This morning we walked down to the shore of beautiful Lake Atitlán; it was overcast so our photos will not do it justice but this magnificent lake is encircled by three towering volcanoes (San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlán) and when waters are calm they reflect in its azure waters. With a depth of more than 1,000 feet, it is the deepest lake in Central America, formed by a powerful volcanic explosion more than 85,000 years ago.
No road rings Lake Atitlán so we traveled by boat to the lakeside village of Santiago.
Vendors swarmed us before we are even off the dock. “Hey lady, hey lady you want to buy, you buy from me, maybe later? I remember you, maybe later?” They would not leave us alone as we walked through the village.
Finally, Hector saved us by herding us all into the back of a pick-up truck, we couldn’t get in fast enough even though we had to stand holding onto a metal frame as the “taxi” bumped its way up a very steep side street to near the top of the village where we piled out – QUIET – at last, no more vendors!
We stopped at the entrance to an alley. Walking a little way into the dark alleyway we stopped in front of a home where Hector spoke to someone inside. It was another brotherhood home; we could peek in an open window where another Mayan brotherhood ceremony was taking place inside. Again, lit candles and offerings reminiscent of the brotherhood site we had seen near Panajachel yesterday surround the statue of Maximón, a dapper, gentleman in a black suit covered with textiles and a couple of sombreros and smoking a cigarette. More on Maximón in the Travelpod blog.
As we watched the ceremony I noticed a rather high pile of crates with empty bottles of rum or Quetzalteca grain alcohol, apparently offerings from supplicants. In fact, as we watched the shaman, on more than one occasion, removed the cigar from Maximón’s mouth and poured a drink of rum into his mouth . . . where did it go?
We emerged from the dark alley onto the street to continue our walk down hill toward the docks, still time for shopping. It isn’t very long before our vendors reappear and shadow us literally until the boat pulls away from the dock. Telling them NO gracias doesn’t work, saying NO doesn’t work, buying something from them doesn’t work, pretending they do not exist doesn’t work. Grrrrrrr
The church in Santiago is rather plain on the outside but oh my, set foot inside and behold; it is decorated for the upcoming All Saint’s day with colorful blue pieces of cloth draped from the ceiling, it is quite stunning. All along the sides of the church sit colorful statues of the saints.
Continuing down toward the water through the main plaza and market we still have time to browse through the shops along the way, gorgeous textiles and huipils, the traditional embroidered blouses worn by Mayan women. It was a feast of color.
We met the rest of the group back near the boat dock where they had stopped for a cold beverage and were surrounded by the young vendors who followed us back to the boat still insisting we buy. The village is interesting but I wouldn’t go back because of in your face, non-stop harassment by some of the vendors and children pushing their textiles and trinkets.
We continued by boat to the village of San Antonio Palopo, a small settlement lined with adobe homes where we had lunch at a family run second floor restaurant overlooking the lake, a large covered patio with an unobstructed view down the lake.
Under the restaurant, at street level, a shop of sorts with more textiles and a woman demonstrating the back strap loom and I purchased a table runner from her but not before Hector talked me into modeling the traditional clothing. The young lady helped me into a blouse then literally wrapped me up into one of their skirts until I could hardly breathe and she tied my hair with different piece of cloth. First impression was of how heavy and hot these clothes were but they are worn all the time in this region, at home, in the villages and to work the fields. I would die of heat stroke if I had to wear these for more than a few minutes and I did need help getting out of the outfit.
The van met us in San Antonio Palopo and we returned to Panajachel along the lakeside road, traveling through another quiet village. Back in Panajachel we had time to explore before dark and wandered the main street, down to the lakeshore and a few of the back streets. This is a very busy little place and it isn’t even high tourist season yet.
We were to have dinner on our own tonight but we have all become quite attached to one another, just a great group of people. Hector invited us to join him for dinner and so some of us did and it was so much fun. He took us a few blocks out of the main tourist area to a little bar with only a few tables but enough room for us. We were delighted, the menu . . . pupusas, everyone’s favorite by now so cervezas and pupusas, lots of laughs and even Oscar, our driver, joined us for a very fun evening.