Guatemala 5: San Marcos, Largo Atitlán

Racing recommenced the next morning with Simon and Ang departing Earth Lodge at 10am standing in the back of a pickup truck. On the 5km ride into town, they chatted with Drew, one of the owners of Earth Lodge and tried to hold on.  Arriving back in the cobbled streets of Antigua, they were stared at by tourist gringos who, as Drew pointed out, probably wanted to ‘get on the tour that those guys were on’.

To avoid four changes of chicken buses, and the need to travel through one dodgy prison city, the team made their way to a local travel agency where they booked passage on a shuttle to Lake Atitlán.  The first shuttle would depart at 2pm, so the team set out on foot to negotiate a good deal for a couple of small Guatemalan handicraft items from a nearby market.

After making their purchases and a quick cheap delicious lunch at a locals only joint, the team boarded the shuttle and headed north to the lake. The driver of the shuttle was terrible, having great difficulty with the concepts of smooth acceleration and braking, gears and speed bumps.  For Simon, this guy was the worst driver in all of Central America.  After almost 2 trying hours, Ang called out ‘seriously!!” as she was about to be ill.

Perhaps as revenge for Ang’s understandable outburst to which others were grateful for or because the driver was too lazy to go all the way to San Marcos, the team was dumped in San Pablo, a small town 15 minutes away from San Marcos.  The excuse given by the driver at the time was that the remaining distance was impassable in the van and that the team would need to take a tuk tuk.  Angry, and after a failed attempting to blockade the van, Simon and Ang jumped into a tuk tuk and travelled the remaining 5km for 10Q.  While the cost was small, both Ang and Simon were annoyed with this on principle and decided to take action to get a refund later for this additional expense.

The tuk tuk ride deposited them in San Marcos, and there following the clue provided by a volunteer at Earth Lodge, the team, along with the local children who greeted them on arrival, walked down to Paco Real and found Frank.  There they were given their next clue.

This challenge would require Ang and Simon to both enrol in a week’s one on one Spanish lessons. With the paperwork completed, they soon went to sleep as the first of 20 hours worth of Spanish would begin at 2pm the next day.

Atitlán panorama
Panorama of the San Pedro end of Atitlán

The next five days consisted of exploring San Marcos, trips in the morning to various other Atitlán villages such as San Pedro, Panajachel and Santiago.  In the afternoons, the team learnt Spanish from David and Lucas and then in the evenings, they tried a different restaurant in San Marcos. Highlights for the team included Ganesh cooking cooperative, La Fé, Moonfish, Tul y Sol and a small Japanese place hidden down a laneway behind a football field.

Women in traditional dress in San Pedro
View from the team’s favourite breaky spot “Tul y Sol” in San Marcos Neo new age types meditating near the Pyramids in San Marcos
San Marcos dock Water taxi bow
San Pedro’s Pana dock (somewhat under water) Cunningly disguised mobile tower
Ang completing the fringe cut challenge. Locals enjoyed watching from the window Standard latin American church in Pana
Hour four of a graduation, San Marcos style Chickens for sale, San Pedro
Santiago dock, San Pedro The mighty Titanic departs Pana dock
Traditional Santiago woman’s hand embroidery Santiago de Atitlán market
Buying vegetables in Santiago Pantalones de Santiago
View from Santiago to San Pedro Another Volcán

Both Ang and Simon found the town of San Marcos to be surprisingly large, and even right up until their last day of Spanish they were still discovering new restaurants and places to eat breakfast.  Simon liked the community that had been established in San Marcos, with lots of friendly, personable people which helped to make this leg of the race all the more enjoyable. The team was also lucky to meet Leigh, a trustworthy British gent who they were able to trade their Cuba guidebook for a later edition of the South American guidebook.

A busy San Marcos street Spanish homework

Having completed all the tasks for this leg of the race, the team were given the final clue and they raced to back to Paco Real, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

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