Once again this weekend we fled the rainy streets of Xela in search of some sun....and we found it a Lago Atitlan! Hemmed in on all sides by volcanoes and steep hills, the lake is at least 320 meters deep and has no visible outlet. The lake was created from a volcanic crater and has a few spots of tepid water, slightly heated from the volcanic activity. We spent the day visiting a few of the towns that surround the lake via lancha (a small boat).
First stop - a dip in the lake! This was a little tricky as no one was wearing their bathing suits and we had to change on the lancha. All the guys didn't hesitate to dive in, but the girls didn't feel like getting wet (except for Megan) - afterall the water wasn't even completely warm, so what's the point??
Next stop - San Antonio, a tradional village steeped in Mayan culture. Many people in San Antonio speak a Mayan language as well as Spanish. We visted a the white-washed central church as well as a women's co-operative, where I got adorned in tradional Mayan dress.
3rd stop - Santiago, the largest and most important of the lakeside villages. In Santiago we paid homage to San Simon, the evil saint, once ex-communicated from the Catholic church for his beliefs in partaking in all things indulgent (drinking, smoking, dancing, etc.). A wooden statue, adorned in scarves, San Simon is moved from house to house, and frequented by devout believers and tourists charged 2Q per person (not to mention 10Q if you want a photo - hence no photos of this specitcal). As explained by my teacher at ICA, it is a "witchcraft-like" religion. We also visted the original catholic church at Lago Atitlan. Afterwards we stopped here to have a delicious lunch at a rooftop restaurant!
Final destination - Panajachel, where we spent the night. This larger lakeside town is comprised of tourists, American & European hippies, hotels, restuarants, bars, shopping, tuk-tuks, and a few language schools (for those looking for a partial-immersion experience). This weekend the town also had a fair, with 2 ferris wheels that moved about 3 times as fast as normal and a greased pole for entertainment. It was quite an experience!
5 months ago