After arriving via multiple forms of transport from the Mexican border (check out my post on that here) we had reached Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela in the Mayan language and which I will use from here on as it’s easier to type).
Doing a loop of the town centre we discovered super cheap hotels which were nasty as well as pricier ones but none seemed to fit until we reached a guesthouse run by a friendly Dutch girl. We settled in and immediately thought of food as it had been a long time since breakfast in Mexico. Walking around for about 45 minutes didn’t help us with deciding on a restaurant so we headed back in the direction of our hostel and one we had seen earlier in the day. Luckily it was open and although looked close to closing they cheerfully invited us to sit. A fish platillo (Tom) and a beef platillo (Me) with tortillas and beers to drink hit the spot and we were very satisfied with our meal.
I had an ulterior motive when convincing Tom to walk through the plaza on a detour back to our accommodation. On our hunt for a restaurant we had seen two women selling what looked like round donut type things with a warm honey syrup. They were delish and I quickly became a sticky mess from eating them.
That evening, although tired, we made friends with another backpacking couple who we discovered were also heading to Lake Atitlan to study Spanish. The night was quite cold and we woke to a miserable day threatening to rain, which it soon did.
We farewelled our new friends promising to catch up in San Pedro soon. The rain stopped and we decided we couldn’t stay in the guesthouse all day so we ventured out to locate breakfast and visit the market. Breakfast was great. Q20 each for a huge plate of eggs and beans with tortillas (standard) and we just had to order an accompanying smoothie to go with it.
With more rain threatening at any moment we made it to the market as the sky opened. It was a perfect time for Tom to decide to get his hair cut at a barber. Afterwards we dashed around the stalls picking up ingredients to make dinner and headed back to the guesthouse.
Not a hugely productive day but not too lazy either. We rounded out the evening cooking and sharing a few beers before getting a good night’s sleep. The next morning would be an early start to get packed up and back to the bus station for our trip over to Lake Atitlan.
On our way back to the station we were joined in the colectivo by two other backpackers. The van got pretty squishy with all our packs arranged around us. They were on their way to San Pedro as well so together we located a chicken bus to the lake. Locating a bus was an interesting five minutes as the locals had different ideas and we kept getting different responses about the availability of buses on a Sunday. Eventually we were called over to a bus which was direct to San Pedro. Perfect!
The bus assistant guy threw our packs up on top of the bus, strapped them on and covered them with a tarpaulin. I was impressed at this and didn’t worry about my pack for a moment of the journey. We happily chatted away with our new friends as the bus (which are the fastest vehicles on the road) sped around corners and up hills. After about an an hour and a half we started to descend some steep roads to the lake.
The roads were insane and at one point there were multiple switchbacks so sharp that the bus had to take them as a three point turns. But the scenery was gorgeous and I all but hung out the window trying to get clear photos between the bus bouncing over potholes (more often than not).
By the time we arrived we were all sore from being bounced around in an old bus for 3.5 hours and happily climbed out. There had been six backpackers in the bus and only five packs were thrown down (all but mine!) before the bus driver impatiently started driving off. Tom chased down the bus as we all yelled “Una más, una más!” (One more, one more) at the drivers helper. He banged on the bus and it slowed for long enough for my pack to be passed to Tom. We had finally arrived in San Pedro la Laguna and headed off towards the lake to locate our school for the next few weeks.