22 Mar Cycling Guatemala, part two
Cycling into Southern Guatemala: Changing Vibes and relaxing places
Cycling through northern and central Guatemala has been quite challenging. The heat, the steep climbs and being called “gringo gringo” 500 times a day was wearing on us. The final straw was when a few kids yelled at us with “gringo gringo”. While that is pretty normal, they also threw a few sticks at Ron, as he is crawling up a super steep climb in the heat.
Although, we know it was an innocent thing and kids are just kids, we had the occasional fleet thought of calling it quits.
Luckily, when we finally arrive in Panajachel, or short Pana, we feel like we cycled into a new country.
The vibe in Souther Guatemala is so much different from when we cycled in the North..
People are smiling and waving again and nobody is greeting us with gringo gringo anymore, people speak Spanish again and food is easier to find.
Pana is definitely the most touristy place we have been at in quite a while.
As we turn the corner to find a place to sleep at the hostel, we feel like we just entered a weird time warp. Suddenly, we see all western people and and hear nothing but English. There is a pool, lounge chairs, a bar, and food. People hang out, relax, drink and have lively conversations. For a moment we feel oddly out of place.
But once we make it to the reception and get the key to the room, we can finally relax.
Due to some misunderstanding with the online booking, we actually get to sleep in the ”deluxe” room for a night, which we absolutely loved. At least sometimes we get lucky.
We looked around town and relaxed at the hostel.
After two nights in town, we decide to take one of the public boat ferries to San Marcos. There wet find the most relaxing campground we have been to yet.
The campground is run by Pierre, an older Frenchmen. He used to travel extensively in his younger years and fell in love with Guatemala and Lake Atetlan. Over the years he and some local friends built this absolutely amazing camping and rental paradise right by the lake. The landscape with its fruit trees and colorful flowers and plants is incredible.
The people we meet at camp are fun and super nice.
From our tent, we can see volcano San Pedro across the lake and the sparkling lake Atitlan below.
It is only a short walk into San Marco, to find food. Also, Pierre sells wine at an affordable price right at the camp. So no wonder, we end up spending 10 days relaxing and rejuvenating right here.
While we enjoyed the camp, we also try to arrange a spot on an overnight hike up Vulcan Acatenango. Yet, to our dissapointent, all tours are sold out for the next couple weeks.
Long hikes and seeing amazing Vulcanoes
Just before we were about to leave Lake Atetlan, we checked again on the availability on an overnight hike. Lo and behold, two spots became available online. We quickly WhatsApped the place and they confirmed, that a couple spots have become available due to some cancellations.
We quickly book our spots. Talk to Pierre about leaving our camp set up for two nights, while we hitch a ride in a minibus to Antigua.
We manage to organize a cheap, but very cute hotel room. It comes complete with a roof terrace, from where we can see Volcan Fuego release puffs of smoke out in the distance.
Since we haven’t spent any time in Antigua before, we went out to explore some of the town. After all, we had the afternoon and evening to spend in town. In the morning, we have to get up early, to make our way to the Wicho and Charlie’s office.
Once there, we are greeted by the crew and have breakfast.
Then the crazy search for thick jackets, gloves, shirts and hats, begins. After all, we will be hiking up to over 3900m elevation, where the night temperature usually ranges between 0 and -10 celsius
We also, rent a backpack and hiking sticks. Afterwards, we pack up all of our mish mash items in the packs. We also get to carry 3 Liters of water and our lunch, dinner and snacks, which are nicely packaged up in our backpacks.
Last few days cycle touring in Guatemala
We are lucky. In the morning, we manage to make it off the mountain and back into Antigua in time to catch a minibus and ferryboat back to our camp ground at Atitlan Lake.
The following morning, we pack up and continue our cycling tour through Guatemala.
Our plan is to head South, out of the mountains and toward the coast. From there it will be easy sailing toward El Salvador.
Unfortunately, to make it to the other side of the lake, we would have to take the well known “bandito road” around the backside of volcano San Pedro.
To avoid getting robbed, we decide to cycle to the Village San Pedro and from there we take the boat-ferry to Santiago Atitlan.
Not surprisingly, it is a steep climb out of San Marco and after almost 2 weeks off the bikes and relaxing at the campground it seems even steeper. But we manage.
Loading the bikes on the ferry is a little bit of a task, since we have to take off all of our bags and somehow fanagle and tie up the bikes on the boat. Fortunately, the boat worker helps us get things situated and everybody seems to be very patient.
Once at Santiago, Atitlan, we continue our ride around the lake.
There are still a few more steep hills, as we cycle on. Although a very nice couple in a pick up stopped and asked if we need a ride up, the hills are for the most part short and manageable.
As we make it to San Lucas, we decide to look for another campground. According to the online reviews, it is off the beaten path, but has amazing views. We buy some food and water and descent down another steep hill onto a dirt road.
Eventually, we reach a sign for the so-called campground. Behind the sign is a steep mountain and a goat path is zigzagging up the side of it. There is no way we could even push our loaded bikes up this mountain. Undoubtedly, the views would be fantastic from up there, but we have to pass.
Luckily, we find a guesthouse tucked away along the lake.
From the lake we have another short climb, before we descent out of the mountains, close to the coast.
People remain friendly and besides the occasional crazy chickenbus flying by us, the drivers are courteous.
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