After Antigua we took a shuttle up to the Lake Atitlan area. It’s a large beautiful lake surrounded by mountains reminiscent of Lake Tahoe, but without the snow. The history of this area is remarkable. The Spaniards made quite an impression on the area. Changing the names of numerous cities colonizing the natives and making the Catholic religion quite popular. What I thought was amazing was that the lake has no way for the water to leave. About four years ago it was a very wet year and the lake level rose about 15 feet. All along the shore line are submerged and partially submerged houses and buildings. When the lake level rises like that there is no choice but to back up the hill and rebuild on higher ground. The shuttle dropped us at Panahachel where we then took a boat to the other side of the lake to San Pedro. This is in the heart of Mayan country. There are multiple dialects of the Mayan language spoken around the lake along with Spanish, so I’m not sure why the language schools are so popular here, but they are. This time we had no idea what school we were going to, but we knew a few to check out. We stopped in to talk to several schools and hear about their programs. We ended up deciding on a school called The Language Hub and it was a good decision. Again we did the total immersion option were placed with local Mayan families. This time Anna and I stayed together, but so as not to hold Kylan back, he stayed with another family. Kylan’s host family had many kids, but he hit it off the most with the 18-year-old daughter named Lupe. Anna and I’s family had actually three generations of the family living there. The mother and father Maria and Pablo. Their son Juan, and one of their daughters, her husband and two kids. Juan was our guide, host, translator and just about everything else. He spoke some English which turned out to be quite helpful when we ran out of our limited Spanish vocabulary. I think Anna’s favorite part of the stay was the 6-year-old granddaughter named Maria. She was very cute and friendly and always made us feel like part of the family.
The living conditions here are not like anything you will find in the US. First off the house is not completely walled in. There are open pathways from the dining room to the outside walls of the next house. The only running water consisted of two spigots. One that poured into a large open sink sort of thing that you would dip a bucket in for water to flush the toilet or a small bowl in for water to wash your hands or brush your teeth. The other faucet was for the shower. But hot showers consisted mostly of dumping water over your head from the pail filled with water heated on the wood stove. Don;t get me wrong, we both really enjoyed our stay there and Juan and the host family were awesome. But I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t ready to get back to the type of living I’m more accustomed to.
One morning while in San Pedro, our host family took us for a hike up Indian Nose mountain to watch the sunrise. That meant catching whats called a chicken bus (never found out why) at 4:30 am. The chicken bus is one of the restored blue bird school buses that now look like they won an episode of Pimp My Ride. Lots of chrome, pretty colors and loud horns. It took us to another town up the side of the mountain. The road was so steep and the switchbacks so sharp that the bus had to back up on a couple of them to make the corner. This might not have been so bad had it not been on the edge of a cliff. It was a beautiful sunrise, but watching the fog roll in over the entire valley and surround the mountain we were on before rolling right on by and disappearing again as fast as it showed up was super spectacular. I think Anna secretly liked the hike up the side of the mountain in the pitch dark.
At the end of our week we made the all day journey back to Stray Catz to find her in desperate need of some open windows. No word yet on our anchor parts so we made a few repairs and took a buddy boat trip with our friends on Alecia Angelina up to Lago Izabel. At one of the anchorages we could see and hear the howler monkeys playing in the trees. At another one we took a short trip to see the hot springs waterfall. You swim in this cool stream over to where the 90 degree hot springs pours down over your head and body. Beautiful spot. We saw bats in a cave a huge toad and blue Morpho butterfly. A quick three-day trip into the lake which is huge 20 miles by 12. When we returned there was still no word on our anchor part, so we readied Stray Catz for a trip to Utilla, Honduras.