At Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán

I am sitting on a wooden chair on a stone and tile floor, outside in the cool mountain air of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán. Surrounding the lake are volcano-shaped with what I imagine are perfect pointed peaks. They were, in fact, once volcanos. I only say I imagine their tops because the actual peaks are hidden from my view as they are encircled by soft fluffy white clouds. The clouds somehow perhaps look both light and fluffy as well as rain-heavy. I am at a loss to describe their beauty. They seem to dance around the mountain peaks, dressing the mountains in a magical covering. Some of the mountains in view along the lake are vivid green. These mountains closer to my view are a soft blue-grey, veiled lower down by the mists of the clouds.

This is the first time I have felt cool air since I left Los Angeles. The cool air is welcome. I am wearing a 3/4″ sleeve thicker shirt for the first time in my travels.

When I awoke yesterday morning my plan was to go to Antigua in Guatemala, stay there a few days to explore that colonial city and visit coffee farms and a chocolate place, but my travels took another turn during the ride on the “shuttle” bus. Funny thing about travel: It appeared I would be the only person besides the bus driver on my journey to Antigua when I purchased my ticket at 3:30pm. The bus, however, sold out at 7pm so when I showed up for it, there were 14 of us and others had been turned away. “Fourteen seats, fourteen people… this would not be a comfortable 6 hour ride,” I thought. “Who are these people that will be squeezed next to me as my backpack rides atop the van under a tarp that promises to protect it from the impending rain.” Then minutes later one of the guys behind me is offering me 20 limpera to add to my last 41 limpera in order for me to get one of the fried chicken combo meals like the ones that he and his friends have brought onto the bus enticing me — and the girl on the end is off the bus to buy it for me as I am bounded by the other two on my bench. Then, an hour late I am participating in a great conversation with Leigh and Carlos, the two former strangers that are my seat-mates. Five hours of great conversations about philosophy, dating habits in the US and Germany (Carlos’ home), and more. An easy border crossing. Two great gas station stops at Texico gas stations and shops that are fully like any good station in the US, provided inexpensive Sarita ice cream, candy and a cash machine for me, coffee and sandwiches for others. A scare and lesson as Carlos’ credit card is declined twice until his mother in Germany reaches his card provider to verify that it is, indeed, Carlos doing the traveling, followed by high-fives when he is finally able to garner cash at one of the stops. All too soon we were saying goodbye to Carlos in Guatamela City as he had a plane to catch so could not be talked into travelling with me, and Leigh and I knew we would be roommates for the night in Antigua. In fact, I knew, and said, I would likely to continue on with her the next day as she traveled to the lake.

Thus, it came to be that she and I stayed at the hotel right next to the bus drop-off and walked around Antigua for the evening. At the bus (van) office I learned that the coffee farm would be a day trip for me, as would be the chocolate farm. I would need a bus or taxi or tour. Fine. But then I would want to visit the lake Leigh was heading to. So why not go with her? The bus I wanted to take to San Salvador would leave from Antigua so I would be back there anyway. It was decided and I bought my bus (van) ticket to join her before we even went out to dinner. Walking around and out to dinner, I knew I had made the right decision. Boarding the public boat on the lake after our two hour bus (van) ride from Antigua to Panajachel – and seeing the lake, I was very sure I had made the right decision.

So here I sat looking at the beautiful clouds surrounding the beautiful mountains that surrounded the beautiful lake — in between good conversation with an Israeli named TuTu, that is.

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