That's what the bird outside our window said at the crack of dawn. I awoke every morning to that distinctive call, and came to love it. I also enjoyed Antigua in the morning, at 6am, the streets are almost empty, and there are no cars in sight, as folks haven't come to work yet.
The streets are clear, the air is fresh, and the colors really pop. As we walked back to our room after grabbing some coffee, we spotted a young man selling roses.
He seemed to be quite popular with the local folk walking to work.
The Missus asked the young man what a bunch of roses cost. His reply? 10 Quetzales ($1.25)! So of course we bought a bunch.
But what the heck were we going to do with roses? We were off to Lago Atitlan (Lake Atitlan) in an hour...... We had decided to give the roses to the folks at Casa Florencia, which really surprised the Woman working. It was kinda nice to see the roses we bought blooming in a vase at the front desk when we returned from Flores a few days later!
We quickly learned the "shuttle drill"......someone will meet you at your hotel or pick-up point. He'll give you the receipt and paperwork, and you'll pay him. A bit later the minivan will be by to pick you up. The uneventful drive to beautiful Lake Atitlan took about 2 1/2 hours, driving through several villages, and winding it's way to Panajachel. We saw two shuttles stopped on the side of the road with carsick folks losing their breakfast. We were dropped at Tzanjuyú Pier (muelle), and swarmed with folks trying to get us boats, some for $20-30 a person!!! The word to remember is "publico"......there is a semi-formal system of "lanchas" that serve the various villages around the lake. We had been told that our Hotel, Lomas de Tzununa had it'sown muelle. We finally made our way down the pier, and we were squeezed into a boat. Pricing for tourist "vary" on the lanchas, this trip cost us 30 Quetzales each, which turned out to be the most expensive of all the boats we caught. And so it came to pass.....here I was wedged in the bow of a boat that seemed to barely rise above the clear waters of Atitlan, squeezed between two propane tanks, and two cases of doritos.
You've heard of Chicken Buses? Well, I called this the "Chicken Boat"! Lomas de Tzununa is a bit isolated from the other villages, and has its own pier. The water of Lago Atitlan is crystal clear, and deep.
Lomas de Tzununa is located up the cliffs from the lake.......and it's four hundred steps up to the hotel.
Doesn't sound like much, but these seemed like four hundred leg burning, lung bursting steps....I hadn't felt this wiped out since Pisac. Even though our backpacks averaged 8 kilos...it might as well have been 800! There was a really nice young man with the biggest smile, and a shotgun to match who offered to carry our luggage up the stairs, but I couldn't let him do that. Thierry, who along with his wife Maria run the hotel met us at the top, and handed us our keys so I wouldn't have to struggle with the dozen or so steps to the main hotel restaurant and lobby.
So why go through the trouble? The isolation, the four hundred steps? Well, each of the ten rooms at Lomas de Tzununa are very clean and spacious...and what you're really paying for is this:
Each room is it's own "bungalow", and are located on the cliffs above the Lake. There's no television (this will play in later), but you've got views like this morning, noon, and night:
For us, it sure beat the tourist heavy scene at Panajachel or San Pedro, whose lights you can see here at sunset.
Of course, the Missus wasn't one for sitting still for long....soon enough it was back down those four hundred steps. Standing at the dock, the Missus and I gave each other one of those, "ok, now what" looks. But not for long, right off the dock is a little cabin, and there is what seems to be a father and son, who run the private lancha, and do all the lake activities. They asked the Missus where we were headed. And as a boat was passing what seemed like a hundred miles away, he whistled. And sure enough the lancha made it's way to the muelle. This boat was not nearly as packed.
We got off at San Pedro La Laguna, a popular tourist destination, right on the Nothern Slopes of the San Pedro volcano. Our destination was a village a 2 kilometer walk from San Pedro, San Juan la Laguna. We walked along the shores of the lake,passing women doing laundry on the shores of Atitlan.
Arriving at the top of the a hill, we could view the village of San Juan below....it was such a serene sight.
We followed the few vehicles into town........it wasn't very hard....San Juan is a fairly small village, and home to Tz'utujil Mayan. It is a small, peaceful, yet colorful village.
San Juan is known for its local Artisans, and the murals made that very clear.
As in Laos, Cusco, and Siem Reap, we bought a small painting that displayed what we thought symbolized the trip for us. It was a beautiful painting, from a little shop on the way to the pier. Later we would come to know that the gentleman and his wife that we dealt with were pretty well known in the area.
We hadn't eaten since the evening before, so the Missus and I were on the lookout for a comedor. We passed several, but many were pretty empty, and I really couldn't get a good "feel" of any of the places. So the Missus started asking around. A group of schoolgirls headed home for lunch, looked at us curiously, and told the Missus "Comedor Elenita". We still weren't sure though. As we walked pass the school the Missus asked another woman, who also recommended Comedor Elenita. The woman walked us to the street and pointed us to the colorful restaurant. When we arrived, that table had pots and a tray of "pollo frito" on it that was selling like crazy.
I trudged up the rather high step(my thighs were still rather shakey from the 400 + 400 steps), peered into the place, and knew this was going to be a decent meal.
How did I know? You see those five heads on the left? Those were all Police Officers having lunch...and you know what they say about where the cops eat! The menu here was simple, the Menu "Del Dia" (menu of the day) is written on a greaseboard. The jolly gentleman who waited on us was a bit confused why we would order three items, but we were starving.
I ordered the Pollo Frito (fried chicken) which along with the Sopa de Pollo, was what we saw everyone eating. As with similar comedors, the food took a while, but it arrived with the chicken still sizzling.
There are a couple of interesting items to note. First, this was a typical meal for the area we visited.....there were three starches, in this case, rice, papas fritas (french fries), and tortillas, something for the tortillas, in this case guacamole, and some veggies thrown in for looks. I really like the guac, it was very simple, but had wonderful flavor, the avocados used for this must have been super. The fried chicken, was moist and juicy, and the flesh was soft and had flavor thorugh and through. Overall, this was in the top three with regards to fried chicken (best tasting flesh) on this trip.
The Missus ordered the Pescado Frito (fried fish).
A good sized fried fish, moist, but very mild, along with the same sides.
The Missus also ordered the Sopa de Pollo (chicken soup).
This came with a quarter of an avocado, lime, rice, and tortillas. It also came with a half cob of corn, which the Missus loved; She believes that corn in the states is much too sweet, this was more like what She ate growing up.
The soup was decently flavored, though not nearly as hearty and rich as what I had at the Mercado Central in Cusco. The meat was undoubtedly Gallina (old hen), as it should have been, tough and dry. We noticed that folks seem to think that tourists want "pechuga" (chicken breat)......which is what was got. After this, we started requesting, "no pechuga por favor".......
There was one food item I learned about during this lunch....the item on the right in the photo. In the areas we visited in Guatemala and in Copan Ruinas they called it Encurtido, and based on what the main ingredient was in it, perhaps Cebolla(onion) Encurtido, Coliflor (cauliflower) Encurtido, etc.... I made sure to request it with every meal. This version was very good, as you can tell by the jar....sweet, refreshingly sour, with a mild spicy bite.
After lunch we slowly made our way down to the muelle.
We envied this guy........
San Juan is a relaxed, and sleepy little village.
We made our way to the dock, which, just as the town, was still and peaceful.....
I couldn't help but start mumbling:
"Sittin' in the morning sun,
I'll be sittin when the even comes....."
We had wondered if Lanchas would actually stop here, but sure enough, one of the boats saw us, and made its way to the pier. At this point, I felt fat and happy, but than I realized that four hundred steps was in my future!