Climbing toward Solola, we passed through some beautiful countryside. Vertical fields of barley (I think) clinging to the steep volcanic slopes among the pines. Out of the windows of the bus, everything was tan and green, accented with golden piles of straw along the road, all accented by the pinks, scarlets, and purples of the ethnic Mayan women’s clothing.
The Guatemalan countryside seems cleaner than that of Mexico; not as much litter along the roadside, at least in this area. The people graze their sheep along edge of the road, so the the grass is short and neat, with no weeds sticking up.
The Mexican towns seemed funny. Everyone was always out washing and sweeping the sidewalks, but at the same time, everyone was always throwing trash on the sidewalks. You could never find a litter barrel, or a trash receptacle.
I got off of the bus at the turnoff to Panajachel (Pan-a-ha-CHEL), my next destination. It is a small town in the Guatemalan highlands, nestled beside Lake Atitlan. An Italian couple also got off the bus, and together we began walking down the road. The exercise was quite pleasant and welcome, after being so uncomfortably confined for hours on the bus seat. It was good to be able to work the cramps out of my legs while slowly taking in the landscape and occasional Indian peasant we passed on the road. There was a pleasant breeze and warm sunshine.
Soon my straps from my bags started cutting into my shoulders and the easy walk down the road became a hot climb up a slope, but onward we trekked, until fortunately, a French guy in a van came by and picked us up. He drove us all the way to Panajachel and Lake Atitlan.
I was quickly disappointed in Panajachel, I hadn’t expected it to be so touristy. The layout of the town seemed rather disjointed and convoluted. There seemed to be a lot of Mercedes and other expensive cars driving around, so it didn’t seem like the quaint Mayan-oriented town I had envisioned. Sadly, the two dramatic volcanos on the far side of Lake Atitlan, were partially obscured by smoke. Again, not exactly the pristine environment I had imagined.
I thought it would be nice to take a swim, but I could see no one else doing it, so I wondered about the water. Later I learned that swimming in Lake Atitlan included the risk of getting Hepatitus B—No Thank You.
After a long search, I did manage to find a very cheap hotel room ($3.30 US, a night). The bed was terribly soft and saggy, and the toilet had no plastic or wooden seat to sit on, so it is always a cold shock to your bare skin when it settled down on the cold porcelain rim of the bowl. I had to fix the flush on the toilet shortly after entering the room. Plumbing never seems to work in this part of the world.