Santa cruz del quiche, San Marcos, Santa Cruz, Antigua, Guatamala
When traveling in Central America it is a good habit to gather local intelligence on the state of your intended route. Our motorcycles can handle a fair share of bad or unpaved roads. Consequently we are not overly concerned about road conditions, we are, however, a little bit apprehensive about the possibilities of opportunistic banditos, More so, since machetes are visibly abundant and so are guns, as we have been told. The hostel owner in Coban ensured us that the direct, but remote, western route to Lake Atitlan was in overall good shape. A mere 20 kms later we found ourselves on a very rough, unpaved mountain road, anxiously keeping an eye out for roadside machete guys…
The rough bit of road took about 3 hours, after which it turned into a pleasant winding mountain road. All was fine again, except for our stomachs. This resulted in a forced 2 nights stay in a dodgy neighborhood of Santa Cruz del Quiche. With utter effort we managed to scavenge some comforting milk and chocopops before eagerly returning to our hotel beds. Luckily the illness went as fast as it came and we could soon cover the last remaining kilometers to San Marcos at lake Atitilan. To get to this this town we had to descent a ridiculously steep road in disrepair. The bikes roared at 4500 rpm in first gear and parking the bikes for taking a picture of the stunning scenery proofed to be almost impossible.
Unsuspectingly we entered the pod-smoking hippie hideout of Hospedaje del Lago in San Marcos. A a general rule, travel pace is inversely related to the duration of one’s journey. A year in on our travels we are now fairly
lazy relaxed. Still, the turtle like pace of life at this hostel came as a shock. Nevertheless, we quickly blended in by discussing world politics and holistic healing methods, while watching the hula hoop-girl and drinking home-brewed organic ginger beers. In the evening we could muster enough motivation to get up from the couch and stroll trough the maze of alleys to watch the movies and eat veggie dinner at Paco real, run by a very nice Swiss guy.
The easiest way to get around the lake is by Lancha (water taxi). A short water-splashed boat-ride across the lake, passing numerous luxurious estranjeros houses and hotels, we arrived at the relatively undeveloped village of Santa Cruz. This was going to be our home for the coming week. During the next five days our Spanish would be polished by two nice, local ladies. The daily four hour classes took place in the beautiful lakeside garden of hotel Arco Noel. During the evenings we were kept busy by Christian(10), Oscar(7) and Angeli(4), the three smallest boys of our host family. Our Mexican Loteria game was a big hit, so we were somewhat forced to play this game countless times. Though a bit mind-numbing, the upside is that we will never ever forget the Spanish words “El borracho” and “La chalupa”. Meanwhile, the caring mother, Rosalia, routiniously turned out hundreds of maize tortillas on her wood burning stove.
After a very exhaustive week, we packed the bikes again and returned over the insanely steep road towards the well known colonial town of Antigua. We were expecting a cobble-stoned city overrun by gringos and touts. In contrast, we found it surprisingly easy-going and still relatively genuine. Our hostel “A place to stay” was for once a true “home away from home” and the nearby market provided easy access to cheap vitamins, fibre and papas fritas. At the hostel we had a rendezvous with two Austrian girls from Coban and met a well-travelled couple from Liechtenstein. At night the Irish lads provided splendid musical entertainment, while Paul accidentally invented the superb Jamaica-Sprite-Lime-Mescal cocktail (patent pending). In the mornings Fernando spoiled us with excellent breakfast, while Loti the Flemish giant rabbit hopped around our feet competing for our attention with the four newborn kittens. After four nights it was hard to leave, but we wanted to cross the El Salvadorian border before the weekend. There are still five more exciting countries between us and the boat (Panama-Colombia) and we only have one month left…