Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lake Atitlan= B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!!!

El parque Central in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

Everyday I wake up, and I am given suddle reminders that my life is anything, but glamorous. Our water and electricity frequently goes out, our diet doesn't change (there is a lot of chicken and vegetables being consumed), the air I breathe is about half oxygen, half dust, and each day one of us is spending a lot of time in the bathroom.

So in the heat of it all, we had Spring break, also known as, Semana Santa in Central America. The girls and I had heard that Antigua, Guatemala had the best Semana Santa celebration in all of Central America. We realized this was our chance to go and capture the essence of Easter in a region that is very religious. But we decided to spend the first part of our vacation at Lake Atitlan. 

Let the fun begin....

We left school on Friday with a dust trail on our heals and our bags packed for an 11 days excursion to Guatemala. Next stop Copan, Honduras for a night.

Part of our trip to Copan was in the back of a truck. Kristin and I enjoying the views as they passed us. 

Best way to ride, is lounging in the back of truck with your bestie  :)

5 a.m came quick the next morning and we were headed for Antigua Guatemala to then change buses and go to Lake Atitlan. Our bus ride to Antigua was of course eventful, filled with traffic jams, detours, and throwing up (my poor friend Kristin has now developed carsickness). I, of course, slept through most of this, thanks to my dear friend Dramamine.

But our car ride to the lake was a much different story. We were treated to a performance of singing by a drunk/high group of Guatemalans in the back of the bus. It made us all laugh. Where in the world are you treated to a free concert in your bus in the middle of the mountains of Guatemala?! Love it!

Welcome to Lake Atitlan!

As with our arrival into a town in any Central American country we were immediately sought out to stay at different hostels. These men get within inches of your body, asking where you are staying, over and over again. It gets to the point where one of us usually ends up yelling at them to leave us alone.

Our first view onto the dock

Once we broke away from the men....well at least all but one (he thought he was our personal tour guide, even though we acted as if he wasn't there). We managed to find a hidden city within the city of San Pedro, which was where our hostel was. The town of San Pedro sits on the shores of Lake Atitlan. If you go down an alley (yes I said an alley) and you make a few left turns, you stumble upon a hidden city of hostels, bars and restaurants. It was a good find for our first night in town.

Our hostel was a whopping...wait for it...., $4 a night, granted the bathroom was down the hall, across from the kitchen of the restaurant. But nothing beats the experience of it all. There were only a few awkards moments of eye contact with the cook, while I was in my towel. ;)

Anyway, our first night, we were treated to Medititeranean food. Now it may seem strange to get delicious Mediterranean food in Guatemala, however, there is decent population of Isrealites spread throughout Guatemala. So we decided to give this little restaurant a go. I am not sure if it has been the lack of time or what. But the falafel I had, tasted like a little present from the Mediterranean gods. I know you are all shaking your head, thinking I am crazy but when all you eat, day in and day out is chicken and vegetables, pretty much anything with a little flavor is a HUGE treat. But I was in for a big surprise, that was one of many meals that made my tastebuds do a little happy dance.

Jenna, Lori, Colleen, Kristin and I enjoying our first cocktail before dinner. 

Day two, we were off to explore San Pedro but not before we went for an amzing sunrise run. The lake sits at the bottom of mountains and volcanoes. So to run away from the lake we had to run straight up hill. But the views were amazing. It was a great way to start the day.

Next up, buy souvenirs. Let's be honest, we might have gotten a little excited about the shopping, but there were just so many amazing things.
Buying scarves in the market.

A woman in the market selling mangos

An adorable fruit stand. 

Next adventure of the day:  Kayak a.k.a Kayack to a neighboring town. We split up into two groups of two and one solo kayak. Our first mistake was not knowing exactly which town we were headed towards. We, of course, didn't talk about this till we were half-way across the lake and each boat had taken slightly different routes. But Kristin and I decided we should just head towards shore and figure it out from there. About 20 minutes in to our adventure, we turned around to see that Colleen and Lori were really far behind, and Jenna was half-way between us. Jenna indicated that the girls were tired. All I could think, was how are they tired? We have only gone a fourth of the way. How are they going to make it? Kristin said she was a bit tired but, she was ok

View from the kayak

After waiting for our other friends, we attempted to go to shore. But we were greeted with local boys claiming that we had to pay them to watch our kayaks. Hahahaha, they actually thought we were dumb enough to first pay them to watch our kayak and then allow them to potentially steal it. So we had a change of heart and decided it was best to go back. Most of us were tired and it was best to just get the return trip over with.

Oh we were in for a REAL treat.

The rocky waters as we headed back.

I was voted to go on the solo kayak since I wasn't tired and it was the most challenging. So I started off with the wind blowing about 30 mph in my face. My first thought was "I can barely get out of the cove, what is going to happen when I am in the middle of the lake?" But the competitor in me made me put my nose to the grind and fight through the wind. I tried to figure out the best strategy, go along the shore then cut across the lake or go across the lake and then down the shore. I went with the latter one. But my strategy was useless. The wind was blowing in all directions and it continued to get stronger. I would look up every so often to see where the rest of the girls were and we had scattered like mice. Each of us taking different routes, looking back I realized this was a terrible idea to be spread out across a huge lake, none of us having a life vest or the ability to hear each other if there was a problem. My fear only set in about half-way across the lake, when I was fatigued and afraid I wasn't going to make it back.

