It’s been a hot Guatemalan minute since Whohn Brose dropped a blog post for the fans, but we assure you it’s only because we’ve been having such a wonderful time on Lake Atitlán. The journey from Livingston to Atitlán was a long one—14 hours in all—but we did it in one day without incident despite the horror stories we heard about people getting stuck on buses overnight.
After lots of movement over previous few weeks, we were very much looking forward to more than three weeks exploring four different pueblos along Atitlán’s shores. Go figure we woke up in Panajachel on our first full day feeling totally zapped by colds.
Coming down with an illness was a surprisingly welcome occurrence, because it forced us to slow down and take a much needed break. Fortunately, our Airbnb in Pana offered the perfect setting to lay low for a few days. Quiet, private, and cozy, we had a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and garden patio all to ourselves.
For the first few days in Pana, our only time leaving the apartment was to visit the bustling produce market or one of several tortillerias that were just a stone’s throw away. The market was the real highlight, though, as we were treated to an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables at an unbelievable price. Three days of homemade meals with some of the freshest produce we’ve had in Central America really helped to get us back on our feet.
After our recovery was complete, we spent our last two days in Pana exploring street vendors down by the docks. This was a particularly victorious experience for Whit, as she was in hot pursuit of a Guatever tank top. Unfortunately, John regrets not having purchased the woven textile tie he had been eyeing for a couple days.
The best part of moving between different places along Lake Atitlán is that they are all a short lancha ride away. Whohn Brose will take a 14-minute lancha ride over a 14-hour bus ride any day! Cruising from Pana to Santa Cruz la Laguna felt like a walk in the park comparatively, and we were happy to discover that our accommodations were lakeside rather than way up high on the side of the hill with the rest of Santa Cruz.
Our five days in Santa Cruz—technically somewhat between Santa Cruz and Jaibalito—were spent glamping (glamour camping) on a killer piece of property with its own dock and lake access. Our tent felt like luxury compared to our treehouse hostel in Livingston, as it was much roomier and also more comfortable.
Truth be told, Santa Cruz doesn’t have a whole lot going on by itself. The one day we took a tuk tuk up the steep hill into the seemingly vertical cliffside village—a terrifying ride, if you can imagine—we discovered the town has just two places to eat. After parking it on the sidewalk to watch Santa Cruz host a neighboring village on the basketball court in the central square, we settled on the only restaurant of the town’s two that was open.
The restaurant was super tasty, and it turns out it’s run by local culinary students who use the cafe as a way to raise money for their education. We were happy to support the cause—and both of our lunches were absolutely delicious! This turned out to be our only meal in Santa Cruz, with the rest of our dining experiences taking place family-style at our glampground.
It might sound boring to spend five days in a glampground without much to explore in town, but we never felt like we were lacking. Between exploring nearby Jaibalito and hiking up to a waterfall in the Secret Valley, as well as time spent simply parking it on the dock to swim and sunbathe, we experienced a lovely mix of action and relaxation.
Mornings on Lake Atitlán are very tranquil, with the wind and waves turning up from zero to 60 like clockwork in the afternoons. This made for peaceful mornings in which John could go for a run and Whit could practice lakeside yoga under the instruction of a really cool guy who moved down to Guatemala from Vermont. In fact, one morning even John got in on some yoga action—his first-ever class! Whit was stoked to say the least, as she’s been begging John to come to yoga for years.
One of our most special days in Santa Cruz was on Whit’s mom’s birthday, which turned out to be one of the calmest and clearest days on Atitlán Whohn has had the pleasure of enjoying. In honor of the occasion, we took a kayak out on the lake to get a better look at Volcáns San Pedro and Tolimán. Once in the middle of Central America’s deepest lake, we took some time to spread some of Whit’s mom’s ashes and John’s grandparents’ ashes, and to a say a few words. It was an endearing way to remember Shawna and keep her alive in our hearts.
We returned to our glampground in the afternoon and set our sights on the free cerveza that comes with the kayak rental to toast a day well spent. On our final evening of glamping we sat down to a BBQ dinner with some new friends that we hope to see in Nicaragua next month.
During our week in Santa Cruz we saw many people extend their stays, and on our final morning we felt the urge to do so as well. Pero eso no fue posible, porque la escuela de español comenzó a lunes en San Marcos. ¡Adios, Santa Cruz! y hasta pronto, San Marcos.