Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Greetings from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala!

I survived my near death experience with Mexican food poisoning. I have eaten street food in Bolivia, India, Vietnam and just about everywhere else in the world.  After all this time I thought I was immune to food poisoning. I was very, very wrong. Mexico, specifically Guadalajara, seems to have done me in. I was violently ill in Guatemala City.

As a side note, this is not what I expected Guatemala City to look like…

I believe what healed me was a combination of Jesus and emergency antibiotics I keep on hand. It’s been a little rocky today though because I only took one of three doses of antibiotics (my mistake), the girl on the bus next to me threw up, and I got cocky and thought I’d be fine to eat a cheeseburger. Despite nausea issues, I’m feeling pretty good tonight and about 10 pounds lighter.

I have to say that although I got sick after my first evening in Guatemala City, I stayed at one of the best hostels so far.  It was called the Quetalroo Hostel.  The owner drew me an “interactive” map of Guatemala and by that I mean he sat down with me, sketched a map on paper and stopped at certain locations to play YouTube videos of the most important destinations so I could see how amazing they are.  It was kinda the worst to be sick there too because everyone was going out to great restaurants and doing bike tours of the city and such but I guess that just means I’ll have to come back some time.

I’m going to spend the next two nights on Lake Atitlan which is surrounded by volcanoes. I heard there’s even a butterfly reserve here which sounds enchanting. There are different towns all around to stay in but the one I chose is called Panajachel which would sound a lot better if the j was replaced with an r… PanaRachel.

The view from the shores of PanaRachel

I met these 4 girls on the shore of the lake. They tried to sell me headbands. Turns out, they are all four sisters. I thought they were so cute!

Also, I have an awesome new headband.

A local dog, finishing his shopping.

I assume his lack of bags indicates they couldn’t strike a bargain.

Panajachel is a cool little town.  It’s got a distinctly hippie vibe and I liked that about it.  It’s touristy but some of the other towns surrounding the lake are much less busy.  Still, I think this is a good starting point.  It’s got connections to everything you’d want to do plus, some good food options as well.

After a few nights in Panajachel, I moved on to Tikal National Park in the jungle.  Tikal are the ruins of a Mayan city in the jungle of Guatemala. The majority of the buildings were built between 200 and 900 AD. It’s guessed that there were around 50,000 people who lived there.

This site is huge. I thought it was going to be a pyramid or two but it’s an entire city. They said that the tallest one is equivalent to a 20 story building. The amazing thing about a building that tall, is that it’s enough to peek out of the immense tree canopy and see what the lay of the land around is. It’s jungle. Thick, dense jungle for miles around.

We watched the sunset from the top of a tower and as it sunk below the horizon, the jungle went from silent to alive with monkeys and birds then silent again except for crickets.

Amidst the noise of the howler monkeys and the birds, one of my friends from the hostel screamed when I pointed out a tarantula walking over his foot.  I may hate snakes, but bugs generally do not bother me.  However, you can tell both me and the spider are nervous.

The Amigos Hostel in Flores just outside of Tikal National Park was also one of the best ever.  They have a great tour desk, bars, laundromat next door and I also just met really fun people from everywhere while I was there.

Guatemala was surprisingly modern. I think I thought it would be more shanties and dirt roads like Bolivia. Although there was a lot of poverty still in Guatemala, it was surprisingly more developed than what I expected. I think it’s a balance and because I was sick, I saw a bit less than I usually would have. I also stayed in some of the best hostels yet.

Since it’s such a quick flight from the US it’s really a great option for a week or two vacation.  I’m surprised people don’t talk about it more.