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Thursday, 5 February 2015

Leaving Mexico, heading to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Day 8

Today was another long travel day, particularly because we moving countries – in total about 12 hours to get from San Cristobal (Mexico) to Panajachel (Guatemala). After another eggs breakfast at the plaza café in San Cristobal, we climbed into a bus to drive to the Guatemala-Mexico border.

It’s a fairly drawn-out process so it was great that our guide sorted it all out for us…there are exit fees, entry fees, passport stamps, money exchanging and bus-changing / bag-carrying, followed by a long drive towards Lake Atitlán.  With occasional toilet stops to break up our journey.

It was dark by the time we arrived in Guatemala City before heading onto Panajachel (aka “Pana”) – the town we were staying at on the lake and our home for the next two nights. But I admired the sunset behind the volcanoes as we drove.


I didn’t really know anything about Guatemala before arriving, but it has had a tough history – it suffered through the end of the 19th century with instability and civil unrest, then a series of dictators followed in the 20th century, triggering a 10 year ‘Guatemalan Revolution’ from 1944. Then a civil war from 1960 until 1996 between the USA-backed government and leftist rebels, including a genocide of the Mayan population. The economic and political situations are more stable now but there are still high levels of crime and poverty.

They also have 'chicken buses' - retired American school buses which have a second life in Central America as public transport.  They are often 'pimped up' with colourful exteriors, lights and sound systems.  Their name is due to the fact the passengers may sometimes use them to transport animals such as chickens or that people are crammed into them like chickens!  There were plenty to be seen on our route.


We were heading for Lake Atitlán – the deepest lake in Central America and approx 12x5km big. It is known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, particularly as it is surrounded by dramatic volcanoes. We would have to wait until morning to see this for ourselves.

Panajachel is a lakeside town in the Guatemalan Highlands and is a popular tourist destination and good base camp for exploring the lake and the surrounding villages.

We ditched our bags at our hotel and headed out to explore. Most of the activity is on the busy main street (Calle Santander) – full of street food stalls, restaurants and bars.  We headed out for dinner on the main street. As we were near the lake, it seemed only appropriate to go for fish!


Followed by some drinking and dancing…just to ‘stretch’ after sitting on the bus all day. Along with shots and rum…
Quite a rum selection...


We went to Papa Rock – a place pumping out live music and Pitbull – just what we were in the mood for.

Central America
03.01.15

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