Matt enjoying beautiful San Pedro
We woke up at 4:30 am for a 4:50 am pick-up. We had quite the day planned, but nothing prepared us for what happened. We expected a day out on what we were told was going to be a chilly day out on a Atitlan Lake. Nothing could have been further from the truth! It was a crazy two hour drive through windy roads up and down steep inclines. We arrived in Panajachal just as the shops were starting to set up. After breakfast in a local shop we checked out items other shops were selling before heading out with our guide to get on our boat. It was a simple clean outboard, longer than most North American boats and it had a roof with open sides. The lake was incredible. There were three large volcanos that sloped into the lake with more visible out on the horizon. These were dormant volcanos covered in lush green vegetation. It was starting to get quite hot by now. Much warmer than Antigua! And with the sun reflecting off the water, it soon reached tropical warmth. A 45 minute boat ride took us to a small village on a steep hill, San Juan. Almost as soon as you walked 50 paces on land you were walking up a steep hill. The road went up this hill and into the town. The town was an arts town. Of all the towns it was the one with the painting and the textile shops. Each lake town had its own speciality. For this one it was art. the paintings were nice and well done, but we especially liked the weavings. In one of the ‘out of the way’ shops, we walked in and saw the ladies making the fabric. They make their own dyes and spin their own thread. Then there was an old lady working on a simple loom making beautiful patterns. We were impressed. These took a lot of time to make. Everything was done by hand the dyes were extracted from plants. Even their ‘silk’ was a fabric made from plant fibers. We bought a beautiful blanket, another piece with Mayan pictographs weaved into it, and then a scarf. San Juan was a quite town, very peaceful. We miss it the most.
After laying in the sun on the dock, our whole group arrived and we left for the next place, San Pedro. This place was more of a tourist town, lots of bars and restaurants, street vendors and advertisement for almost anything. Quite a few white people, as well. This town was known for its bars and the coffee. Apparently, the best coffee in the world.
The next town, Santiago, is where things got interesting. It was a fishing village. In the previous town, our guide, a short Mayan with greased hair, asked if we wanted to see a Mayan god. We thought he was asking us if we wanted to smoke pot with him in the next town because of his pot smoking hand signs with his thumb and fore finger. And he said we would have to leave the village. We both couldn’t understand him very well. We were hoping maybe there was a rock sculpture in the hills that that we could see. We told him politely we don’t smoke. Eventually he said that most of the group wanted to go, so we thought maybe it wasn’t about smoking pot so we decided to tag along and see what what we would be getting ourselves into. He called his connections to get us a taxi. The “taxi” came, it was pick up with bars to hold on too in the back. Those of our group who wanted to go piled into the truck box and drove through the town. We drove through tight alleys and streets, then along the lake before heading inland through the forest. After 15 minutes we came to a small family farm. In one of the small huts there were people milling about. Some were tourists, and some were Mayan locals. We thought we were meeting a friend of the quite to get permission to go see the rock statue or whatever it would be. But when we looked more closely we could see smoke billowing out the entrance to the hut. And as we got closer we could hear some sort of chanting. There were cheap party decorations that hung from the ceiling of the hut and shimmered in the fire light. For fire there were quite a few candle on the floor. Some were quite big, some small. Near the door there was a man and a woman kneeling on straw mats in front of the candles. The man was swing a tin can full of incense. That was where the smoke was coming from. Incense, not pot. We went in and sat down. Behind the candles was the Mayan god. It took me a second to see and realize what it was. It was a shaped like a man, but a man with out arms. It wasn’t very tall so maybe no legs either. Only four ft. It had 2 hats on and probably a dozen or more ties over its suit. It had a well carved wooden face. His name was Maximon. The story goes that a long time ago his village was going off to fight a battle. Maximon opted to stay behind and “protect the women”. When the warriors returned, they found all the village women to be pregnant. THey took Maximon and killed him. Cutting off his arms and such. This greatly upset the women and the men were forced to worhisp him and give him gifts of tobacco and alcohol. Every year Maximon would be moved to a new house, a new host. Behind the god, were a bunch of older men sitting at this table drinking and smoking. I suspect there were smoking pot, but wasn’t sure. Maximon is known for his smoking. They actually put cigarettes in his mouth and light them. Apparently he drinks too, but I have no idea how that works.
On the way back to Antigua we were told to take a different bus back that took a different route. Not knowing spanish meant being unsure if we were even going to actually end up in Antigua. Even thought we tired to ask as the response was always “Si, Si”. But we made it back just fine. We found a quiet place to eat then went to bed happy with our day.
Lots of plastic bottles floating in the lake. At first I thought it was garbage but learned it was for fishing nets.