown coffee plants with the green beans on them. They were shaded by avocado trees that actually had whole avocados on them. From there we moved on to the coffee farm where we were given the dime presentation, ordered an Americano, bought a pound of beans, and were out in less than ten minutes. From there our little tuktuk cruzed around town at break neck speeds (I wish I could describe how crazy it is to

I finally found a piece of art
that I like

ride in one) to the Mayan Woman Coop where we were given a presentation by an old mayan woman who demonstrated how they make string out of cotton and gave us a lightning fast presentation on how to dye cotton string. We looked around the store and Alisa found a bed cover she really liked, but it was a little out of our budget. We told them that we would think about it and come back when if we changed our mind. When we went outside, the tuktuk driver offered to sell us one his sister made for only half the price! From there we moved on to the art gallery that was actually pretty amazing. I actually found a piece of art that I liked, and I even got a picture of it with the artist holding it. Alisa found some things that she liked as well, and we picked them up. Good as his word. The tuktuk drive had us back to the boat right before we were to disembark. This little pueblo has that tour down to a science.

Coffee Farm out of season. This is the drying area
Since we were coming back later
we rested a little on the dock

From there we moved on to San Pedro la Laguna where we decided to find a hotel for the night. We were greeted by a young man named Diego. He is a Mayan who also speaks English and Spanish and is therefore is very useful in the tourism industry. He actually works for the city and so we were a little more willing to trust his advise around town. Plus, he was the first person we have run into here that doesn’t want our money. He showed us a few different hotels. We found one with a room on the fourth floor with a great few and almost half the price of the other one we were staying at. However, it’s not as well cared for as the other. After finding the place, we walked with him back to the dock and came up with a plan for the different things we wanted to try out while we are here. We decided to do some horse back riding, hiking, and a little bit of kayaking. By the time we came up with our plan, it was about time for the boat to move on.

 
Our guide, another Diego

Our next stop was at a pretty beat up town called Santiago. We were greeted by a really young man who insisted on giving us a tour. He would not take no for an answer and kept insisting and insisting. Finally we agreed on a price that was lower that what he was offering. I’m glad we did it because we did learn a lot about the city and went to places that we probably never would have gone to had we just walked around. We learned about about the Cathedral in the middle of town and the syncretism between the Catholic church and the Mayan Religion. We entered the cathedral in the middle of the town and learned a little about the history and also saw a lot of the mayan images that were mixed in with the catholic. They also keep a mayan god right next to the church called Maximon. At the time we arrived, Maximon was actually in a local persons house who wanted payment in order to actually

Catholic church with Mayan
Symbols

see him. Alisa didn’t want to see him, and I had no interest in paying to see it. However, he said I could look through the window and see it but I would have to pay Q10 if I wanted to take a picture. I checked it out and it was a little creepy. There were mostly tourists inside taking pictures. Oh I forgot to mention, looking at it required walking down a really creepy alleyway. Having said goodbye to our guide, we moved on and found a great little coffee shop. We stopped in and had a couple of Americanos. We talked to the owner Juan for quite some time and found out that the beans were grown and roasted about 15 minutes down the road. We returned back to our boat and headed back to our hotel. Once we arrived, Alisa mentioned that she actually felt like she was returning home.

On the way out, we were greeted right away by Julio, who we had met the night before, who wanted to give us a ride to San Pablo. We followed him with our things and he loaded us onto the boat. His friendly smile went away when I heard his first words in english “you pay now!” In Guatemala, the boat dosent leave until it is full and we waited and waited and waited for that thing to fill up. It wasn’t all bad. We got a chance to talk to some guys from England who were on a six week trip across Latin America. It was fun comparing crazy driving stories with them and how different the culture is here compared to western. It took us about 45 minutes to arrive and San Pablo. We put away our things in our hotel room and decided to try some Middle Eastern food. It was good. A lot of the food here is really light, so I don’t mind it too much. We went to the store and pick up a few snacks which ended up being really expensive. I was shocked. However, at this point in the day, I didn’t feel like fighting the clerk and just accepted that people here like nothing more than to take advantage of you. When we arrived back at the hotel, I talked to Hugo for a bit. I learned that M&M’s are actually really expensive here.  He didn’t know why, but he said he never eats them because they are so outrageous. ok… Well, its almost 9:30 right now, I’m sitting on a hammock with a view of the lake and the mountains writing this blog, and I think it’s time for me to call it a night.

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