Tuesday, October 03, 2006

day #3: the day i had magical powers (well, not really...but that guatemalan woman thought i did!)

tuesday we decided to try and do this hike between a couple of pueblos on the other side of the lake. we wanted to go from jaibalito to san pedro la laguna. san pedro is on the opposite side of the lake as panajachel, on the western side of volcán san pedro (santiago is on the eastern side). we got a public boat that would take us to jaibalito and we were the only ones on it at first and the trip was like two seconds long and we were like – we got screwed on that trip. but actually, we were just on the other side of panajachel and were picking up passengers that were waiting for the boat there. so this is where we had the unfortunate luck to meet the most obnoxious tourist i’ve seen so far (well, except for that american dude i saw in ataco who was walking around drinking a beer and said to the owner of one of the artesenias about a small chair sitting out front of the store “that’s pequeño, right?” in this thick southern accent. i was mortified! the owner was like “what?”) anyway, this woman and he should be a couple because they were both insufferable. she’s wearing this spectacularly clean white outfit with a designer scarf wrapped around her neck. her face is caked in makeup, frosted hair (come on! when has frosted hair been “in” at any time in the last 20 years?), she’s got on these sunglasses that are straight out of la dolce vita or something. she was just asking to be punched. her boyfriend/husband/whatever lugs her stuff onto the boat and she sits between courtney and i in the front bench of the boat. so we take off and she whips out this gigantic digital camera and is making her boyfriend take pictures of her with the lake in the background. then, we got to another little town on the lake and she gets up because some guy needs to get off. then she just stands there at the front of the boat like she’s relaxing and stretching out and she doesn’t go back to her seat between courtney and i. so eventually, this guatemalan who had just walked up gets on the boat and sees the empty seat between us and sits down and she goes “excuse me, i sit there” in english, using these weirdo hand motions to the guy. so the guy gets up and moves back a seat – next to HER boyfriend - and courtney and i are like “seriously?” and then she doesn’t even sit down right away, she continues to stand there. so the boat takes off again and she sits back down and then she starts asking me questions and i’m like “god, whatever.”

she irritated us so much that we completely forgot that we were getting off in jaibalito and the boat passed that dock. but it worked out for us because the hike from jaibailito to san marcos would have taken us up and over these mountains that we weren’t prepared for – no hiking shoes, no real energy for it.

courtney at the panajachel dock, standing in-between the volcánes tolimán (on the left) and san pedro (right). volcán atitlán is behind volcán tulimán.

me being a tourist

volcán san pedro

mountains surrounding the lake - we´re on our way to san marcos in the boat

anyway, so then we get to san marcos and that woman is like “san marcos? san marcos?” just totally annoying. so we get off there and make our way to the road that leads to san pedro la laguna and start walking, the whole time talking about how irritating that woman was. san marcos was a nice, quiet little pueblo. but there were lots of little hotels that looked like they were expensive and upscale...spas and retreats and such. it kind of reminded me of santa fe or maybe sedona, arizona. they were all hidden amongst the trees and such, no big buildings or anything. i suppose san marcos would be a nice alternative to panajachel, but still – the smell of tourism was in the air, and i just didn’t like it. we walked down the road and courtney needed to find a bathroom so we walked into this restaurant that looked really upscale called the blind lemon. i thought maybe we could just get a coffee or something, courtney could use the bathroom and we’d be on our way. so we go in there and nobody’s there, but there’s this big, golden retriever napping on the front steps. then we see this older guy in the garden area and he says “hi” to us. so we sit down and he comes over and starts asking us where we’re from, in english. this guy is the owner, he’s from the states and he starts telling us the story of how he ended up there. his wife was a peace corps volunteer in guatemala back in the 70’s and they met after her service and she wanted to return to guatemala so they moved to the lake to live. then she died and he got the property where the restaurant is now and built it up and that’s basically where he was now. he kept telling us that all the people that live here think tourism’s great and it’s really improved their lives and all that. which i suppose is true to an extent. but it’s weird – like on the boat ride to san marcos, we passed these huge homes that looked like they’d be featured in architectural digest or something – square boxes with big windows and what-not. and the juxtaposition of those houses with the typical guatemalan homes just looked so odd. there were a couple houses that had towers that looked like they belonged to castles back in the middle ages in england. huh? then they’d have a hammock hanging out front. i mean, i guess it’s up to the person who owns the property to design a home however they want, but it’s like – why recreate your home wherever your home country is when you’re not living there? i don’t understand. there is this area just outside of apaneca that’s called “suiza” because there are about eight townhomes that look like swiss chalets. they look so odd amongst the normal salvadoran houses. i don’t know. i mean, why come all the way to el salvador to build a house that looks like every other house in your home country? i guess i should stop trying to figure out these things. it makes my head spin.

