Our shuttle left at 7AM to go to Lake Atitlan. As I mentioned in my previous post, the price we paid for Atitrans was more expensive by about $2 per person, but it showed in the high roofed, individual seat, air conditioned shuttle that we rode in. My mom had to go to the bathroom so bad she was ready to fling herself out the van as we climbed into the highlands; somehow, we made it to the rest stop without causing too much of a ruckus or inconvenience to the other passengers.
The first thing we did upon arrival at Panajachel (the city at the shores of Atitlan where most of the shuttles take you) was grab Empanadas. There is a small Argentinian pizza place right beside the Atitrans office. The empanadas are cheap and delicious, especially with the garlic based chimmy churry sauce. Highly recommended.
My least favorite part of Guatemala - ok, of visiting any country as a tourist - is the haggling. Panajachel is the worst for this. After arriving, we were bothered by probably no less than 5 people all offering to sell us a private boat ride for the day, trying to make conversation to then offer to sell a private boat service, etc etc.
Even armed with the knowledge that public transportation is cheap (around 15Q) and frequent, our white skin still gave us away. We sat near the docks in the sun, admiring the beautifully stunning view of Atitlan and its surrounding volcanoes, while I politely made conversation with a boat man trying to sell us his boat. As time passed, no public transportation seemed to be arriving, and no locals were queuing up for any boat that we could see. Once another family of tourists came along, we agreed to pool together and split the cost of this "private transportation," which ended up being only about double the cost of public ($4 instead of $2.) We were all then promptly shuffled into - a public boat. The guy I had been talking to (who "owned" the boat we were, um, supposed to ride in) couldn't really answer back when I said things like, "this isn't your boat," and "you aren't even driving us…."
The point is, apparently all of the boatsmen at these docks, public or private, are all in kahuts, especially when they spot a set of foreigners arriving during the choppy noon hour, when the use of the boats by locals is minimal. It's annoying, and frustrating, and if you really caused a scene and had some wicked Spanish or Tsutujil (the local Mayan dialect) maybe you could shave $2 off your transportation cost. In the end, we are lucky enough to come from a place where $2 is not a mammoth amount of money, so best to just sigh, roll our eyes, and move on.
Family-style dining... with my family (and others.)
We spent the day taking a hike to San Pedro (I think,) which my brother wasn't initially too happy about. Later on my mom and I went to Jaibolito, the nearby village, billed as a "local, indigenous village." To be honest nothing about this small dockside city was that different from many of the other small towns we'd seen throughout the week. It was still eye-opening, though - watching little girls haul 5 cinder blocks on their backs uphill, for example.
That night, after dinner, we opted for the hot tub at the hotel to unwind, which was a small additional charge. A worker heated the water with a wood stove in the middle of the tub, and cooled it down by siphoning water in from the lake. Needless to say, going to bed was effortless that night.