Sunday, November 10, 2013

Put this in your Funk and Wagnall's.

Volcan Atitlan from Hotel Jardines del Lago
I must be a tough sell.  Lago de Atitlan proclaims itself to be one of the dozen most beautiful lakes in the world but it didn’t work for me.  Based on the sheer beauty of the place it may be true but add the largest town, Panajachel, and you get a noisy, trinket hawking pit. Pana, as it’s called, is the picture next to the phrase “tourist trap” in your dog eared Funk and Wagnall’s.

Pedro played me like a violin when he sold me a private boat trip to San Marcos and San Pedro.  “It’s only $50 more than the public launch and you’ll get to San Marcos in 30 minutes instead of two hours”, he said. “Then you’ll get to San Pedro so fast you’ll have time to tour a coffee finca or share a bong with some naked twenty year old hippy chick.” I paraphrase.
Approaching San Marcos
What I got was his nine year old mini-me, Andres, who tried to extract my last dollar for $5.00 post cards and $50 weavings worth $12 back in Pana.  When the kid took me to his casa his mother, the lovely Rosa, floated the aforementioned price and when I asked for her lowest price her eyes glazed in disbelief and she turned mute.  And that, friends, was the end of the road for me. Yes, I am a rube and I’ve been hustled out of my shorts.

My eyes bulged and my face flushed when I told the kid to take me back to the boat “ya.” That means already and already is even sooner than now.
Peace and love in San Marcos
San Pedro
San Pedro
Cerveza at the Sunset Cafe
Thankfully the embarrassment of being flummoxed by a nine year old and paying twice as much for half the time was short lived.  And after a perfectly decent Pasta Putanesca and a couple of glasses of good Chilean vino tinto that evening I tore up my non-refundable ticket back to Antigua and arranged to leave Panajachel early by seven hours. The armpit of Atitlan was squarely in my rearview mirror as it deserved to be.

On the plus side I had some serious Atitlan coffee in San Pedro and even better Hue Hue at the redoubtable Crossroads in Pana. Crossroads which is owned by a perfectionist New Yorker and his South African wife, Adele, is a house roasting shrine to great coffee and might have been worth the trip to Atitlan by itself.  A coffee pilgrimage to Guatemala would be killer, and I mean that in a good way.

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