Down to the lake

Friday, October 13th 2000

When we woke, though, we found it was really not a nice day. We decided not to climb that day, but we didn't want to hang around in Antigua any longer. We decided to leave for our next destination, and hope to return to Antigua with a couple of days to spare at the end of the trip to have another crack at Acatenango.

So we headed for our next point of call, Lago de Atitlán, formed in a cataclysmic volcanic eruption thousands of years ago and now surrounded by newer volcanic peaks. Having been in Guatemala nearly a week, we decided to brave the bus system for this journey, and we were glad we did. The buses were not crowded, they were safe, and the atmosphere was good as we chatted to locals. The only bad point was that each time we needed to change buses, the bus touts were so keen for our business that they would tell us that their bus was going where we wanted to go, even if it was actually going in the opposite direction.

Our first sight of the deep blue waters of the lake surrounded by towering volcanoes was breathtaking, and we had a long and incredible descent in the bus from the hills to the lake shore. We arrived in the lakeside town of Panajachel at about 3pm. Panajachel is probably Guatemala's most touristy town, so we made a rapid exit, jumping on a boat across the lake to the slightly calmer town of San Pedro la Laguna.

Every afternoon a wind known as the Xocomil rises to churn up the normally placid surface of the lake into large swells, so our boat ride was bouncy, and occasionally I wondered how strong the hull was, but we made it to the other side OK. As soon as we got off the boat, we were engulfed by people offering to guide us if we wanted to climb Volcán San Pedro, which looms behind the village. This was the main reason we had come here, so we asked around for a good rate. The more people in the group, the cheaper the cost, so we decided to try and recruit some other people for the climb.

We checked into a hotel right on the lake shore, with hammocks on the balconies and hot showers, all for £1.50 a night. We were surprised when Ashley, who we'd met in Nicaragua, emerged from a room near ours. Having been with us when we were defeated by Volcán Masaya, Ashley didn't hesitate to join us on our quest for the top. There were several other travellers staying at the hotel, and within a short time we'd put together a group of 11 people. We negotiated a rate for a guide, and arranged to leave at 5am the next day.

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