Monday, January 12, 2009

Lago de Atitlán

We ended 2008 and began 2009 on fantastic Lake Atitlán, in the Guatemalan highlands. It`s an incredibly beautiful place, with volcanoes and steep hill sides looming over the shimmering water.

All around the water are tiny Mayan villages that, although some of them now have ex-pat communities too, have retained a lot of their traditions and practices.

On New Year´s Eve we went to Santiago, one of the most traditional settlements on the lake.

The majority of the locals are Maya and still wear typical clothing, which was fascinating.

We met up again with most of the group from Christmas, which was great, and we took a short guided tour around the village. Our knowledgeable guide was Miguel, a lively boy of 12, who took us to the local sights. Here we all are listening intently to his speech about the church. Meanwhile, you can see someone trying to sell Vicki yet more scarves!

The most intriguing place he took us to was La Casa de Maximón, the home of a Mayan idol. If they have worries about their family´s health or money issues, local people can visit him and leave gifts such as food, drinks, flowers or, most importantly, hats. We actually saw one present of a New York yankees hat, which looked a bit out of place! He´s a pretty strange figure, who always has a lit cigarette or cigar in his mouth (Miguel says this is medicinal?!) but the room had a very reverential and sombre atmosphere

It gave us a real insight into Guatemalan village life and Miguel kept us entertained during the tour. Here he is wearing my sunglasses. Anita taught him a new phrase to add to his English repertoire; "Chop chop!" for those moments when we were walking a bit too slowly for him. This got a bit less amusing the hundreth time he used it!

That night we were all in San Pedro, a much more touristy spot on the lake, but perfect for a big New Year party. It was great fun! Here we are around midnight, on the roof of Buddha Bar, just after the huge (and slighty terrifying) firework display.

After New Year we stopped at another couple of tranquil villages with Jenny and Mark (sadly everyone else had to head home or off to other places by then); San Marcos and Santa Cruz. One morning Rob and I got up to take photos of the sunrise, which was spectacular, though freezing cold!

That was all a bit too much effort so early in the year, so we spent most of our time relaxing by the lake front and admiring the incredible view. Start the year as you mean to go on, I say.

Rachel x

1 comment:

kavvy17 said...

blimey i've had a lot to catch up on, you both have been busy. i've had hassle with trying to get online! Why was the fireworks scary? were you a bit close? More great pics rach/rob. the market reminds me of one on lanzarote, it was massive, although stalls repeated quite alot, but had some hidden treasures!
Take care both of you.