Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
We arrived in San Pedro around midday of Wednesday 16th November and have seen a noticeable change from Panajachel. This place is almost directly across the lake (roughly 12km) and sits underneath the dominating San Pedro Volcano (Volcan de San Pedro). We checked into our accommodation of “Villa del Lago” with only one minor hiccup. We’d phoned 2 days earlier to confirm a waterfront spot, but for whatever reason they said they were expecting us on Thursday night instead. Yes I do know my days of the week in Spanish back to front by now. They had some rooms across the road back further from the lake and we chose to stay there 1 night to make it easier to swap over the next day. Cost for the waterfront rooms was 80Q (US$10) a night for a double with private bathroom.
First thing on our to do list after checking in was booking a climb to the Volcano in the morning. More about that below. We then walked our way around the town of around 10,000 people to see what we could find. There certainly seemed to be a higher number of white westerners walking through the streets and we could hear a lot of English spoken conversation. We found our way into the main market which was nearly empty as it wasn’t a market day. Next to the market are a big white church and a medium sized park. This park is immaculate with amazingly well kept brightly coloured gardens and a large statue in the middle.
We then walked around to the other boat dock that services Santiago Atitlan. This is where “The Deep End Pool and Bar” is located and the destination for Sunday’s BBQ feast. I wonder how much longer this place will stay open as the lake is only centimetres away from the top of its entry way. As I think I discussed in an earlier post, the water of the lake continues to rise in recent years at an average of 1 metre per year.
As we walked back to our accommodation we found the tight little alley way of many hotels, restaurants, shops and Spanish schools. This way is certainly more interesting and almost completely flat compared to the long way we initially walked. We passed the bar that Rodora had found with a pub quiz for the night that even had her always talked about chicken wings on the menu. The bar is called El Barrio and has a couple of nice covered outdoor areas for an evening drink or meal. The quiz starts at 7pm every Wednesday and was well attended with 14 teams of 4 people. We made a team of 2 Australians, 1 English and 1 German. I think we finished in equal 4th or 5th, which was a pretty good effort overall I thought. Drink specials of 1 litre for 25Q (US$3) helped the night move along quickly.
Climbing San Pedro Volcano (Volcán San Pedro)
This was one of the main reasons we’d come to San Pedro for a couple of days, to climb the volcano. We went with a travel agency by the name of Junior Nixon. This is located along the first street to the left as you walk up from the dock with boats for Panajachel. Maybe a 5 minute walk and very close to our accommodation. Cost for the tour was Q115 (US$14) each. Many people talk and write about this hike. I strongly recommend getting a tour that include return transport from San Pedro to the entrance. Unless you’re trying to save a small amount of money and are really fit and healthy. The walk from San Pedro to the entrance is apparently 40 minutes each way.
It was just Rodora, our guide and I in our group on the trip. We met at 6am and were hiking by around 6.40am after checking in at the volcano entrance. I don’t know if it’s worth doing this for sunrise; the Indian Nose is much quicker and easier for the same, if not better sunrise view. The volcano itself is dormant, having been formed some 60,000 years ago. It’s height at the summit is 3,020 metres (9,908ft) and is currently ranked as the 13th tallest in Guatemala. The climb starts at around 1,800m and goes up about 95% of the time. There are only a couple of small sections of flat and I think 1 section of short downward. You climb up through coffee and corn fields being attended by workers. There is one fairly large man made viewing point at 2,194m (so says the sign) with quite a nice view of the lake and San Pedro. Soon after is another quite nice view looking to the west before you climb through forest until you reach the summit.
Through the forest it’s a dirt trail with a lot of man made steps. There are plenty of colourful flowers and interesting mushrooms and fungus to look at as you climb.
It took us about 3 hours to climb as we both struggled with the altitude and overall difficulty. This is somewhere around the average time to get to the top. Once we reached the summit, we stayed at the top for about 45 minutes waiting for frequently forming clouds to disappear from our photos and to take in some food and water. It truly is weird watching clouds form out of nowhere, right in front of your face and then seemingly engulf you before disappearing again. I strongly recommend getting to the summit as early as you can because traditionally the clouds start forming around the middle day and don’t leave for the rest of the day. This depends on time of year also.
Here is the runkeeper stats for anyone interested: http://rnkpr.com/a4h00cx
Climbing the Indian Nose (La Nariz de Indio)
This hike seems to be much more popular that climbing the volcano. I think that is due to the ease of which it can be accessed. We went with the same tour company again, “Junior Nixon”, and had the same guide as we did for the volcano.
First off, why is it called Indian Nose? If you look at the picture you will see that it looks like a person laying on their back and looking up to the sky. It’s a little bit politically incorrect, but that seems to be the name used around here.
This is another one of those places with conflicting stories and differing opinions of what to do and how to do it. Everyone is different and has different ways of doing things. For example you can hike this in the dark to see the sunrise (very much recommended), you can hike it during the day, you can hike up from San Juan which takes about 2-3 hours or you can hike from Santa Clara which takes about 20 minutes on average.
The one tricky piece of information is that you would pay a fee if you start in one town and end up at the other. This is because it is on the border of the two towns and there’s no agreement between them on sharing fees. There are stories online of authorities trying to get both fees at the top especially for those without a guide.
With all the conflicting information we chose to take a guide to avoid any awkward situations. The tour was 125Q (US$15) and included a 1 hour chicken bus ride from San Pedro to Santa Clara, the guide up and back, a hot coffee on top and a pick up ride back to San Pedro.
This all seemed quite similar to our hike of the volcano except it was obviously much shorter for a brilliant reward at the top. There was plenty of corn to keep us company and even a cow that wanted to say hello. We started our hike from Santa Clara at 5.10am and were up to the main viewing platform just after 5.30am as the colours of sunrise had just started to come out. The first platform I think is somewhere around the mouth of the Indian. The next platform on the peak of the nose is actually just a quick 5 minute further hike up. I’d recommend getting to the top of the nose for the best photos.
I couldn’t find any official number on the internet, but runkeeper shows the maximum altitude at just over 2,200m.
Here is the runkeeper stats for anyone interested: http://rnkpr.com/a4hduym
Sunday Smokin’ Joes’ BBQ
The final send off for San Pedro was Smokin’ Joes’ BBQ at “The Deep End Pool & Bar” [link here: http://sanpedrolalaguna.net/deepend/] right next to the Santiago dock. This is the same BBQ we had sampled at La Palapa in Panajachel on Saturday’s. This runs every Sunday in San Pedro from noon until 4pm. I think Rodora was desperate to get another tasting of her Flinstone Ribs. There’s a range of other meats to select from like Hamburgers, Steaks through to Ribs. This is then paired with a mountain of side dishes you can select from and even a piece of garlic or corn bread. I’m fairly sure this is aimed at 2 people sharing as it only cost Q75 (US$9.50) for 2lbs of ribs and all the sides you can see. It was just enough for both of us as we both came with big appetites. Sadly, not enough room to try and eat some desert. Add to this 1 litre of beer for Q25 (US$3) and you have an amazing meal for 2 people.
Tomorrow we’re leaving for Antigua, Guatemala for 3 nights followed by Lanquin for the beautiful waterfalls of Semuc Champey.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/