Lago Atitlan, pt.1

Our slow descent through Guatemala, meant that Hanno and Kikki were only a few days behind us, having returned from a break back home. Until they arrived, we concentrated our efforts on finding the best priced Spanish lessons and camping spot. 

Our initial plan, had been to stay at Pasajcap for the night and then drive around to San Pedro the next day to check out other camping options. In reality, the road was pretty horrible and so we decided to take the boat across instead. 

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived in San Pedro, our trip had been somewhat delayed by the weather. The last return boat was in an hour or so, not giving us long to have a look at what we wanted. We walked through the steep little cobbled streets of the town, past nice looking bars and little boutique restaurants until we arrived at one of the Spanish schools I had been messaging.

The deciding factor here would be camping. This school had a very small carpark, which Bruno definitely wouldn’t fit in. They were lovely people however, so while we ruled out camping there we went to see a nearby site. This had the feeling of being somewhat unloved. A very enthusiastic caretaker showed us around. In the absence of the owner in person, I messaged him for a quote.

With time running out, we headed back for the boat, picking up some quick supplies on route. Thankfully, San Pedro is much cheaper than San Marcos for basic grocery shopping. Having returned home, we now had a quote for the other campsite. He wanted nearly double and wasn’t willing to negotiate, so it looked like we would be staying at Pasajcap. Despite the fact that it was less convenient and the addition of the boat made it a little pricey, we didn’t mind. It was simply a gorgeous spot, with great facilities for a very reasonable price. 

Having committed to a location, I went about figuring online ordering in Guatemala. We needed a few things for the van which it wasn’t easy to get hold of here. Still struggling with power, I decided to buy us a new coil pack. Our rooftop LEDs had also given up on life. I needed Amazon. Luckily for us, there was another English person on site who had been ordered several things from that very website. He gave us the information and I put in an order. That committed us to ten business days here. We decided to start with we would pay for a week of Spanish lessons and made arrangements with Mayab Spanish School. For only £65, you could have 20 hours of lessons over a week period. An excellent price, but it was going to be pretty intense at 4 hours per day. 

Our plans finalised, it was finally time to see our friends again. We walked down the dirt road to San Marcos when a familiar blue box appeared ahead of us in the road. Bruno had made it too, although that’s never a great surprise. We finished our shopping in town and hurried back to catch up. You can never quite tell how things will pan out on the road. We had said goodbye to them in Tuxtla Gutierez, just the night before the date that marked a year travelling together. We had planned to meet again in a few days and it was in fact several weeks before Lee and I broke open the bottle of champagne we had bought for that occasion for something completely different; his birthday, by ourselves, broken down in San Cristobal. Since then, it had been 6 months. How the time flies…

We spent the rest of our evening enjoying some rather nice rum from Belize and catching up. We had one day of relaxing left before we started Spanish lessons. 

We had arranged our lessons so that we could do a little work online in the morning before. So, on Saturday morning we headed for the docks and arrived at the school for 10am.

We met and paid the director Juan and were allocated our tutors. I ended up with Conchita who didn’t really speak any English. I was quite glad that I had enough basic Spanish to be able to manage that. Lee ended up with a guy called Nicotu who had better English. Hanno and Kikki were whisked away to other parts of the garden, all set up with desks and whiteboards with their respective teachers. 

We emerged, four hours later and somewhat brain dead. We were clearly going to learn a lot this week! It was nice to finally have some structure to learning the language, rather than just picking up bits and bobs there. Learning this way always gives you a rather biased approach as you only learn what you need. I can do pretty well in garages and with online ordering but make small talk? Not a chance. The point was rather highlighted, when, after talking to my tutor for a good half an hour she asked me if I knew the alphabet. I shook my head. She looked confused….

” But you can speak Spanish…?” She queried. 

Sure, but who actually uses the alphabet as a standalone thing? Not on a normal day. 

Spanish was not the only thing that needed improving. Lizzy, after many vet visits and many courses of antibiotics still snotted and shitted everywhere at will. She would jump into the bed at night, purring, rubbing her face on yours, full of love. You would lie there in the dark, in terror, waiting for the sneeze and hoping that she would only snot on you and not poop herself simultaneously. Often we were not so lucky, I awoke at 6am covered in both. Something clearly had to be done, one cannot live in such a tiny little van with that kind of thing! We had already seen there was vet a in San Pedro and so one day, much to the amusement of the locals we took her with us on the boat. One guy was so taken with her, he forgot to get off the boat causing the driver to turn around and drive back to the dock.

