World Travel

Panajachel, boat ride on Lago de Atitlan

10. April (Tuesday): We awake early, leave our bags at the hotel and set off to find our boat for the lake tour.

Amazingly enough, no one is sitting right at the front of the boat, so we sit there because it's a real great vantage point to see the scenery around us.

It's really wonderful to be on the water and to see a volcano on the left (Volcan Tolimñn, 3134m) and another straight in front. The largest volcano is called Volcan Atitlñn on the left side at 3134m, hidden by Tolimñn in front of it.

Volcanoes and villages at 'Lago de Atitlan'
Vulkane und Dñrfer beim 'Lago de Atitlan'
Volcanoes and villages at 'Lago de Atitlan'
Volcan San Pedro Locals swimming at San Pedro
Volcan San Pedro
Locals swimming at San Pedro

The volcano right in front of us called Volcan San Pedro (3020m) and it gets more impressive as we near it. It has the typical conical shape of a volcano.

We land in the first village also called San Pedro and are give some time to visit it.

We first have a coffee at a restaurant near the water and then set out uphill to a viewpoint over the village and the lake, watching the local Mayas in their colourful traditional clothes and going into the local market where all sorts of produce and animals are sold.

Idyllic San Pedro The highest volcano in the mist, Volcan Atitlan
Idyllic San Pedro
The highest volcano in the mist, Volcan Atitlan

The boat then takes us to the next village called Santiago and this is the most interesting of the three villages. There are two not-to-be-missed sights there: The first is the local church, which is striking inside as it is somewhat like a large shed with no chairs or benches whatsoever. The walls are lines with large holy figures which are clothed by the locals each year in normal garments making them look quite special. They're wearing all sorts of scarves, shirts, etc. The altar is a strange mixture of Christian and Mayan figures.

At bustling San Pedro Market Entrance to Santiago church
At bustling San Pedro Market
Entrance to Santiago church

The second sight is the shrine of Maximon, who is actually the god of evil but is worshipped in a number of towns. He gets a new 'home' each year when a new local family vacates a room of their flat to house him. Annewien got a map from the tourist centre where to find his this year's residence, but we are pestered all the time by kids who want to show us the location for a tip. Since we're not willing to support children begging for money, we always deny help. Even without a map just following the stream of tourists should lead to the shrine. One boy is insistent and just won't be shaken off, so I let him tag along.

We enter a small house and there, inside, is the shrine. It is e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y strange, almost out of this world.

Maximon himself has been taken out into his noon procession, so the chair in which he sits is empty. There are Christmas lights blinking erratically all over, with chimy, tinny music playing weird notes. Offerings of fruit, money etc. and some decorations in an otherwise bare room adds to the atmosphere. I don't feel I'm on planet earth anymore.

Link: Here's an Online Maximon Shrine (!) with links to more Maximon pages.

Inside strange Santiago church Figure in Santiago church re-dressed each year by village women
Inside strange Santiago church
Figure in Santiago church re-dressed each year by village women

I'd like to take a picture but am foolish enough to ask. A man says he would like 10Q for pictures. That's way to high so I just ignore him.

When we leave the boy pesters us for a tip and keeps following us in the hope that we would give in. We're steadfast and he finally leaves when he finds some other tourists he can take to the shrine.

Maya god inside Santiago church mixes religions In Santiago
Maya god inside Santiago church mixes religions
In Santiago

We walk back to the boat and at the landing buy some delicious corn-on-the-cob. On the boat I stand on the boom in front of it for quite a long time and it's great to watch the water rush by below and to feel the wind blowing in my face.

Maya girls at entrance of San Antonio church San Antonio Church
Maya girls at entrance of San Antonio church
San Antonio Church

Our last boat stop is the village of San Antonio, which is up on the side of a hill by the water and is by itself a very nice sight from the boat.

There are more hawkers here wanting to sell us souvenirs, we visit the local church and watch the locals and tourists mingle.

Contemplating the view over Lago de Altitlan Says this car was a "Regalo de Dios" (gift of God)
Contemplating the view over Lago de Altitlan
Says this car was a "Regalo de Dios" (gift of God)

Then it's time for our trip back to Panajachel. I'm quite tired and take a nap to be awoken by Annewien saying that we've reached Panajachel. What a wonderful day!

Volcanoes around Lake Atitlan at sunset On the boat on the Lake
Volcanoes around Lake Atitlan at sunset
On the boat on the Lake

We have dinner and then return to our room at Larry's place.

Continue to 11.4 Panajachel