The Lake to the Jungle

The shuttle to Panajachel, on the lake was actually pretty easy, it only took 4 hours through the beautiful mountains of Guatemala. I tried taking photos out of the shuttle but it was too bouncy.

Getting off the shuttle in the rain at Panajachel (the gateway to the lake) we were greeted by lots of shouting water taxi men just saying various places throughout the lake. We’d decided on Santa Cruz la Laguna rather than San Pedro, the main little town on the lake. We’d been recommended this by other travellers along the way as it was less of a party place and prettier.

We picked a man out of the crowd and said Santa Cruz por favor ( my Spanish is slowly improving but my pronunciation is appalling – I get that from my dad). After clambering into the boat with all our stuff and 10 minutes later clambering out we had arrived at our destination – Free Cerveza, glamping!

This photo was taken the next day as when we arrived it was pouring with rain and you couldn’t actually see the volcano.

We’d chosen a chilled couple of days but the clues in the title! Free beer!!!! Each night, as there isn’t really anything else to eat and the last water taxi is at 5.30pm, they did 5-7 free beer if you got dinner which was a 3 course meal. It was actually really nice but the free beer is lethal! Plus I hate beer so I was the heathen who asked for lime in mine 😊

During the day you could grab a air bed and just relax in the lake, watching the world go by, and dodging the water taxi’s.

We chilled here for a couple of days, hoping on and off water taxi’s to go to the other little villages along the waters edge. San Markos is worth a visit, it’s really cute and pretty hippy! Very chilled out.

Our intention was always to go up to Semuc Champey in the jungle but we ended up staying a little longer at the lake – it was just so peaceful and beautiful. A haven away from bustling chicken buses and crazy roads/drivers!

Eventually we ordered a shuttle to the jungle. Setting off at 7 in the morning to get the water taxi to Panajachel and then a shuttle onwards. Like most journeys on shutttle buses they are uncomfortable and loooong! This one however had other exciting twists. So not only did we change buses a couple of times, which is pretty normal, our bus driver announced when he pulled over half way up a mountain in the middle of nowhere at dusk that he had forgotten to put more fuel in!! So before we could actually break down, two hours from where we were meant to be, 8 hours already into our journey he pulled over, muttered something in Spanish, took his wallet and set off in search of some petrol he could buy! He disappeared for about an hour, in which time it had got pitch black. Lucy and I, to no avail, implored with people to stay on the bus and not draw attention to ourselves and tried explaining it wasn’t sensible to emphasise our situation. It’s the first time on this trip where I felt slightly scared and also nearly lost my temper with some of the people on our bus! Luckily, the bus driver returned with fuel and lots of revving later, he managed to start the engine! Phew. Amidst shouts from some of the Israeli’s on our bus that they were going to sue. Which annoyed me even more! These things happen when you travel, and the bus driver fixed the situation and was already stressed/flustered enough without being told that people were going to sue him. Anyways I digress…… we were on our way. Two hours behind and pitch black! I’m not going to lie the roads were terrifying in the dark, well I thought they were until we turned off onto what looked like a dirt track – which it pretty much was which was even scarier 🙈. We hurtled down the mountain into the valley and an hour later, with a very bruised bum we arrived in Lanquin at 9.30 at night!

Herded into pick up trucks we were taken to our hostels – in our case, Vista Verde which we’d heard good things about. I was greeted with ‘oh you are Harriet’ which is always disconcerting when you appear to have a reputation when you have never been there before. Turns out, Malte had been expecting us to arrive from 5 and asked the receptionist to tell him when we arrived and had booked us onto the trip for the next day. So no reputation already – phew.

Absolutely exhausted after 13.5 hours in shuttle we conked out amidst the jungle sounds and bloody massive spiders!!!!

The next days activities came with no warning! And I would say the hour and a half in a cave, climbing through tiny holes, walking through powerful waterfalls with massive drops and being pushed down narrow gullies is not for the faint hearted but an incredible experience if you don’t mind bruised legs, swimming and a few moments thinking ‘what the bloody hell am I doing?!’ Like nothing I’ve ever done before, and an incredible experience. I think actually if I’d been warned I might have chickened out so probably a good thing! I was too big to get through some of the gaps though squatting so my legs are black and blue haha! Oh did I mention this was all by candlelight too. A few times I needed both hands so had to put the candle in my mouth – god knows how I didn’t set fire to my hair ha!

Activity 1 complete, now on to the viewpoint hike. Which was up steep steps and slippery paths for half an hour. I wasn’t at the back but it took me longer than half an hour as it was so hot and I was not expecting it. Getting to the top however was pretty spectacular

This photo doesn’t do it justice and does not show how wobbly my legs were! I think as Lucy is afraid of nothing she was good for me – just throw yourself in and hope for the best! Adventure awaits and all that.

Activity 3 – final of the day, the pools! The beautiful fresh water pools that you can swim, slide around in and cool down after the 40 minute walk down. A beautiful contrast to the fast flowing, powerful waterfall above. The pools also included nibbling fish which were loving my scrapped and scratched legs!!!

At around 5, when the clouds were starting to draw in, we clambered back into the pick up truck and held on for dear life on the 40 minute journey from Semuc Champey back to Lanquin. I thought at this point, I’m going to hurt all over tomorrow and that sadly was true not only from physical exertion but also we managed to catch a bug of some kind similar to gastroenteritis. Not fun!

To recover we headed back to Antigua and spent a couple of days feeling sorry for ourselves before we go our separate ways. The massive highs and huge lows of travelling.

Wow this post is long, sorry! I’ll try keep more up to date with them. Next stop for me is Costa Rica – sadly because of time I have to miss out Honduras and Nicaragua – but at least I leave something for next time!


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