The shuttle from the airport took us to a tiny town called Antigua. We booked yet another shuttle to Lake Atitlan….and missed it! The departure time of 12:15 was lost in translation. Buying another ticket, we spent the hours getting lunch, a massage (for me) and pricing out scooter rentals (also for me lol). At 4 pm we departed for Santa Cruz.
Arrival at Lake Atitlan
On the shuttle, we met a man from Colorado. It was his first time in Guatemala too. He was heading to San Pedro, the little village across the lake from Santa Cruz (our destination). In San Pedro, he was doing a homestay to learn Spanish. Placed with a local family, they would provide his room, board and plenty of Spanish conversation. It lifts my heart when I meet people (especially Americans with the way things are lately) who are seeking out culture exchange.
After that, I slipped into a merciful Dramamine coma, as I was starting to become one with the Guatemalan roads – twisty, mountainous and dizzying. When I awoke it was dark out. The time was about 7pm when the driver shouted, “La Iguana!” That’s us! Time to get off. We followed the driver down a steep hill to a rickety dock. Directed to a boat, the captain helped us put our bags on atop while we shakily climbed inside (I’ve since gotten my sea legs and could board these things in my sleep).
Praying our bags would make it, we zipped across the lake. Shattering the black mirror of water beneath us, the breeze was cool and the passengers quiet. Except for the guy who sat next to me.
My family jokes that if we are the only customers in the entire restaurant, the next set of customers will, out of all that free seating, sit next to us. Seriously, its like a curse. I have the Hoffman-Allure even here it seems.
Initiated by a compliment to my dreadlocks, we chatted with a man who, as it turns out, is the resident musician at the hostel next to ours. When the boat slowed at a dock announced as “Santa Cruz!” he led us to his hostel where he introduced us to the owner (henceforth known as the Witch Doctor Man). They invited us to return the following night for ladies’ night. We never made it – a huge storm brought the power down right after dinner.
Arriving at our own hostel, La Iguana Perdida, we were escorted to our room by a gentleman from Cleveland, Ohio. Even now, countless states and countries south of home, it’s a small world. Entering our room, we changed into PJs and collapsed for the night.
The Iguana Family
We spent the next 6 nights as members of the Iguana Family. I say “family” because the hostel’s missive is an environment of interaction. No internet, nightly family-style dinners, plenty of activities (trivia/costume/open mic night) and intentional opportunities to make connections.
Our first connection was with a couple from London. They recognized my tattoos from various Hayao Miyazaki movies, which outed them as fellow nerds.
Side Story: On the way to Mexico, an elderly couple recognized my Burning Man tattoo since they’d been several times themselves! Burners are so nice. All I need now is a trekkie to recognize my communicator tattoo.
We only had one night together because they were leaving the next day – but it was probably the best night I’ve had on this trip so far. The conversation flowed like music across bars of politics, entertainment, travel stories, and an extended bout of life-threatening-laughter at a picture Hayden would prefer I didn’t share (but see below).
Laughter really is dangerous here. The elevated air is so thin that too much laughing simply ends in gasping. Note to self when traveling with Hayden in the future: avoid high elevation.
That night, we had an intruder come in through the window. Normally, one would not like to be joined in the night. But in this case, I was delighted to be encroached upon by the hostel’s resident feline, Chicago (though we didn’t know that was her name until the day we left. We called her Poco for “little”).
Nightly, Poco continued to slip in through the window for some face/pillow snuggles. I guess even she couldn’t tolerate the feel of the hostel bed springs poking you in your soft parts through the mattress. By the 6th night, we were ready to move on.
Casa Sweet Casa
Through conversation with other travelers, we learned that Costa Rica was going to be more expensive than initially estimated. It was even compared to New York! Yikes. Beaten down by the bumps in Mexico City, along with no desire to stress about money, we opted to look for a place where we could have our own kitchen and create an affordable extended stay. Venturing deeper into Central America was discussed, but the idea of reliving Mexico, or sleeping blanketed in the fear we felt in Guatemala City was a big deterrent. Lake Atitlan offers a safe, quiet, restful paradise where we felt no need to fix what wasn’t broken. Through Airbnb, we met a local couple who own three apartments just up the hill from The Iguana. All it took was a quick tour and amazing price to seal the deal.
To be continued ….