“Calidad” means “quality”.. and is a casual Guatemalan term used to express appreciation of anyone, or anything.
Our Guatemalan Central Highland experience was full of ups, downs, and rainstorms. Alas, after weeks of arduous riding, we could see the volcanoes as we merged onto the last downhill. We savored the moment, stopping to awe at the majestic scene of the volcanoes over the lake! Oh, yes… Lago Atitlan, here, we rest.
What’s the rush? Eight months ago, before this photographed moment, I could have already been here. Then, I had contemplated to begin a lonely ride through the northern deserts of Mexico, or, take a bus directly to Lago Atilan for a special New Years gathering where my friends were. I missed the friends and the party. Fortunately, what I didn’t miss was the adventure that brought me here.
Our first stop was in Panajachel, for only for a few cups of coffee, then to find the next boat to San Pedro. On the street we meet Greg, and he too, was on the road through the Americas by caravan with his family. He invited us to his home to camp in the yard and met the tribe.
Greg and Rachel Denning are from Utah, whose positive outlook on life is their career; Discover Share Inspire. They counsel people who look for inspiration to travel with their family.
The 5 children on the road. They lived in India, Mexico and Alaska. I was impressed by them as they described their worldly cultural experiences and proudly claim that travel is a great education. We had a nice time with the Dennings, sharing our unconventional life stories. They brightened our hopes and dreams to travel. Photo credit: m.piem.org
The party town of Guatemala- a bohemian counterculture of barefoot-bongo-bashers, Guatemltecos and gringoes, alike.
Friends* from San Fransisco connected us with the best folks of the village; Paola, David and Shakespeare (the dog), the owners of the Bar La Clau. There were many fun nights at La Clau- the weekends drew everyone from the village to party. They hosted music gatherings like solo guitar sets, drumcircles, and electronic music. David and Paula were good friends to us, and their friends were just as humble and fun as them.
“CALIDAD!” A final goodbye was the Drum and Base party for Paola’s birthday- an incredible night of dancing that I’ve been missing for years! Thanks Paola and David for your help- we will see you, next time! Photo credit: m.piem.org
Intentionally, we came to San Pedro for me to study Spanish.
I scheduled a class to learn Spanish at the Mayab Spanish School. My teacher, Juan Marco taught me Spanish grammar for 20 hours. The class was worth it, and I still carry around my class notebook for reference. The landlord of Mayab, Juan, allowed us to camp in their beautiful garden for the duration of the school week and some extra days.
The village sits at the foot of the San Pedro Volcano. After the class was finished, Paul and I made a 5 hour hike to the summit of San Pedro. We had a brilliant view (Calidad!) at arrival on the summit. Unfortunately, not the following morning. We camped on the sleeping volcano and hiked down in the foggy morning. Photo credit: m.piem.org
A 1o minute boat ride across the lake to the next village, San Marcos, where we stayed for a couple more weeks. It was a retreat from the party scene of San Pedro and a quieter place we happily called home.
A friend* that I met in Mexico, recommended me to stay at Merlin’s home. Two cabins at the lake shore facing south of the 3 volcanoes- the location and price couldn’t be any better!
Buenos Diaz, Lago Atitlan! The view from our home. Calidad- no?
Merlin and the cats.
Merlin, the whimsical character who makes lamps, aquariums, and ashtrays from volcano pumice stones and broken glass. Four happy cats live at the home, too.
..not just some beauty-salon pumice stone..
…but calidad ornaments.
a delicate ashtray.
A floating cubical fish tank.
We shared the home with Bowien and Mike, who we met back in Mexico.
We stayed a week longer for the duration of an Ayuvedic massage course I took with Paola. It took some patience to wait for the class to begin- it was worth it. Paola was an excellent teacher. Picture credit : m.piem.org
Paul made a solo hike up to Volcan Atitlan. He brought me back flowers and a view from the summit! Cali..
Picture credit: m.piem.org
With my friend from Holland, Bowien.
Guatemalan picture pose with Kentucky friends, Delayna and Rey. poto credit: m.piem.org
Memorable friendships were made in San Marcos. There was a French connection at the Boulangerie Cafe- a happy Paul and a furthermore, lost in translation, Marie. The hardcore trampers all came together to celebrate our friend Bowiens birthday around a fire and music. We had many nights of soulful connection neither Paul and I will not forget. Leaving from the lake, I felt healthier from the actual presence of sympathy and support. I feel it’s a quality that is lost in the void of electronic messaging. When it was time to say goodbye, it was like parting with friends we’ve known for years.
Adios! Lago Atitlan. Until next time… keep it calidad.
*Thanks to Guillermo Alacorn, Ofer Nagar and Kurt Van Aert. Their guidance took us to people who became our friends, too. Lago Atitlan was an incredible experience for Paul and I, thanks to all of you! Love to you guys!