Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sololá and Santa Cruz La Laguna With My Sister

We made two trips out of town during my sister's visit: one up the hill to Sololá and one a short boat trip to Santa Cruz. We wanted to get the full Guatemala travel experience!

Oh boy, did we ever get the chicken bus experience in all its glory. On Wednesday afternoon, we hopped on the bus in Panajachel to go up to Sololá. The ride up was fine. Normal really. It was the ride down that was the kicker!
The museum in Sololá. I didn't get many pictures cuz my camera battery was dying.
We only had about an hour to wander around Sololá and see the main square and a few stores. Then we wanted to take the chicken bus down to the mirador (lookout) halfway down the hill. I confidently told the driver, "Queremos ir al mirador." (We want to go to the lookout.) He said, "Bueno. Primero or segundo?" (Good. First or second?") Umm.... primero??  I didn't realize there were two! But the first one was the correct choice as it has all the vendors and stuff.

So we hopped on the bus and it was PACKED. Suzanne got a seat but I was left standing in the aisle on a rapidly moving school bus that was careening down a twisty mountain road. Then the helper asked us to move towards the back door to hop out at the lookout...while we were still moving. So Suzanne and I started lurching and laughing our way through the crowded bus to the emergency exit, and thankfully they made a full stop to let us clamber out using a small metal step. Whew!

The view of Lake Atitlan from the mirador between Panajachel and Sololá.
It was neat to see the two volcanoes, Toliman and Atitlan, lined up one behind the other.
After a brief stop to view the lake and buy some trinkets, we stood on the side of the road to flag down a ride back to Pana. Well, a chicken bus came barrelling around the corner at full speed. I put up my hand and backed quickly away from the road. I could not believe that the driver actually stopped in such a short distance! We got on and stood in the aisle for the rest of the ride down to Pana, doing our best to balance ourselves on the curves and hills. Fun!

TIP: The chicken bus from Pana to Sololá cost Q3 each. The ride down cost Q2 to the mirador and another Q2 to Pana. Hmmm...

On Thursday, we went for a quick lancha ride over to Santa Cruz la Laguna. It's only a short distance from Pana but is only accessible by boat. The cost is Q10 per person each way.

My sister enjoying the boat ride. We both are addicted to being on the water. I could ride the boats all day.
The gorgeous waters of Lake Atitlan. If I had a boat, I would drive out to the middle of the lake and swim in the amazing deep deep DEEP water!
The dock at Santa Cruz la Laguna. Heavenly!
Enjoying refreshments at La Iguana Perdida before our big hike up to the town. We were tempted to stay here all day.
We were going to climb up the road to Santa Cruz but a nice woman in La Iguana Perdida told us to go behind the restaurant to the stairs because it was "shorter". Well, shorter didn't mean easier, that's for sure! But we were very glad we did it. It was very scenic and we felt triumphant when we reached the top!
Some of the stairs we climbed. There were soooo many. Just when you thought you'd had enough, you turn a corner and there were more! Also, some of the stairs were sloped upwards, so you were climbing stairs while climbing a ramp. Actually a rather efficient way to ascend.
I think I passed out. HA HA! 
Not sure what she's gawking at!! See the sloping stairs? Up up up!
When we got to the top, it was only a short walk to the restaurant we were looking for. It is called Café Sabor Cruceño and it's run by graduates of the local college cooking program. They also have a gift shop selling students' crafts, and you actually get to walk through the sewing class area to get to the restaurant. The college, CECAP, is a fantastic project for this small town of 6,500 people, which includes several outlying villages further up the mountain.

A view of Santa Cruz from the restaurant, 
Amazing vista from the restaurant. Totally worth the hike up. The road on the bottom right is where we walked down, and where the tuk-tuks drive. I think a tuk-tuk is Q10 so you don't have to climb the hill if you don't want to.
Looking down from the restaurant balcony. Some kids waved up at us!
We sat at the stools right at the edge of the balcony. It was quite windy but we didn't mind.
Delicious pepian stew, a Guatemalan dish. It had lots of veggies and chicken, and was so flavorful and rich. Almost like eating the best gravy ever...with rice! The little pitcher to the right is hot sauce. Muy picante!
Suzanne had tamalitos de chipilin, another traditional Guatemalan food. The same thing that we ate earlier in the week from the lady selling them on the street.
The Santa Cruz church and basketball court.
Starting to walk down. Amazing to see the houses perched on the side of the mountain.
That's the restaurant up there!
Another view of the restaurant. So much jungle!
Walking down down down. Much easier. We were leaning back on the steep slanted road.
Back down at the docks. 
When we reached the docks, a guy waved at us and asked us if we were going to Pana. We said, yes, and he said Q15. I was like, nope. I know the public boats are Q10. He was a private lanchera (boat driver) and he wanted to get fares. To be honest, I wouldn't have minded paying, but I had actually forgotten some of my money at home in Pana and we only had Q20 left! So we literally couldn't pay him what he was asking anyway. :)
There was a nice young couple at the docks waiting for a boat as well. They asked us to take their picture. They were going just to the next dock at La Fortuna hotel. They wanted to know if they should take the private boat. I told them the public boat would be along in less than 20 minutes. Sure enough, we looked towards San Marcos and there it was in the distance, speeding towards us across the deep blue water.
Well, the girl was from Spain so she spoke excellent Spanish. She ended up bargaining with the boat driver to get us the normal Q10 fare. She pointed to the public boat coming as her bargaining chip! The driver finally agreed, and we hopped aboard. We had a nice conversation with the couple, who were just on vacation for a few days. They were curious how I ended up living here and why I was living in Pana rather than gorgeous Santa Cruz. The answer? Internet service. (Plus, omg, the stairs!) But yeah, my main reason for choosing Panajahel over the other Lake towns is reliable Internet.

Anyway, after they disembarked at the hotel, we had the boat to ourselves for the ride to Pana. I don't think the driver was very happy!
A big cute dog at the dock in Santa Cruz.
I've thoroughly enjoyed my visits to all the small towns on Lake Atitlan. I've a few more to see still! I've been to San Pedro, Santa Catarina, Santiago, and Santa Cruz. There are 12 towns so I'm not even halfway yet! So much to see. :)

1 comment :

  1. It would be too boring for me to live in one of the smaller towns. But visitors see how peaceful they are and of course some people prefer to live there because of that. One guy I met lives in a little settlement near Santa Cruz and has no tv I think I woukd go crazy