When I finally was in ear shot of Lori and Colleen and I heard them taunting me. Singing "We are the champions" as if they had won "The Hunger Games".  In true Kate fashion I attempted to beat them back to shore, to prove that I could, but four arms ended up being stronger than my two and they beat me to shore. I, however, didn't care once I was out of the kayak and half my body was soaking wet, wrinkled and tired. I was just glad to be back on shore. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a dispute with the owners of the kayaks over how long we were gone. But we came to an agreement and tried to forget our bad idea to kayak for a total of 2 hours.

Lucky for us, our evening was filled with yummy Thai food and beer. I was on my way to a food coma and it was only day 2.
Kristin and I in front of Lake Atitlan.

Day three, we were going to go across the lake to the town of San Marcos, but I had one final interview with the KIPP school in San Antonio. So Kristin and I decided to stay in San Pedro so I could prepare for the interview. I completed the interview with success and was ready to enjoy a nice dinner with the girls. We went to this amazing hostel with a great lounge feel. I made a beeline for Food Coma City and don't worry, I was successful, turkey meatballs and a greek salad.
Jenna, Kristin and myself about to enter another food coma!

Kristin, Colleen and I ended the night early because we were starting the next day early, 3 a.m. wake-up call for our volcano hike. Jenna and Lori decided to go watch a movie and drink some wine. This would prove to be a very bad idea.

Day 4, wake-up call was 2:30 a.m. to start our Sunrise hike up to the top of San Pedro Volcano. Our first order of business was meeting the guide. He was quite possible the cutest man ever. He strolls up a little after 3a.m carrying a machete and wearing the cutest smile. We head up through town, avoiding only barking dogs till we get to the base of the mountain. This is where the real fun begins. We are about 45 minutes into our hike, when the question of the day begins "How much  longer?"

It is not much longer after the question starts that we start to have issues. Kristin is hit with nausea that she can't shake. She has to stop every so often to attempt to throw-up but nothing comes out. Colleen begins to get tired and it seems to be a domino affect to the other girls. Before I know it, I am strolling along with the guide chatting it up about his family and the other girls have all taken ill or are extremely tired. The next 2 hours seem to drag on for the others, while I go on chatting it up with my new friend. I am pretty sure the pep in my step only angers my friends, who are on the verge of tears, vomit and exhaustion.

The girls taking a break to take in the "sunrise".

To add fuel to the fire, it is very clear we would not get to the top in time for sunrise. So of course, we all think, why the hell did we get up for the sunrise hike, when all we are going to see is the sky getting more bright if we looked straight up. We were surrounded by such dense forestry that it was nearly impossible to see any sort of sunrise.
Lori, Colleen and Jenna taking a little rest. Only 45 minutes left!

Our amazing guide. He was so cute, I wanted to put him in my pocket. He stood about 5'2 , hiked in rain boots and didn't break a sweat the entire time. 

The rest gave us all a little pep in our step (if you asked the girls, they might have said I didn't need much more  of a pep in my step), but I was glad to have it. 

The last steps before I reached the top of San Pedro Volcano!

We made it!! The view from the top, looking out on the lake and another volcano.

Hello from the top of San Pedro Volcano

Pretty amazing view! Thankful for every experience I have had!

I have to say that through the whole experience, all of our faces were pretty priceless when it had finally sunk in that we had hiked to the top of this volcano. But don't forget, what goes up, must come down. 

Obviously hiking down is easier, but it always poses different problems. Instead of using your muscles to climb, you are now using them to prevent yourself from becoming a dust snowball flying down the mountain. I of course had the attitude of "Let's get this party started and over with" while the others weren't exactly hopped up about hiking down. Kristin was feeling better and she and I were right behind the guide the whole way down. The other three were fighting gravity, trying to keep themselves from tripping over their own feet. 
By the time we got down, it had been a total of 7 hours on the go. Everyone was thirsty, hungry, cranky, and tired. We got back to the hotel and headed straight for food. I, unfortunately had one more task to complete. I started a competition well before Semana Santa, that I had to do 100 burpees (if you don't know, look it up, they are the best/worst exercise EVER invented, but they get the job done) a day for 90 days. So when I got done with our hike, guess who had to complete 100 burpees? Yep you guessed it, me,somewhere along the way I picked up the nickname Power Kate, well Power Kate came out to get those burpees done. 

Hiked to the top of a volcano and 100 burpees, all before 11 a.m. I would say, it is not a bad way to start the day. But who are we kidding, we took naps. hahahaha best nap in a long time!

Kristin and I hanging our feet off the dock.

Nothing beats a pre-dinner beer off the dock with your friends!

Lounging, drinking beers and enjoying each others company in our last night in Lake Atitlan.

I might have found myself a little friend at dinner. She reminded me of my cat Midnight. 

We had an amazing time at Lake Atitlan. But it was only the beginning. The next day we headed to Antigua to continue the vacation!

Check back for my blog about Antigua! 

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