There have been moments in the past twenty-four hours where I thought, “Is this too much?” It has been a long and arduous trip to get to San Juan La Laguna, a village on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. I had moments of worry that the intensity of this journey might be too much for Vicky Ann, who I was traveling with for the first time since our amazing adventures in Vietnam and Cambodia. To be honest, I wondered if the challenges of getting to our destination was too much for me as well.
We left Connecticut at 9:00 pm and felt that the drive to New York would be the most dangerous part of our trip. Despite the late hour, it seemed as everyone was getting an early start to the Easter holiday and some were in a big hurry, oblivious to the vehicles around them.
We flew from New York at 4:00 am to El Salvador, getting a glimpse of beautiful beaches and tropical landscapes from the air. Despite being up all night, I didn’t even have a chance to grab a coffee before catching our next flight, a 30-minute shot to Guatemala City. Before 9:00 am local time we were out of the airport looking for transportation to the lake.
Our van was arranged for 11:00 and would take passengers to Antigua, about 45 minutes from the capital, and then on to Panajachel, the main city on the shores of Lake Atitlán. Our van included young backpackers from Israel, London, and the US and we enjoyed sharing stories and tips from our travels. Vicky Ann was grateful to be in such a nice van with a friendly and responsible driver as we reminisced about some more harrowing experiences in Cambodia.
Since it was Holy Thursday, it seemed the entire country was traveling to Antigua. We were in bumper to bumper traffic with a new set of vendors on every stretch of the highway. First, fried plantains, then potato chips, later ice cream. The vendors, of all ages, walked between the highway lanes without any concern, it seemed, for their own safety. The driver said the trip would take 3 hours unless we took a different route.
Roller coaster ride
We finally made it to Antigua and transferred to another van and driver. The Israeli backpacker (who had just arrived from Mexico without any luggage thanks to his airline but still had an infectiously positive attitude) continued with us and another group of young travelers who were leaving from Antigua to the lake. Everyone was chatting and very friendly – it felt so good to be traveling again and surrounded by fellow adventurers.
As the hours-long trip traversed thousands of switchbacks through the mountains, and millions of speed bumps in the hundreds of villages we passed through (I may be exaggerating just a little) the van grew more and more silent. We were all quietly dealing with the dizzying switchbacks and the driver who wanted to pass every other vehicle we encountered. He drove with quick, sharp jerks and blasted a soccer match on the radio. None of us could talk any more and soon the twists and turns induced vomit from at least one of the passengers who shall not be named. Ever the resourceful one, she had an empty pretzel bag to catch what came up (our only food since a stale croissant at the airport).
Fresh air and warm welcomes
After finally arriving in Panajachel, a busy lakeside town packed with tourists, we refreshed ourselves with a quick snack and headed toward the lake. There are no direct boats to San Juan La Laguna, but we were offered a private boat for a price. We were so exhausted that it didn’t matter how much our captain wanted, but it turned out to be the best investment of our trip.
The fresh air and beautiful views from the lake did wonders to evaporate all of our worries and soon we were laughing about all of the troubles it had taken to get here. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story of our first day in Guatemala, which was definitely worth it!
After arriving at the same AirBnB I stayed at in 2016, a Mayan family with three children, we could not resist taking a walk around the village. When you hear rhythmic clapping, you know you’re near a tortilleria. We paid a few quetzales for three hot and delicious ones to savor as we soaked up the village scenes.
The village was preparing for the Good Friday processions the following day. We had no idea of the moving and colorful scenes we would see the next day.
April 17, 2022 at 06:38
The carsickness must have been the worst! Hopefully, that’s the end of that sort of thing. How you both keep smiling through it all is admirable ~ tell Vicky Ann I say “hi”. Stay well!
April 18, 2022 at 23:47
Vicky Ann is a trooper, for sure. We’re still having a blast!
April 17, 2022 at 07:02
Love your journey so far! I will be following the blog for the rest of your trip!! Happy Easter! Hugs to Vicki Ann
April 18, 2022 at 23:48
Vicky Ann is so happy to hear that you’re following along, as am I. We had a beautiful Easter!
April 17, 2022 at 07:05
Yes! Another vicarious trip for me! What a fabulous post…..so happy you and Vicky Ann made it relatively safely and soundly! Looking forward to the rest of the adventure!
April 18, 2022 at 23:49
As always, thanks for reading Lori! More stories to come, but it’s hard to find the time to write.
April 17, 2022 at 08:35
Happy Easter Tim & Vicki Ann!
PS You may have messed up the design by using your right hand!
April 18, 2022 at 23:50
I blamed my mistake on Vicky Ann (she was talking and distracted me), but it was easily fixed. No Peeps here, but plenty of delicious chocolate and coffee.
April 17, 2022 at 08:36
I have been wanting to go to Lake Atitlan for years!!
April 18, 2022 at 23:51
Go! I’ll go with you! It truly is beautiful and the people are amazing.
April 17, 2022 at 08:47
What an adventure. And as always the pictures are gorgeous. Enjoy every minute!
April 18, 2022 at 23:52
Thanks, Elaine. We are having lots of fun eating our way through Guatemala!
April 17, 2022 at 09:41
The traveling duo at it again. Both of you enjoy your adventure!!
Love your blogs!
April 18, 2022 at 23:53
Thanks, Karen. It’s great to be traveling with Vicky Ann again. She is fearless.
April 17, 2022 at 10:17
Happy Easter to you and Vicky Ann! I love traveling vicariously via your blog. You have such brave and amazing adventures.
Thank you for sharing!
April 18, 2022 at 23:54
Thanks, Betty. It’s definitely an adventure and lots of fun!
April 17, 2022 at 15:46
This is just amazing!!! Behave, you two!!!
April 18, 2022 at 23:55
There are some stories I cannot tell on this blog. We’re having a great time, but I’ll return for my last 8 weeks of teaching!
April 17, 2022 at 18:12
Happy Easter!! Thanks for keeping us in the loop!
April 18, 2022 at 23:55
Wish I had more time to write, but Vicky Ann is keeping me busy!
April 18, 2022 at 06:43
It is fun going on vacation with you again. My best to Vicky.
April 18, 2022 at 23:56
Glad you’re with us, Paula. We promise you lots more adventurous stories.
April 18, 2022 at 11:42
You’re on the road again! Wonderful! Safe journey!
April 18, 2022 at 23:57
Thanks, Sharon. My best to you, John, and the family.
April 19, 2022 at 09:27
Lovely to read about your travels again!! Enjoy!!
April 20, 2022 at 09:07
Thanks, Lucy! Great to hear from you.
April 19, 2022 at 16:04
This looks like a wonderful trip! Great pictures!
April 20, 2022 at 09:08
Thanks, Shauna. It’s been amazing.
April 21, 2022 at 14:50
It is really great to hear this Tim, wish you a safe travel and I will be following your journey and glad that you made it this month, well done!!
April 22, 2022 at 09:51
Thanks, Alaa. Hope your studies are going well and you can get back to Westerly sometime.