A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: AnnaMickus

Happy New Year!

Mingling with Mayas in Guatemala


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

Lago de Atitlan is a lake set in beautiful surroundings on an altitude of about 1600m. It is surrounded by several volcanoes and beautiful greens. The lake was once formed because of a volcanic eruption where so much magma spilled out from the earth that the terrain collapsed and formed a huge hole that was soon filled with water. We arrived here late in the evening so it lasted until the next morning before we got to discover the beauty of this place when we took a small boat over the lake from Panajachel, the main city, to San Pedro La Laguna where we had planned to spend new year’s. Conny and Ronny that we met in Playa el Tunco decided to join us for Atitlan, so now we were already 6 of us. Let the new year’s celebrations begin!

San Pedro La Laguna is a cute little town just by the lake. There are lots of cosy restaurants and many of them with delicious veggie food! One of our favourite places is Zoola, a really great and laidback place with a beautiful garden where the tables are really low so that you can lie on a bunch of pillows while you are downing a falafel pita and a bang lassie. There are several places to go out, but the most popular seem to be Buddha and Freedom bar in both of which we seem to end up in at some point every night. And the best of it all: they have electronic music! Yess!

Unfortunate for Kiru, he had to leave for Guatemala City after only spending one day in paradise. But better than nothing, right? We’ll see him back in Finland!

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One very awesome thing about this place is that there are loads of indigenous Maya Indians living here. Most of them, even many of the men, wear traditional colourful clothes and they all speak their own language. The language is really cool, it is just the kind of language you hear in your head when you imagine two Indians in the old times sitting there in their hut in the dark dressed in some animal fur speaking about their catch of the day. But they also speak Spanish apparently as their second language, which is good for us because otherwise the communication could be a little bit difficult. They must be admired for their ability to speak at least two languages and adapt to all the international tourists and expats mingling with their lives (well they take advantage of us too, like charging double the price for the boats). The thing I find very good is that in most hotels and restaurants, even if owned by foreign people, you find local people as the work force. This way we are contributing to helping the Mayas getting their share of the tourism. They seem to be very happy and friendly people, everybody always greet us when they see us on the street. But they are also very slow in all they are doing, especially in making food. Making a meal sometimes takes ages, so you should never be in a rush if you’re planning to eat at any restaurant here.
The women here seem to like to carry things on their heads. They walk around carrying sometimes amazingly big packages on their heads. The best thing, though, must have been the girl I saw yesterday; she was carrying three cartons of raw eggs on her head!

The four days before New Year’s Eve was like a warm up for the big party. Every night there was something happening and most of them we ended up finishing at Freedom bar. So by New Year’s Eve we were all prepared for the big celebration! We had earlier found a perfect spot in San Marcos La Laguna on the other side of the lake. So we headed there in the morning and spent a fabulous day in the sun drinking wine and enjoying the fantastic view. The evening continued with dinner at Buddha and party in Freedom and Zoola. One of the highlights was on the roof of Buddha, when a big hot air balloon was released up into the sky. It was Fabulous. By midnight the drum and base was pumping at Freedom and fire shows were awed by the dancing people. The night ended as usual in a drunken frenzy and around 6 o’clock people started to stagger back to their holes. Welcome 2009!

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After the celebrations we needed some good rest, so we retired to San Marcos La Laguna, the quiet hippie place on the other side of the lake. Here we have eaten some good vegetarian food and taken it veeery easy. This place is filled with all kinds of yoga-, meditation- and massage places so it is very easy to relax here.

The other day we did an interesting day trip to Santiago Atitlán, another town by the lake. There they have this statue of Maximón. Maximón is a god worshipped in the Guatemalan Highlands. He is believed to be a combination of the Mayan gods, the conquistador of Guatemala and Judas. People give offerings and ask for blessings from this god. We had a tuc tuc take us to the place where he was housed at the moment, and you could notice when we were getting close; drunken guys were staggering along the otherwise empty and dirty streets. When we got there we entered this room that was decorated with colourful ribbons and all kinds of other decorations. In the middle of the room was Maximon, a wooden statue dressed in human clothes with a cigar in his mouth. One guy was preaching something to Maximon and apparently his wife was sitting in front of the statue with similar clothes as the statue had. He was talking this native language so we didn’t have a clue what he was saying, but it seemed that he was asking for something and giving Maximon money in exchange. The rest of the room was filled with people drinking beer and laughing and joining the preacher with some assuring words every once in a while. When we entered the room we were immediatly handed a glass of beer and we joined the ceremony. Well I have seen all kinds of reasons to drink beer and get drunk during the day, but this must have been one of the best ones!

The new year’s celebrations never seem to cease here. Ever since we came here four days before New Year’s Eve until this day, firecrackers and very loud bombs of different kinds have been fired everywhere we have been, all the time. And it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, its always banging. And LOUDLY. You wake up at six in the morning and think world war three has started. I’m telling you, some of these motherfuckers are so loud that firing one back home would probably put you in jail for at least a month.

San Marcos La Laguna is place where you could get stuck for a long time. And many have; we have met people who just stayed and have been here for months or years already. I mean, what’s there not to like? Beautiful scenery, a refreshing lake to swim in, lots of good and healthy food, cheap massages and other therapies and nice people? (well maybe the firecrackers....) But as our time is limited we have to start moving. Bye bye Lago de Atitlán!

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Posted by AnnaMickus 07:33 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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