Kev was able to get Navi to download some Central America maps, I don't know if it was help from above, or the fact that in La Antigua we were staying in a monastery…but what ever the power it was a true blessing. Maneuvering through the confusing, colorful, bustling, foreign streets of La Antigua, even with an unexpected road detour, with the ease of navigation, was a definite godsend! I have to say that I do love the adventure of getting a little lost in town as it allows you to see so much more… but when tuk tuks are whizzing so close past you that you can smell the drivers cologne, and curious moto riders, caring passengers, parallel you, eye seducing your bike... riding so close that you could shake their hand…that is all, a little too friendly for me! Today was our latest checkout yet 12:30 pm. Exiting this puebla well into the day, obviously did not help our curious encounters…all that crossed my mind was "thank god for the downloaded maps!" We turned left accelerating up the steep mountainside and out of the La Antigua immediately settling in to the adventure of the day. The larger highway system in Guatemala is not like that of the western world. In congested large city areas they sporadically exist then they return to narrow roadways, to cobble stones, to dirt and back to highway.
The ride from La Antigua up to Lake Atitlan was absolutely epic! The road conditions although adventurous, really were not that great. Much of the haphazard paved terrain had us maneuvering through literally swiss cheese conditions. If that was not enough to keep you focused…It got better! Landslides, off cambered elevated switchbacks as well as dramatically descending drop offs , sunken areas and then, when you thought that you had encountered the worst, the road totally disappeared. WTF….it all made sense now! While riding through one of the many small towns, making our way to the Lake, Navi had got a little confused and we ended up in a street parade. No worries…the police were soon by our side. We pulled over and the two seriously armed officials graciously offered their assistance. They were concerned when we explained that we were trying to get to Lake Atitlan. They wanted to see our map!! Kev explained that we did not have a map and that were following the route through GPS. They chatted for a couple of minutes then asked us to follow them. Kev and I followed attentively behind the black nissan police truck. The police lead us back up to the cobbled street that we had originally come from and continued until driving until we had all exited the town. They pulled over to the side of the road and so did we. They exited their vehcile and discussed our route again. You could see that something was bothering them. They had a discussion between themselves and seemed to reach an agreement. They smiled, shook our hands and off we went. I"m sure that they were saying that we would be able to cross the river on the bikes…And that is what we did!
Lake Atitlan is stunning. Conical volcanoes towering high into the clouds surrounding the lake are lush, alive, wondrous and majestic. Men fish the lake from their roughly chiseled wooden canoes. Women beat their traditional colorful clothing to be laundered against the large volcanic rocks while washing and rinsing them in the clear Atitlan Lake water. And you can hear the playful happy squeals of children splashing and swimming in the lake below echo up the mountainsides, instantly creating a smile on your face…it truly is a very innocent and tranquil setting. We chose to stay 2 nights in Santiago, the largest of the towns around the lake. Although I definitely could have spent more time exploring the other communities! Most of Santiago residents are dressed in traditional clothing, which is truly a beautiful sight. We were lucky enough to experience market day in Santiago, and before I knew it I was all dressed up in traditional attire! Kev had a bugger of a time picking me out from the crowd! Well my tale is kind of true….I did end up purchasing an entire Santiago traditional women's clothing ensemble, but the fact is, I stuck out even more now being a light skinned and blue eyed tourista! There was definitely no blending in, only snickers and smiles from coy onlookers. The fact is, this ensemble brought more attention from other vendors and locals selling their handicrafts and wares! Easy target….already baited, hooked and ready to be reeled in. Little did they know that now we had no more local currency, and we were not about to load up before leaving the country!