anyway, this restaurant, the blind lemon, was the same thing. it was pretty, but the walls were covered with things about the united states: blues singers, old advertisement posters for chicago and new york and miami, etc. it was like – what does this at all have to do with guatemala or lago atitlán or anything? finally we left there and exited the gate and that golden retriever started following us. the owner was nowhere around but i didn’t give much thought to it because i figured the dog would follow us a little way and then go back to the restaurant. well, it followed us and followed us and followed us and the whole time, obviously, we were getting farther and farther away from san marcos. we didn’t want to take the dog back because we didn’t want to walk all the way back. finally, we see this old woman and kid coming towards us. she’s selling apples and oranges that didn’t look too good, but i wanted to ask her if she’d take that dog back with her or see if she could tell that owner that his dog was following us. so i bought an apple from her for a quetzal and we explained the story about the dog. they try to get the dog to follow them, but it didn’t want to go with them. so her son, or grandson, i don’t know, decides that maybe they could use his belt for a collar and they can hold the dog until we were gone and then it would follow them. so he tries to do that, but the dog won’t sit still. so i’m like “sit, sit!” to the dog, in english, and it does what i say. and you should have seen the look on that old woman’s face. i bet she thought i was a witch or something because that dog sat down when i said something to it. people here don’t teach their dogs stuff like that – most of the time their dogs are wild and are really only used for protection of their houses. but i knew that golden retriever would know commands because his owner was american. after that, that old woman didn’t want to get near that dog and kept looking at me funny. finally, we tried to explain the restaurant (“se llama ciego limón!”) and to tell the owner where his dog was and we just left. the whole time courtney’s making fun of me because i bought one of those gross apples.

me and our new friend who turned out to be a pain in the ass!

view from the lake on the road just outside of san marcos

i have to admit, as much trouble as this dog made for us, he was damned cute

that´s san pedro la laguna in the distance, at the foot of volcán san pedro

a roadside memorial to two guatemalans

so we continued our walk with our new amigo and had a great time just getting good views of the lake. the water seemed a different color this time, more turquoise and it was beautiful. there were no other tourists on the road and it was really tranquilo. we came into this pueblo called san pablo la laguna and once we entered town, we caused quite a stir because of “our” dog. all these dogs came out and were barking like crazy and trying to attack the golden retriever and like all golden retrievers, it just cowered away. everyone in town was staring at us and it was totally embarassing. we were like “why is this happening to us?” as we tried to leave town these other dogs came out and were growling and barking at not only the dog, but us too and it was kind of scary. i picked up a stick and we both were like “chucho! chucho!” so they’d back off and finally we were able to get out of there. guess we made an impression on that town.

down the road we came to a long road that we could see led to the shore of the lake and all of a sudden the dog starts running towards the lake. so we decided that i’d go down and follow it and try to bring it back up and courtney would stay at the top of the road in case the owner came by or something. why we were taking responsibility for this dog, i haven’t the slightest idea. so i go down this road, through this corn field and finally get to the lake shore and there’s these two travelers down there playing with the dog. they asked me if it was my dog and i said no and then explained the story. they said it would probably find it’s way back home, but i was like – really? i mean, we had walked a long way. and they said that it happened to them the other night with some other dog and the dog that was with them even stayed at their rented house and then left in the morning. so i was like – ok, well, good luck then, and beat it out of there so the dog wouldn’t follow me any more. it was a bitch climbing back up to the main road and when i finally got there i was like “let’s go before it comes up!” so we continued on our way, following the lake road and taking pictures. it was really pretty and even though my feet were starting to hurt from walking in flip-flops that whole way, it was definitely worth it. then we met up with this old guatemalan named francisco who was walking in the opposite direction. he told us that he walks from san pablo to san pedro and back every day for work. he wanted me to guess how old he was and i told him 43 and he gave me this look like i had guessed wrong, but i had guessed ¨good wrong¨ - younger than he was and then he said ¨muy bien! exacto!¨ hahaha, he was funny. so we left francisco and continued and then came upon the pueblos of san juan la laguna. i liked san juan. it was quiet and some of the buildings had brightly painted murals on the sides of them. we stopped at a tienda to get some water and tampico (mmmmm, one of my favorite drinks here...kind of like sunny d, but a million times better) and we sat out front catching our breath for a bit. then we continued on with our walk to san pedro. the sky was getting a little overcast and it was looking like it was going to rain so we kind of tried to pick up the pace and finally made it to san pedro.

closer view of san pedro. on the right side of the lagoon there is the dock we needed to be at to take the boat back to panajachel. we first ended up on the other side (way up towards the top of the picture). d´oh!

wall mural in san juan la laguna

just one of the bizarro things you see on the streets in central america. this was in front of some house. a plastic case with three plastic cups of some kind of gelatin. there were no doors open at the house suggesting that anyone was selling these or anything. huh??

finally! 12 kilometers later, we reached the entrance of san pedro la laguna.

yep, you guessed it....one of the beautiful and attractive bathrooms we are given the opportunity of using down here in central america

we could see the dock where we needed to go and as we were walking into town we kept looking for a road that led to that area, but there were none – just these little tiny stone paths that looked liked they went into barrios. so we kept walking into the center of town and then we saw a sign that said what direction the docks were. so we followed the sign and then got down there and this guy tells us that we were at the wrong dock if we wanted to go back to panajachel. then he tried to tell us we could take a taxi for 20 quetzales or something to the other dock. and here we were, getting scammed again. so we just said no and went back the way we came in the direction of the other side where the right docks were. so the road between the two docks was this little tiny path that wound through this extranjero barrio – everything in english, internet cafes, coffee shops, head shops….a club called ¨trippy christy´s?¨ again, i will say ¨whaaaat, where in god´s name am i?¨ it was the weirdest thing ever. it was like entering another world, like walking down haight-ashbury in the middle of friggin’ campo guatemala. we finally exited in front of the dock for the boats to panajachel and i was ready to get back. when we got back, the woman at the hotel kept saying how much courtney looked like shakira. courtney kept saying ¨i WISH i looked like shakira!¨ gotta love the people down here.