I had bus butt after my long trip from Rio Dulce to Antigua. We went through Guatemala City and I was certainly happy not to spend time there. It is big, dirty, and tough. Every door and window is barred. Little stores do not let customers in, things are sold through the bars. Other places all have armed guards at the doors with big guns. Smog was so bad – huge old trucks and busses belch out thick black smoke – no emission controls here. Saw lots of big cattle ranches, and gauchos. Antigua is a wonderful old colonial city with cobblestone streets, and a lot of tourists. This is volcano country, people come here to climb volcanos, I will not be doing that. My casa had a rooftop terrace. I have been pleasantly surprised to find all of my accommodation has been spotless and safe for $20 – $25/night. I always have a private room with private bath. Staying at Casa Cristina for $26 a night, one block from the big Yellow Church. This city is small enough to walk everywhere. Many of the old colonial buildings here are being restored. The squares all have lots of benches to sit and people watch. Tiny cafes, lovely tablecloths, and bakeries to die for line every street. More tourists than I have seen anywhere. The Yellow Church is full of fresh flowers and you can smell them from the door. About half of the people here are Mayan and they wear their traditional dress. There is a chocolate museum here and I took a two hour course on the history of chocolate and how to make it. The fellow leading the course was wonderful, flair and drama to the max, and eating what I made was not so bad either.
Next stop Lake Atitlan. Leaving the city on a shuttle I was impressed with the lovely four lane divided highway with no speed bumps, or police checks. Then we turned off the highway and things changed – big time. We are now on a little narrow road, not in good shape. Major potholes and washouts. The road either goes straight up, or straight down. I have never in my life seen such steep grades. The switchbacks are so sharp we have to back up several times to get turned around them. Our young driver was excellent, so careful. I was lucky to be seated in the front. We had to make a lot of stops for people who were carsick. It took almost 4 hours to go 40 kms. Scariest road I have seen anywhere in the world. Staying at Hotel Mikaso in San Pedro, one of the larger villages on the lake. It is calm and peaceful in the morning, breezy afternoons. I wanted to find an alternative route out of here, so took a water launcha to Panajechel on the other side of the lake. I can get a shuttle out of there to Chichi. I took the launcha that stopped at each village to get there, and the direct one back as the lake was getting rough. I was the only tourist on the boat, and I was one of the last on, so seated on the front bench seat. Ladies on the boat got everyone to move around so I was back a couple of rows, so I would not get wet. Some poor young kid got stuck in my original seat – and he got quite wet. I felt bad.