Monday, June 20, 2016

Saturday in San Pedro la Laguna

Another fine trip to San Pedro with Amazing Iva! Only Q25 to take a public boat across the lake. (Which strangely enough is the same cost as a chicken bus to Xela two hours away!)
lancha Lake Atitlan
Iva chatting it up with a super friendly British boy on the lancha from Pana to San Pedro.
San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala Salud Para la Vida
The best health food store on the Lake!
If you haven't been over to San Pedro recently, please note that the health food store has moved! Don't fret's just down the street from where it was, and it's a bigger and better location.
San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala Lake Atitlan
Clouds snagged on the hills.
We stepped off the street into a field of sorts to take the picture above. There was a nice Australian guy standing there admiring the view. Chatted with him for a bit. We were wondering which town it was across the lake when a nice old Guatemalan man came up and spoke to us in Spanish. We caught most of what he said. That's the town of San Pablo, he told us, and then proceeded to name all the towns around the lake in a circle. He told us that Panajachel is sometimes called San Francisco because that's their patron saint. San Pablo is where he's from. He said he walks an hour and a half every morning to come to San Pedro. Then he handed us a laminated card that said, in English, that he was collecting donations for a school/orphanage for San Pablo. True? Who knows. But he was polite and knowledgeable, so I gave him Q20.
dog Guatemala perro chucho
OMG the cutest dog ever!!
San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala
San Pedro has some super steep hills! I'll post a short video on my YouTube channel later.
I took Iva to see the big church that my sisters and I visited last year. It's pretty impressive! A man came out and motioned us to come upstairs. Iva went all the way to the top, but I was too nervous about the steep staircase.
San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala Indian Nose
See the face in the hills? It's Indian Nose!
Iva on the stairs going up!
San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala
View from the church looking over San Pedro.
After the church, we just wandered around town checking stuff out until we got hungry.
San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala
Iva on the right buying a coconut for Q6. Kid tried to rip her off.
I love the old cobbled streets. I wonder how long they've been there? How many feet have passed over them?
Santiago dock San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala Lake Atitlan
Somehow in our wanderings, we found the Santiago dock. This is where you would catch a boat to go to the east side of Lake Atitlan.
Old arcade games San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala
Near the dock there was a covered building of old arcade games. I snapped this picture and then a guy yelled out, "Cinco quetzales!" He wanted money for the photo. Pfft. I just kept walking.
Mural in San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala
San Pedro has the coolest murals.
Mural in San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala
Such amazing artists in this town.
Mural in San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala
I translated this as best I could. If anyone has a more accurate translation, please put it in the comments.
"She is a woman as strong as obsidian, green and soft like the word that lies in the grasses, with her hands wrap the children who have come, with her lights (intelligence?) to illuminate this planet with joy. 
Mural in San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala
Some of the murals are well done but incomprehensible. The colours on this one were amazing! But, um, what is it?
Lake Atitlan view garden table restaurant
View from our table in the garden of The Clover in San Pedro
samosas The Clover Guatemala San Pedro
I had samosas for only Q30. Look at that presentation! Yum.
We know from previous trips to head back to Pana before it gets too late in the afternoon. That's when the storms and winds come in, and the lake can get pretty choppy!
We went back to the docks and asked for the boat to Pana. A guy motioned us to a lancha and we jumped in. Surprisingly, I knew someone on the boat! It was Adriana, a friend from Pana. We started chatting and she mentioned she was going to San Marcos. I said, "This boat doesn't go to Pana?" She said, "It does. It just stops at all the little docks along the way."
I had heard there were boats that did this, but in all my trips around the lake, I had always been on a direct boat. Iva and I hesitantly agreed to stay on this boat and see what it was like.

Well, it was lovely! The boat went slower than usual and skidded and bumped cross-wind along the shore. We got to stop at all these neat little docks and pick up and drop off passengers along the way. There were little grandmothers with huge baskets, scrambling expertly in and out of the boat. There was a guy with two goofy dogs that tromped all over our feet. There were two brave women whose dock was several feet above the boat, and they managed to clamber down after much encouragement. (I'll bet that wasn't in the hotel brochure! It probably said, "Easily accessible by boat.") Then there was an adorable couple who sat at the front of the boat laughing and getting wet with spray, until the driver asked the girl to come to the back to balance the weight. Yeah, right! I'm sure the pretty 110-pound blonde girl will balance the boat more than her 6-foot boyfriend!  :D
lancha view boat Lake Atitlan Guatemala
When I commented to Adriana that the hills were so green, she said, "It's not the rainy season. It's the green season." 
lancha Lake Atitlan Guatemala
dog Guatemala perro chucho
A smiley dog on one of the docks that really seemed like he wanted to jump in the boat, but couldn't get up the courage.
No owner in sight. (This also shows how high the docks can be compared to the boat level.)
lancha Lake Atitlan Guatemala
There are many little towns scattered in the hills.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Some docks seemed to be just for one or two houses, or perhaps hotels. I wondered how they knew to stop there. Perhaps they call the boat on a cell phone?
lancha Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Ah, Lake Atitlan!! So beautiful.
It took us a full hour to get back from San Pedro to Pana, compared to about 20 minutes direct on the way over. It cost the same amount of money but was really picturesque. It was like a cheap tour! The water turned from navy to turquoise. The shoreline was at times lush, at times rocky, and always gorgeous. We saw birds and fishermen and pine trees and giant agaves and mansions and homes soon to be lost to rising lake levels. I would call it the Lake Atitlan Scenic route!

