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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Guatemala Part 7

    Thursday, September 7, 2017
    Panajachel, Guatemala

    Sign, sign, everywhere a sign in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    Sign, sign, everywhere a sign in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    The Restaurante Casablanca in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    The Restaurante Casablanca in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    “Lago de Atitlan (Atitlan means “at the water” in the Nahuatl language) is a lake in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range, in the Solola Department of southwestern Guatemala. Lago de Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of about 340 meters (1,120 feet) and an average depth of 220 meters (720 feet). Measuring in at approximately 12 kilometers wide x 5 kilometers tall, the lake is shaped by deep surrounding escarpments and three volcanoes on its southern flank. The lake basin is volcanic in origin, filling an enormous caldera formed by an eruption 84,000 years ago.

    Layered colors on a wall in Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    Layered colors on a wall in Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    A pharmacy and a general store in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    A pharmacy and a general store in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    “The culture of the towns and villages surrounding Lake Atitlan is influenced by the Maya people. Lake Atitlan is renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and is Guatemala’s most important national and international tourist attraction. German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt called it “the most beautiful lake in the world,” and Aldous Huxley famously wrote of it in his 1934 travel book Beyond the Mexique Bay, “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Lake Atitlan is Como with the additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.”–Wikipedia

    The Iglesia San Francisco in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    The Iglesia San Francisco in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    Devotees walk backward on their knees while praying in the Iglesia San Francisco in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    Devotees walk backward on their knees while praying in the Iglesia San Francisco in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    “Panajachel is a town in the department of Solola in the southwestern Guatemalan Highlands, less than 90 miles from Guatemala City. The elevation of the town is 1,597 meters (5,240 feet), and although the population was 11,000 in the 2000 census, it’s estimated to be as high as 15,000 now. The town of Panajachel is located on the northeast shore of Lake Atitlan, and has become a center for the tourist trade in the area, as it provides a base for visitors to cross the lake to visit other towns and villages. The name Panajachel derives from the Kaqchikel language, and roughly translates to “place of the Matasanos,” the white sapote fruit tree.”–Wikipedia

    A happy trash can on the shores of Lago de Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala.
    A happy trash can on the shores of Lago de Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala.

    Comedor don Wilo in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    Comedor don Wilo in downtown Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    Today, I just relaxed and walked around the town of Panajachel shooting photos. One unusual thing I witnessed was in a Catholic church called the Iglesia San Francisco, where in the center aisle two devotees walked backward on their knees very slowly while quietly intoning a prayer. They actually made it from the altar all the way back to the last row of benches. Then they proceeded all the way forward to the altar again!

    Boats bob in the water at Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.
    Boats bob in the water at Panajachel, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

    The shore of Lago de Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala. Note the two volcanoes in the upper left.
    The shore of Lago de Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala. Note the two volcanoes in the upper left.

    Late at night, while I was sitting in bed surfing the web, the whole building began to shake. Seeing as how not many–if any at all–buildings in this part of the world are assembled following any kind of safe building code (much less earthquake proof), I bolted up out of bed and out onto the front porch, ready to dash down the stairs and away from the hostel if the shaking continued. Fortunately, after 30 seconds or so, the earthquake subsided, and both the building and myself were still in one piece. Whew! That was a close one! Seems that the earthquake was centered in a subduction zone 54 miles off the coast of Chiapas, Mexico, an area I’ll be passing through next month. I sure do hope the tremors are over for now.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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