After climbing Volcano Pacaya, we were amazed to hear that that afternoon it had erupted. Just hours after we got got down, the lava had flowed and was now 3km from the summit. The whole area was now closed to tourists.
Back in Antigua we had more culinary matters in mind. After the fun we’d had in Oaxaca, Mexico at the cooking course we decided to take a chocolate workshop. The girls of course were super keen. We had a great teacher Pablo, who was enthusiastic and animated about the history and the making of chocolate. We got to make 3 different types of hot chocolate both Mayan and European. Roasted and ground our own coco beans……
…and finally make our own chocolates.
It was hugely popular with all of us…..
We worked off the extra calories by spending our time exploring the streets and market.
Lucy was particularly taken by these life sized piñatas (paper-mâché models that are filled with sweets at parties then hit with a stick till they burst, showering the children with sweeties). She tried to convince her sister that there was a “Lucy” one as well as Minnie Mouse and Strawberry Shortcake.
Our camping spot at the tourist police station maybe wasn’t the most scenic but it was very social with other overlanders, central and very secure in a compound filled with police officers.
There were lots of amazingly painted “Chicken buses”. These retired US school buses are shipped to Guatemala, given a funky new paint and chrome job and then spend many more years carrying both people and produce throughout the country, hence the moniker.
Heading towards Lake Atitilan we had our first taste of the famed Pan-American highway through the fertile volcanic hills. Turning off the wide highway we descended the steep and jagged hills surrounding the lake. Lake Aitilan is a volcanic lake, surrounded by yet more volcanos. It makes for stunning scenery but a very nerve racking drive down. Steve did an amazing job as there were countless hairpin bends. Some were so tight that he had to reverse back to get fully round them. This is just a small section of the bends on the map!
Arriving at the lake though it felt like the journey was well worth it.
We were staying on the grounds of a cottage complex Pasaj Cap near San Marco de la Laguna. The views were astounding.
The following day on a stroll into the village we couldn’t quite work out what it reminded us of…..
….the Italian Lakes….
…in the end we decided it was its own unique mix. The village itself had an alternative traveller scene but with most of the local Mayan ladies wearing traditional clothing, it really feels like a different sort of place.
It is so relaxing and beautiful we have decided to stay a whole week, the longest we have anywhere since the start of our trip nearly 6 months ago. As the sides of the lake are so steep, the main form of transport are boats that you flag down like buses. Lucy was thrilled to see it worked much in the same way as the real “Chicken buses” as the friendly man we were sat next to had 2 live chickens with their heads sticking out in his shopping bag. We took one to Panajchel, the biggest town on the lake which was far busier and more touristy than San Marco. After having lunch and looking round we were happy to return to our more tranquil spot.