Going on a visa run to Tapachula this upcoming weekend. Cross all of your fingers for me that I don't get sick!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Quezalteca - The Liquor of Guatemala

If you've spent any time in Guatemala, you'll recognize this lady!
Quezalteca liquor label Guatmala
The label on Quezalteca
That's the label on a bottle of liquor called Quezalteca (kez-al-TEK-ah). Bert and I wanted to stay in on a Saturday night, so we decided to give this iconic drink a try. It can be found at any corner store, and also comes in flavours such as Rosa de Jamaica and Tamarindo. We decided to just go for the traditional unflavoured kind. This 500 mL (17 oz) bottle cost Q23 or around $3.84 Canadian. That's why it's kinda known as the cheap man's liquor!

We cracked open the bottle and took a sniff. Bert thought it smelled just like any hard liquor; I thought it smelled like hairspray!
I did a shot, just to get the full effect. It was strong, burning, but kinda clean. Pretty much like doing a shot of vodka or white rum.
We mixed it with mango Yus, a powdered drink mix that we love. Tasted just like any other mixed drink. I got warm and tipsy pretty quickly, but then again, I'm a chugger. (My friends can attest to that!) Bert said he didn't feel too drunk but then put a lit cigarette behind his ear!! Ha ha!

Meanwhile, I had made a homemade pepperoni pizza that we gobbled down. Pizza is available here in Panajachel but it's only really good when you pay more for it at nice places such as Ricassoli's on Santander. Grabbing a slice from one of the pizza stalls is a bad idea. It's basically just crust with minimal sauce, very little cheese, and cut up ham or weiners. Bleh.
Making a pizza from scratch is the way to go, although you will pay almost as much for the toppings as you would going out to a restaurant. Pepperoni from Chalo's is Q30 a pound and cheese is Q13.50 for 200 grams of Oaxaca cheese, a rubbery white cheese very similar to Mozzarella. I made the crust from scratch using a recipe from my friend, NJP. Delicious!

Okay, so back to the booze. We had a good time, got tipsy, and didn't experience any hangover the next day. Bonus! I would drink this as an alternative to rum or vodka in any mixed drink. Next time, I think I'll try the Rosa de Jamaica flavour.  :D

We were reading the label and didn't know all the words, so we looked them up.
At the top it says made with aguardiente aƱejo. We plugged that into an online translator and it said, "old firewater". Ha!  Honestly, I think it's supposed to be aged brandy but old firewater is so much more macho.
Also, on every bottle of liquor and advertisement of liquor in Guatemala, there is always a version of the phrase in white on blue under the lady on the label. It translates to; "Excessive consumption of this product is harmful to the health of the consumer." Good to know!

For more info about the manufacturer of this brand of Quezalteca, here is their official website.

For those who speak Spanish, here's an ad for Quezalteca. I didn't catch too many words but I did hear, "Quezalteca IS Guatemala."  :D

Have fun and drink responsibly!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Seen From Above

I came across this aerial image of Guatemala the other day. I zoomed in to find Lake Atitlan, which wasn't hard due to its distinctive shape. (And the fact that I've pored over many maps of Guatemala!) The lake is on the left in the picture below. Panajachel is located at the top of the lake.

As I was marvelling at the details in the volcanoes, my eye was drawn to the big pale smear on the right. My first reaction was, "What is that horrible grey area?"

Can you guess what it is?
Aerial image of Guatemala, showing Lake Atitlan and...
It's Guatemala City! Yeah, eeks. For one, it's HUGE. For two, so grey and miserable looking. But to be fair, it's because most of the buildings are made of concrete blocks and roofed with tin. To me, I can't shake the image that it's a scar on the Earth. Like the land got burned with acid and never healed properly.

Anyway, it was an interesting exercise in perception to look at a satellite image of the world with no pretty colored lines and arbitrary borders. Can you pick out where you live on a map with no labels to guide you? Try it here at Flash Earth.