After another intense four hours of Spanish we headed to the vet. They did a blood test and we would get the results the next day. I spent the evening copy up my Spanish notes while the ever present rain poured down outside and Lizzie helped me.

Yet another day of having my brain fried by the different uses of “por” vs “para”, we returned for the results. It was not the straightforward affair we had hoped. The test results were somewhat inconclusive. They wanted more tests. They tested her snot this time and we then jumped into a tuk-tuk and headed across town for an X-ray. With this, the vet looked rather worried. He said something was clearly wrong, a tumour perhaps. He then told us he wasn’t very good at reading X-rays.

“The other day.” He reminisced. “I X-rayed my lungs and I thought I was dying!! But actually it was totally fine and nothing was wrong.”

He would get a second opinion and in the meantime we hoped his X-ray reading skills hadn’t improved. Another set of expensive blood tests were ordered and yet again we would need to wait for the results. 

A lady sat next to us in the vets. I had noticed her yesterday due to her odd clothes. She had been here with her dog. She told us she let her dog eat chicken bones which had then got stuck and then asked us if she could do some kind of ‘healing’ for Lizzie. She shut her eyes, yawned loudly and then proceed to swirl her arms around in the air while clicking her fingers. This went on for some time, no doubt ‘energies’ were being aligned or the like. I was too busy trying not to laugh, until she told me that if I thought more positively about the situation, then Lizzie would just heal. I resisted the urge to ask how that had helped her when she’d needed medical attention for her dog, and we set off for the camper. Once again in the pouring rain that drenched the lake every afternoon without fail. 

Our time in Atitilan happened to fall across our two year anniversary. Pierre had recommended La Casa Zapote, a restaurant in the hills behind San Marcos that specialised in wine and cheese. This sounded pretty promising, especially as our other option turned our to be shut after we walked down and Lee broke the door bell. 

We are notorious for missing our anniversaries, so despite the fact that it was pouring with rain we were determined to go. Hanno and Kikki had wanted to join us, but given the weather they declined.

“Why don’t you just go tomorrow?” They asked us.

We were adamant. Today was the day. We made it to the campsite office before we decided they were probably right. It was a horrible night. 

This turned out to be a good decision as we discovered when we tried again the following night. Again, it was raining. We went to the lake front for a drink before heading to the restuaurant. We were going to take a tuk-tuk but the only one available had a very drunk driver and google said it was only 10 minutes so we decide to walk instead. In the gentle rain, we set off up a steep hill. It was lucky we hadn’t bothered with the tuk-tuk really, as soon the road stopped. We walked down footpath of which large parts had collapsed. It really didn’t look like the way to a nice cheese and wine evening, more like a wet dark walk in the woods where we’d all get murdered. But, surprisingly it was the right way after all and after a little while we emerged at a wall and walk around to the entrance. Almost expecting it to be shut we were happy when they confirmed it was open and let us in. 

The restaurant was a little eclectic. It was a mix of fancy tables lined with tiny little forks and nice lighting. The walls were lined with a range of objects from weapons, to saddles and rabbit cages. We sat beside a large aviary and a waiter came and brought us a menu and a bell to ring when we were ready to order. It didn’t take us long to get stuck into a bottle of red and order a platter of cheese. A large cheese board with over twenty cheeses, made in Guatemala, arrived. We had chosen to share two between the four of us, it not being the cheapest. It all arrived on one plate which led to a lot of careful cutting and distributing of the accompanying olives and nuts. 

It was rather a nice treat however, good cheese is a rare commodity. We paid up, shared out the two mints we were given with the bill and left. I had assumed that we had come in a rather back entrance, and checked with the waitress when we left what was the quickest way back to town. She confirmed, not the way we had come. In actual fact, there was little in it. It was a little odd to eat a fancy meal in a rather nice restaurant and then have no option but to stumble for some time down an unlit dirt footpath through the forest after. 

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