Lago di Atitlan and Chichicastenango

We really wanted to conquer one of the highest volcanoes in Guatemala: The Acatenango. But the current weather in Antigua just said: NOPE! So we decided to flee the rain and thunderstorms, just to return next week… hopefully for sunshine, rainbows and fluffy unicorns. At least one came true.

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Somewhere I read of a little German hostel in a little Guatemalan village on the very big lake Atitlan. And my sister’s eyes began to sparkle! Sauerkraut? Käsespätzle? Apfelmus? That sounded to good to be true. And after six long months, she would finally feel home again, stuffing her face with Sauerkraut, Käsespätzle and Apfelmus. I just waited for the tears to run down her face, but somehow she restrained herself.

 

That is how we ended up in Jabailito. The proud owner of two tuk-tuks and three streets, this village doesn’t have any further street access and can only be reached by boat or by foot from the neighbouring villages. As you might have guessed, there is not much to do here, except for going for a swim in the lake.

When we arrived, we were quite disappointed, since the docks and the little black pebble beach didn’t really invite anyone for a swim. Since the shore of the lake cannot be privatized, we just snuck into Casa Mundo, apparently one of the best hotels at the lake. It is an Italian-style villa , built over 20 years ago right at the shore of the lake. Once upon a time, lots of terraces gave visitors a great view of the lake, while their feet stayed dry. But then the water levels rose significantly, turning those lovely terraces to an absolutely unique swimming place. Now, they easily continue for 6-7 meters underwater, making it an interesting diving spot and just in general a lot of fun. Since Lake Atitlan doesn’t have a water outlet, too much rain can easily lead to semi-constant flooding. Locals knew of that phenomenon, gladly selling shore properties to foreigners and staying put in their houses a little higher up on the shore.

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Depending on when you are going swimming, you will have two very different experiences. In the morning until the early afternoon, the water is relatively undisturbed and you can actually swim. And then, Xocomil arrives and makes sure, any further swimming attempts will end in total failures as the waves splash you against the rocks.

Story time: There are two legends affiliated with this wind. Hundreds of years ago, two ancient Mayan kingdoms were in a bitter feud, when the royal offspring… of course… fell in love. Knowing, their love was forbidden, they always secretly met on the lake. When the parents found out about this, they sent the military out to get the respective child back on shore. Somehow, somewhere something went horribly wrong and both of the lovers drowned. In this scenario, the wind represents the young lovers having ‘an afternoon delight’. The more tragic approach (at least in my opinion) is that only the princess died and every afternoon, the prince (Xocomil) is looking for her, in sorrow.

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Well, you can only drink so much lake water, until you had enough. So we decided to go to the great weekly market of Chichicastenango on Sunday morning. We love to stroll through food markets, looking for unknown fruits, vegetables or street food, trying them and immediately regretting it. At least that’s the case for the popular unripe jocotes, a very sour fruit served with salt, pepper, lime juice and/or vinegar. A little disappointed by all the touristy souvenir stands, we dove deeper and deeper into the market and got lost in all the little textile and food stands, sometimes selling raw chicken, textiles and fruit all at once. Inside the market is another one full of comedores, where tired sellers, buyers and tourists can get a warm meal, before the bargaining continues.

It being Sunday led to a very interesting mixture of church-goers and market-goers. Especially, since the greatest church in Chichicastenango, Santo Tomas was built upon a Mayan temple over 400 years ago. By integrating its steps into the church’s entry, it still is an active Mayan religious site. It is a weirdly harmonic sight with Mayan priests burning incense and other offerings on the steps, while babies are being christened within the church.

After the rain set in, we hid in a café, simply watching the hustle and bustle of the market.

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