Crossing El Lago - Santiago & San Pedro

The plan for Wednesday morning was to head across the lake to visit a couple of small towns. The wind was up a little first thing and that made us nervous. Waves can get big on the lake when pushed by a strong breeze. We decided to head down to la playa to see how things were looking for getting on a boat. Bill phoned Lynn, a friend and next-door neighbor, to see if he wanted to come along. When he showed up we headed to Panajachel, dodging potholes and respecting speed bumps as we went.

We found when we got to the harbor that the wind wasn't too bad. We didn't have to go far when we were approached by an enterprising boat owner offering his services. Bill negotiated a 3-hour tour (shades of Gilligan's Island!) that was only slightly more than what we'd pay to use one of the regular public ferry boats. The tour was to include 3 towns and sufficient time for us to eat lunch in one of the towns. The captain, Mario, led the way to his boat.


We were amazed when we boarded the boat to find that it had captain's chairs like you'd find in a van bolted onto the regular benches of the boat. Neither Bill nor Lynn had ever seen such a commodious craft! Bill boarded as Mario steadied the boat.

Here are shots of Merrie and me in our seats, ready to cross the lake.


First stop, Santiago, the largest city on the lake. We approached the dock after a cruise of 30-45  minutes--it's a big lake.


We headed up the pier after disembarking. Bill had negotiated a new deal with Mario on the crossing. The new deal had more time and a slow cruise around the perimeter of the lake to check out the fancy houses on the way back to Panajachel. It was about $10 each and we all agreed to kick in that amount. This is one of the main streets in town. You can see there was no shortage of goods offered for sale.


I bought a knitted wool cap with earflaps, pigtails, lining, and a ball on top. I modeled it later in Bill's living room and Merrie snapped this shot.


We didn't get far before finding a shop with a prominent mask display. Masks are big in Guatemala. These were unusual, not like the typical ones you see with a stylized jaguar. The missing space in the display is because Lynn was taking a look at a really good-looking mask that he ended up buying.


The faces of these masks resemble the figures you see on the carvings at Mayan ruins like the ones at Tikal. I was wearing a Day of the Dead T-shirt with two skeletons dancing. I showed the shirt to the young man running the shop and told him I liked skeletons. He rummaged around a little and came up with this hinged beauty, now a part of my collection:


We pressed onward into the town. Bill recommended we see the church. It's located on a large square, used on holidays for processions where church members carry statues of holy figures around like maharajahs on thrones. On the way to the church we saw this display of pineapples for sale along with furniture. Note the dress of the women in the photo. Each town has its own color patterns for the clothing worn by the residents. 


We crossed the square and approached the church.


The columns of the church were draped in purple because we were in Lent. Inside the church the decorations were dominant.


We left the church and headed back toward the pier, stopping and climbing the stairs to visit the second-floor mercado.


Before we boarded the boat we needed a restroom. We saw one advertised prominently on a storefront and paid a quarter each to visit the facilities. They were lavishly decorated, I thought as I passed this staircase.


In the street while waiting for my compadres to gather a woman approached with goods to sell. We weren't interested in the merchandise so she offered a demonstration of how she fixes her elaborate head dress. Here's a video I took of the process.

It was time to move on to the next stop, the city of San Pedro. This smaller town used to be known as a "hippie hangout". You can still see a number of counter-cultural types hanging around. Bill had previously been to a restaurant called Zoola he thought we'd enjoy--one with vegetarian options. While he asked directions I stopped in a souvenir shop and bought a small painting of the lake. This same scene was rendered in numerous colors including day-glo orange and green. I went for the natural look.


We went on under Bill's capable leadership, had to ask directions again from a street-side vendor, and finally found the restaurant. Zoola, according to the sign on the street that pointed the way down a path, is not only a restaurant but also the home of "the most dangerous happy hour in Central America". It was lunch time so we figured we'd be okay. It was hard to miss the restaurant when we wandered a little way up the path.


Bill and Merrie looked over the menu while we settled ourselves on the pillows on the floor. It wasn't a Chinese restaurant so the low tables had to be a hangover from the hippie era.


Lynn and I ordered cervezas. I ordered a Mediterranean plate that turned out to be a lot of food, all good. Here's a picture of three amigos waiting for the food to arrive.

Lynn, Bill, Ivan

Lynn, Bill, Ivan

It took quite a while for the food to come. By the time we paid and found our way back to the dock we'd decided to head back to Panajachel. I stretched out in my comfortable captain's chair, put my feet up, and promptly slept most of the way back. Even though the lake was choppy and the boat would occasionally hit the waves hard. 


After I took this picture I shoved my camera into my pocket where I usually had to dig to get it out. This time it decided to bounce out of the pocket and to stay on the boat. More on that in the next post.

By the time we got back we'd been gone for 5+ hours, a very good value for our money. I gave Mario a nice tip to go with my share of the fare. It was about 2:30 so we figured the tire and rim would be ready. When we dropped by the shop I learned that the tire was done and was "on its way" to the shop. It would be there in 20 minutes. We knew Guatemalan time was flexible. We decided not to wait but to return prior to the open mic we planned to attend that started around 7 PM. My guy at the shop said he worked until 7 so no problem with picking it up later.

Surprise, when we came back it had arrived from the off-premises place where the rim had been straightened. The two dings were completely gone and the inside of the tire had been painted. Very sweet! And it only cost another $30. That's the end of the tire saga. My guy put it in the trunk and I paid him, plus a tip for the service. The rental car guy had told me just the tire replacement would be $155 and he didn't know about the damaged rim. It was definitely worth all the back and forth to get the tire replaced and the rim fixed in Panajachel.

Open mic that  night was low key. It was in a dark, open-air bar/restaurant close by the noise of the street and receptive to chilly breezes blowing in. The audience was made up of other musicians waiting their turns. Bill and I played a couple of tunes each, then played a couple as a duo. Highlight of the night was a street dog howling in tune with harmonica breaks played by Steve, the moderator of the session, a regular performer around town.

We drove back to Santa Catarina on the nearly-deserted road and turned in after a long day of touristical and musical adventure.

Hasta luego!