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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Guatemala Part 6

    Wednesday, September 6, 2017
    Antigua to Panajachel, Guatemala

    My bed at the Yellow House in Antigua, Guatemala.
    My bed at the Yellow House in Antigua, Guatemala.

    Today, I packed up my backpack and reluctantly pried myself out of the awesome Yellow House in Antigua to hop on a shuttle van bound for the town of Panajachel on the shores of Lago de Atitlan a couple of hours west. After circling around the bumpy cobblestone streets of Antigua to pick up a few more travelers, the van surprisingly only got half way full.

    Now let’s talk about the van driver’s driving technique. It was the stuff of nightmares. In town, every single time he accelerated, he punched the gas pedal so hard it made my head snap back violently. Likewise, whenever he had to slow down, he of course slammed on the brakes as hard as possible. These actions forced every passenger in the van to be captive victims of a constant back-and-forth rocking motion that annoyed the crap out of me.

    After we made it out of town, we merged onto the open highway heading up into the mountains. Up there, the back-and-forth nightmare was replaced by the driver careening around hairpin curves down winding mountain roads at breakneck speeds. I’m not exaggerating when I say that all four tires were screeching around every curve.

    A little bit of bus chaos as seen from a shuttle van in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.
    A little bit of bus chaos as seen from a shuttle van in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

    Occasionally, he even did it after driving through wet patches on the road. I’m surprised the van didn’t tip over and fly off the side of a cliff. I was so pissed the whole way, I wanted to smack the driver’s face with a big chunk of sheared-off tire tread. I was sitting right behind him, and I said out loud that he was driving too fast, but that had no effect. Maybe he doesn’t speak much English.

    Getting closer to the lake, we passed through a town filled with extremely narrow alleys on hills that were so steep, they would make the inclines in San Francisco blush. I’m surprised we made it down through there intact. We narrowly missed running over a girl who darted out from a side alley. Leaving that town, we descended more hairpin turns toward Panajachel, all the while enjoying some spectacular views of Lago Atitlan and the volcanoes. Luckily, this road had speed bumps and thus slow traffic, which helped us to arrive in town safely in one piece.

    After the driver dumped us out at a lefthand corner down by the lake, I was puzzled to see that my backpack was soaking wet, even though I had a rain cover on it. (The rain cover does not cover the side with the straps.) I found it hard to believe that the back door of the van had leaked when it was raining. Later, I found out that the spout of my water bottle had caught on something and broken off, which allowed all of the water to leak out onto my backpack.

    A jazz band plays in a cafe in Panajachel, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala.
    A jazz band plays in a cafe in Panajachel, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala.

    Heading out in search of a hostel with wi-fi, I somehow accidentally passed by my first choice, Hotel Posada Vinas del Lago, down by the water. So, I circled around to Hospedaje Garcia. Oddly enough, no one was around there to welcome me, plus I spotted a stack of rebar laying on the ground, which meant there was some construction going on.

    And you know what that means: a bunch of pounding and grinding noise is going to go down every day all morning and afternoon. So, I got the heck out of Dodge. Finally, I found my way to the Hospedaje El Viajero, where I scored a private room with two beds and a bathroom inside for only $14.00 per night. The bedroom and bathroom looked clean, but there was a strong smell of mold in the bathroom.

    Next, I went for a walk to check out the town. The main drag, Calle Santander, was completely packed wall-to-wall with the exact same souvenir and clothing stalls, hotels, restaurants and bars that you see everywhere else. A late lunch of a typical Guatemalan meal consisting of eggs, beans, fried plantains, bananas, watermelon and small tortillas was followed an hour or two later by dinner at a different place consisting of the exact same thing!

    Dinner at Restaurante Santander in Panajachel, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala.
    Dinner at Restaurante Santander in Panajachel, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala.

    It was interesting that the meal cost 30 quetzals at the first place, but only 20 at the second. But the second place was an open air affair, which allowed two or three different souvenir hawkers to pester me while I was eating. One even had the gall to call me a bad person for not buying anything from her. Oh, also when I was walking around town, it started pouring rain, forcing me to seek shelter under the tarp at a food stall, where I bought some bananas and apples. After a while, I got tired of waiting, so I tromped back through the rain to my room, dodging motorcycles, cars and tuk-tuks the whole way.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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