From Cobán I meant to make it to Lago de Atitlán, a collapsed caldera ringed by active volcanoes and reportedly very beautiful, very touristy, and very cheap. All of which turned out to be true, believe it or not. But to get there I only got as far as Guatemala City when they told me there were no more busses until morning. The way it works is that the busses in Guatemala, called chicken busses and mostly composed of reincarnated American school busses, are a lot cheaper than busses in Mexico, and they’re also a lot suckier. To make things hard for me, they seem to start running at 5am or earlier, and stop at 5pm or earlier. At least now my Guatemalan uncle Bob makes a lot more sense.
I found a bed in a very dingy and very cheap pension with the amenities of: very international scribbles all over the walls of either crudities or youthful possibly marijuana influenced philosophy, drunk and loud employess, and a 10” long worm coming out of a crack in the shower floor. In an attempt to while away the hours until I could sleep, for didn’t much want to be there while I was awake, I went searching for internet. Every place I found was either closed, or closing, until the fifth one I tried. Notable not only for its later hours, this internet café lacked the very common “No Pornografía” signs, and was aside from me populated by three very focused teenage boys with headphones on and Windows Media Player on fullscreen. After my somewhat distracted attempts at emails, it was time for food. It is really strange how so much of the food here has the same names as Mexican food, but is completely different. E.G. a Guatemalan enchilada is more like a Mexican tostada, and on this night a I ordered a flauta and what I got was more reminiscent of a folded burrito. That was ok with me for sure.
The next morning I woke up early and hiked all the way across the city center to find a bus to Panajachel, the main bussible destination on Lago de Atitán. Guatemala City has no central bus terminal, which is really perfect considering it’s the transportation hub of the country. To find your next bus requires a careful statistical geometric analysis of about 10 different people’s 10 different directions, and then walking all across the city with your fingers crossed. When you’re feeling real good that you managed to find a bus, the bus drives in circles for 30 minutes trying to fill itself up as much as possible before leaving, of course passing by many of the blocks you just hiked to find it.
At the very least they gave me plenty of warning before I had to change busses, because when you tell someone unmistakenably that this bus is going ALL THE WAY to Panajachel, you have to give him at least a 20 second warning before he has to get off in some random crossroads town and change busses in order to get to Panajachel. It’s simply good manners. This nice man gave me 30! That extra smile really put the service over the top.
After riding crowded chicken busses all day, and doing the same the day before, sleeping in that disgusting place in Guatemala City, having spent 8 nights in a row in different places, being hungry and thirsty, and just generally stressed out, I was de un pretty mal humor by the I got in to Pana. It was one of those times when I sort of wondered where the hell am I and what the hell and I doing here? The lake and the volcanoes and everything were all beautiful and I didn’t care. Maybe I should just go home and get a job and then I won’t be so tired and hungry and there won’t be so many guys trying to hassle me for my money. But… after some food, rest, internet, and a really good run and swim, the idea of going home and getting a job returned back to its proper position of abstract ridiculousness.
San Pedro de la Laguna, on the far side of Lago de Atitlán is a beautiful little town absolutely FULL of tourists… really, and a lot of them stay and open businesses too. So it’s hardly like being in Guatemala at all in some ways, but still at Guatemalan prices. That’s why so many gringos like it so much. I was ready to end my terrible cycle of spending every night somewhere else and rest at least a couple of days there. I didn’t think it would be good to stress myself out too much more. I’m fragile!
My hotel, being one of an extreme over-abundance was quite cheap, and quite empty. For B-fast the next day I checked out a café called Munchies because I heard the attached hostel could have a bit more interesting mix of people than just me and some ants. And out of no where comes running my Canada-connection, Marie-Éve, screaming “P.B! P.B!” (Don’t ask, K?) It turned out I had actually managed to run into my friends from Chiapas (or what was left of them anyway), something I was hoping but not expecting to do. And off to Antigua we went. Another nig