Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lake Atitlan, Volcan San Pedro, San Pedro La Laguna and San Juan La Laguna

Toliman and Atitlan

As Employees of the Government, all-caps, very important sounding, we get American holidays off while we're living in Guatemala. Which is awesome because we can take a 3 day weekend and never have to worry about long lines of holiday weekend traffic on the drive.

Our buddy Cashew, also being a Government Employee had President's Day off so he decided to hop a plane and come on down for a visit and we are so glad he did. He's been all over the world helping refugees but he's never been to Latin America, what?! Ice is now broken and what an honor to show him the beauty of Guatemala and help him practice his spring break Spanish. "Cafe con leche por favor. "

Yaneth wanted to check San Pedro off her list so she joined us on the adventure.

Cashew arrived late on Friday night after Chops and I had already celebrated an early Valentine's Day lunch at Cielito Lindo Taqueria in zone 14 (best Mexican food here, swear to God, you have to go).

Next morning Chops insisted we sleep in until 8:30 (gasp!) and then we spent the morning driving to the Lake, picking up Yaneth on our way out of town.

Bathroom and lunch break at Rincon Suizo, always mandatory. We showed Cashew the joys of Guatemalan roadside carnitas, thick corn tortillas and cheap guacamole. He was a fan. He tried the saddle-swivel-stool.

A smooth boat ride across the lake to San Pedro put us in the mood for a swim but after the Tuk Tuk ride out of town to our hotel and then check-in taking a while and then relaxing on our amazing deck, the sun was on its way down and there was a chill to the wind that wasn't there before. Chops and I were about to chicken out with the other 2 but rallied anyways and shrieked and lost our breath in the cold yet super refreshing clear water.

Hotel Chi-Ya is amazing! It's a 15 minute walk out of town or a Q10 Tuk Tuk ride but it is so worth it! Cute little private cabins are built into the hillside and the 2 resident dogs are super sweet. Amazing views across the water to Indian Nose. And only Q200.

Dinner that night at El Clover in San Pedro which sounds Irish but the only thing Irish there was the Irish stew on the specials board. No worries, we ate nachos and Asian curries that were dee-lish.

Early but not too extreme (7am start) into town for breakfast at Cafe Las Cristalinas (best coffee at the lake) and now they added a restaurant with some great breakfast food. Last time we were there was about a year ago pre-restaurant addition.

Tuk Tuk ride up to the trail head where we got Cashew a hiking stick and we got our guide. Damn! Always need to remember to bring our carnets with us, we missed out on the resident's discount and had to pay the tourist rate! Oh well. Hopefully it helps the Park.

About 3 hours later we reached the summit at 3,020 meters. San Pedro Volcano is the 4th highest in Guatemala. Nice work Cashew, he kept right up for coming from sea level!

We had an absolutely gorgeous day at the summit and took full advantage of it, lounging and snacking in the sun while our guide waited for us and entertained himself with a soccer game on his little radio.

Relatively easy hike down and a late lunch at 3:30 at Cafe Home in San Pedro. This is now my favorite place to eat at Lake Atitlan. Warning: it's only open from 9:30am - 4:30pm and closed Mon and Tues. But the fresh food is hippy-licious and soooooooo healthy. We all had salads with chard, beets, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, fresh herbs, goat cheese, tofu and vinaigrette. Cashew had his salad wrapped up in a burrito with a big side of watermelon. Chops ordered the homemade yogurt AND the homemade kefir (we learned to say it with the accent on the -IR). Kefir was bubbly and goaty, which meant Chops loved it.

Back to our hotel to pick up our bags and move to San Juan La Laguna since there was a big group of traveling doctors taking over the hotel.

Hotel Pa Muelle in San Juan is absolutely adorable. And for only Q100  you cannot beat it! The view is lovely and so is the flower garden. Rooms are small but cute. Showers are crappy electric and our drain was too slow but I was charmed anyways. Only 4 rooms so we had 3 of them and a random traveler from Portland had the 4th. He was scared of us when we told him we worked for the Government. Our colleagues do the busting, not us dude, so no worries.

Dinner at Fiesta En La Boca. Seriously, we were scared but we couldn't pass it up with a name like that. Yaneth and I had Lasagna Vegetariana with green beans and carrots in it. Ok, so it wasn't great but we thoroughly enjoyed the '90's flashback music videos on the TV. The other customers were entertained (or so we like to think) by our lip-synching skills.

Next morning, we toasted our Presidents over breakfast at Restaurante Rostro Maya and then went in search of real coffee with actual flavor and not just weak color. Which they charged us an extra Q8 for because we ordered milk. Oh Guate and your horrible customer service and un-enabled servers... we won't miss that part however much we like to talk about it.

Good coffee: found. In Cafe Xocomeel. It was great and our barista was super into her coffee so she explained the whole process from plant to roast to brew to us as she brewed up our little espressos on the stove top.

We toured a few art galleries, Cashew bought a little painting of the lake to bring home.

On our way drive back to the city we stopped in Pastores aka Boot Town for some shoe shopping and Cashew was lucky enough to find an awesome pair to bring home. Handmade leather shoes for Q375. Sweetness.

That evening after relaxing in the hot tub on the roof with some Brahvas we went out for a last meal at Luka, one of our favorite spots, and dined on raw tuna, kale salad and the best risotto quite possibly in the world. Seriously, Chef, Cashew said, "I've been to Italy and this risotto is way better than anything I ate there."

Fuego erupting into the setting sun

Can we just stay in Guatemala for another 2 years?

Three-day weekend, I love you.

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