We left the bikes in Antigua and took a chicken bus to the lake. We bumped our way over the cobblestones out of Antigua and then spent the rest of the time either squashed up against the window or falling out of our seat, being thrown side to side as we flew around the corners of the winding mountain road. The experience brought back memories of traversing the backroads of rural Upstate New York in a school bus as a kid. I remember everyone wanting to sit in the back because the effect of the bumps and corners were more extreme, and that was somehow fun. Scott and I sat as close to the driver as possible, because we can’t handle that much fun. I’m certain I’ll see ol’ bus 58 fly by one of these days, all tricked out and looking beautiful. That bus was tough. They drove it through everything, including some snowball roadblocks we kids constructed while waiting at the bus stop. That bus belongs in Guatemala.
Back to the lake…
The lake of Lago de Atitlán is actually the former caldera of a giant volcano that blew its top some 85,000 years ago. Following the violent explosion, most of the cone collapsed and centuries of rainwater filled the depression, creating today’s lake. The lake measures 18km by 12km at its widest point and is encircled by three volcanoes. The steep slopes and towering mountains create a stunning landscape. Lago de Atitlán was famously described by Aldous Huxley as “the most beautiful lake in the world”. We have to agree.
We stayed in the Santa Cruz la Laguna at the La Iguana Perdida, a relaxed place perfect for lounging in a hammock all day while reading a book and watching the goings-on of the lake, of which there’s not much as it’s a pretty tranquil place. They serve delicious family-style meals with a range of quaint accommodations to fit everyone’s needs. Just watch out for the owner’s puppy, he’s going through a chewing phase and he has an eye for expensive gear. Even without the bikes, a dog can sniff out a cyclist.
The view from the dining room at the Iguana:
If you ever find yourself at Lago de Atitlán you MUST visit CECAP, a vocational education center providing skills training and economic empowerment. It’s a steep climb up into the town of Santa Cruz but the views are worth it. They have a culinary arts program with the student-run Café Sabor Cruceño that serves exquisitely prepared dishes, as well as Manos Cruzeños, a small artisan shop selling products made through CECAP.
We had intended on staying for two nights and then heading back to Antigua. We were supposed to leave today, but it’s Scott’s birthday and he’d rather stay another day at the lake than spend his birthday on a chicken bus for 3 hours. It’s an easy decision. We’re staying.
Random small world encounter: While eating dinner we met Denver, from the Heights in Houston, about a mile or so from where we used to live. He recently rode his bike here from Houston. It took him four WEEKS, reminding us how non-direct our route has been (we’ve been out for about 11 months). Also, while on the road he ran into Brendan, another cyclist, whom we met in California.