Joyfully left Flores for the stunningly beautiful Lake Atitlan.
I arrived at the Lake on Sunday afternoon; after taking an early boat across Lake Peten Itza to Flores, then a tuk tuk to the airport, a 45 minute plane ride brought me to Guatemala City. Then a shuttle van/colectivo from Guatemala City to Antigua, then a shuttle van/colectivo to Lake Atitlan. Then a boat ride across part of Lake Atitlan to the town of San Pedro, where I am staying for four days. Then a tuk tuk to my B & B. Many legs of this journey but all went smoothly.
All these transportation changes were SO worth it. I decided to take the plane south, after the jolting and dusty ride on the dirt road for 4 ½ hours of my trip to Guatemala last week. If I hadn’t taken the plane it would have been a added day of bus transportation. I paid some extra money for the plane and arrived within one day.
If you remember, I spoke about all the young people from so many different countries that I was meeting the last few weeks. They were all very hardy. I started wondering where the Americans are. I finally figured out why it was getting so difficult physically for me over the last few weeks. I am taking the hard routes. The Americans, if they come to Tikal, fly in from Guatemala City To Flores and come over to the site on big, comfortable, air conditioned tour buses, stay at hotels at the site, and often stay for the 2-3 days that it needed to truly see the huge archeological site of Tikal. So it turns out that I am roughing it with people who are much more physically fit than I, much younger and travel in groups to take care of each other. I have been ill since I arrived in Guatemala a week ago and missed seeing Tikal on Saturday, as I had planned.
A few facts about Tikal from a book at the hostel (goggle it for more facts):
a. It is huge, with the Tikal National Park measured at 576 square kilometers.
b. It was built around 600 B.C.E. It thrived for 1500 years, before being destroyed by the things that destroy cities; drought, famine, climate change, war, plagues.
c. It was built with stone tools, no metal.
What to do to take better care of myself and enjoy my travels more? I decided to spend a bit more on lodging and quit going to grungy hostels, such as the one in Flores, of which the only redeeming features were the view of the lake and of Flores across the lake, and the owner, who was very eager to help. However, the poor location, lack of organization, and unhealthy, overpriced food pushed it into the negative. I was happy to leave and arrive at a place that is quite the opposite, La Luna Azul B & B in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan.
Because I flew to Guatemala City and broke up the trip segments, I was feeling great when I arrived at the magnificent Lake Atitlan two days ago. I only saw the poorer sections of Guatemala City, as I was driven from the airport to the bus station, to out of the city. I was amazed by the houses built into the sides of very high hills around the city. There seem to be no streets, very steep hills, no cars and people having to navigate these hills to get out of their houses and neighborhoods. It reminded me of photos I have seen of the Rio barrios.
I was satisfied to spend very little time in Guatemala City, after warnings that the charms of the city are far outweighed by the danger and the pollution. I will return to the airport there on March 3 only to fly to Mexico City. I am flying Interjet Mexican Airlines, which will save me days of travel and is very reasonably priced. I am also flying them from Mexico City to Houston on March 4.
On Sunday I happily settled back for the ride to Antigua, where I would change shuttles. I had an hour to eat a meal. I was looking for a good restaurant close to the bus station as I didn’t want to miss my bus to Lake Atitlan. I was walking down the street and heard English being spoken. I peeked through a gate, saw a couple talking, excused myself and asked them about restaurants. They directed me a very short distance to a restaurant named Saberico, which was an excellent choice, with a garden setting, healthy, colorful and delicious food and reasonable prices. I ate a meal of omelette, beans, HOT salsa and pineapple juice, which was perfect. I will eat at this restaurant again when I return to Antigua later this week. I felt very luck to find this restaurant 10 minutes after arriving in town.
My B & B in Lake Atitlan is by far the most comfortable and relaxing place that I have stayed in 6 weeks, since I left San Miguel de Allende, MX. Erin and Solina have coddled me, fed me two hearty and beautiful breakfasts and furnished the room and bath with everything that I could possibly need. It is not fancy or luxurious, but I had the best two nights’ sleep since I went on the road.
Yesterday morning, Erin took me for a tour to the center of town, from our quiet, residential neighborhood. As we walked along the Lake, Erin introduced me to people and pointed out the places about which I had asked, which were all within 10 minutes walk from the B & B.
Erin returned to the B &B to work, while I got to know San Pedro and bought a few things that I needed; a birthday present, a used paperback book, a backpack for me that is made from handwoven cloth.
The town is full of twisty little streets, where it is easy to get lost, but I can proudly relate that my noted landmarks kept me from this fate, and several hours later, I sat down at the restaurant where I had decided to eat my first meal. It was Israeli, but not authentic and tasted like food made from boxes, and not fresh tasting.
There is quite a relatively large percentage of Israelis and other Jews in this town. I kept seeing Hebrew writing at different shops. If I had more time, I would investigate and meet them and find out why they are living in Guatemala. I supposed for the same reason that other people do…
This part of Guatemala definitely has more appeal to me than farther north. However, FYI, Guatemala is more expensive than Mexico in the tourist towns, at least in my experience.
My lessons on this trial run of traveling solo, before I leave at the end of April for Bali, are:
1.take lighter and less luggage,
2.be more spontaneous in booking lodging, and NO more hostels, unless there is no other option,
3.don’t travel more than 6 hours in a day, by bus or train.
4.Travel long distances by cheap local airlines rather than take buses or trains (whenever possible)
I ended my day with a Guatemalan massage, which was very welcome after my travels and was conducive to another good night’s sleep. This morning I had my first experience in a kayak and plan to go kayaking again tomorrow. Hasta luego….