So anxious for this weekend to come, and now it has come and gone! At 42 years of age I have a couple of summits under my belt. I am proud to say I have climbed Pacaya volcano four or more times, I have climbed Acatenango and Fuego volcanoes, and I have also climbed Ipala volcano ….the hardest ones, I must confess, I climbed over a decade ago. So this weekend, we had on our calendar to climb San Pedro volcano. Didn’t quite happen how we planned but the alternative was absolutely fantastic!
We started our road trip through the Panamerican highway stopping for a late breakfast at the famous Katok restaurant in Tecpan, Chimaltenango.
Although many restaurants have broken out around Katok, it must be said that this one was the original restaurant offering their own smoked hams, tortillas with melted Chancol cheese and their own sausages. Can’t really beat an original.
Swiftly passing through the one straight segment of this highway is relaxing to the eyes. The views are of extensive fields of vegetable patches. If you drive by early enough you can see the workers carrying their loads up to the trucks that will soon take them to the markets all over the larger towns and the city. I absolutely am fascinated by the skill and dedication that these farmers have and the enviable results they attain. So much so that I will leave more pics and info for a next post only about crops.
In a matter of an hour and a half we were very high up in the mountains and feeling a definite chill.
But in a few minutes we were in the sunshine again as we made our way down from “Los Encuentros” towards Sololá and then Panajachel.
(I try not to use filters or cut out too much of my pictures because I don’t believe in giving false impressions. This is a real view driving down towards Sololá.)
One of my most favorite things to see in Sololá that can hardly be seen anywhere else is the typical attire that older men still wear and some young men continue to wear. I love the wool kilt-type skirt they wear over their hand-woven pants. It truely is an amazing work of art that they are wearing every day.
Past Sololá, down a winding and steep road, we stop at the most breath-taking lookout. Seriously, what view could be better??! The entire lake visible on this sparkling November day, with the guardian volcanoes standing watch over the villages and towns dotting its beaches and the boats whizzing over the surface. See for yourself.
The volcano on the right is San Pedro…our goal for this trip. Is “breath-taking” the correct term, would you say?
After waiting for 10 minutes for our brakes to cool off (oops hee hee….really, no laughing matter) we continued our way cautiously down the increasingly steep road, passing the famous water fall and snapping some pics through the sunroof.
We entered the bustling town of Panajachel. Once known for its quaint Santander street where pedestrians were often surprised by passing cars and small, quiet restaurants, it is now known as a constantly growing, crowded town. Some of the landmark restaurants and bars still stand (like the Circus Bar pictured below) but most of the quaintness is gone as the town boasts at least 4 stoplights, 2 large supermarkets and an immense amount of bars, restaurants, hostals and hotels.
Was that a Coca-Cola Santa across the street? (did a double-take).
We arrived at the docks and decided not to wait for a public boat to take us across and took a private one over to San Juan La Laguna. Turned out to be a less bumpy ride than I expected especially since it was about 1:30pm and the infamous Xocomil (wind that comes down from the volcanoes, beginning around 12pm and worsens throughout the afternoon)was already doing it’s thing.
After checking in to our favorite hotel at San Juan, Pa’ Muelle, we spoke to our guide about the possibility of climbing San Pedro. He advised us about the recent events of people being hijacked on their way up and suggested we climb the Rostro Maya (Maya Face) which would take us a couple hours to reach the summit. Smaller groups tend to be an easier target for hijackers and we were 3 adults and 4 children. We took his advice.
Seemed easy enough. Can you see an outline of a profile made by the mountain?
After a leisurley stroll around town and a satisfying dinner at our favorite restaurant we settled in for the night.
Next morning we began climbing around 10a.m. arrived at the summit around 1:30p.m. and returned back down at around 3p.m. 2 hours?
Our guide was fantastic! Don Baldomero taught us which plants were edible, what trees had water in their trunks (when he cut it, it was like turning on a faucet), taught us about the fauna and even stopped to show us an epic battle between a large spider and a wasp…video was fantastic! (You can see it on our facebook page “GuateMayan Heritage“) As were the views the further up we went! And I thought views couldn’t get better!
I am going to allow myself a mommy-boasting moment: my kids made it through this whole hike without complaining and with such a great attitude! I won’t lie, there were moments (just as there were for us adults) where they wanted to throw in the towel but they were admirable. They hiked and hiked and still had the energy to run down ahead of us on our way down. They are fantastic kids!
On our way down we encountered many locals who hike up and down the trail daily. Some do it jogging where we were using walking sticks to prevent us from falling. One man passed us on our way down jogging and quickly told us he was rushing down to play soccer with his team! After that he would have to hike back up! >insert shocked emoji here< Other notable locals were a 10-year-old boy coming back from school and a 60 year-old grandmother.
On our way back across the lake we decided to take a public boat…oh-oh. They piled 20 people on the boat where I counted 9 lifevests. I know for a fact that most people on that boat did not know how to swim as they squealed in horror when the “capitan” hit a huge wave head-on and bathed us all. After that he slowed down and moved the boat closer to shore…good thing too because I was about to take over!
Good-bye Panajachel and Atitlán lake. Until next time.
On our drive back we made sure to stop at the local artisan shops linning the highway for some typical, handmade, seasonal Christmas decor made from organic sheep wool, corn husks and other local plants and sticks.
And a quick picture moment at the last lookout. What fantastic weather we had. November is, undisputably, the best month to travel for views and favorable weather in Guatemala. Hope to see you here soon!!