Waking up in a soft warm cozy bed with fluffy pillows at Posada de los Volcanes was a welcomed change, I was also looking forward to a warm shower for once! As we slowly got out of bed and ready for the day you could hear the bustle of the town coming to life and a peculiar shrieking sound we couldn't quite put our finger on. The hotel consisted of two buildings; one four story building where all of the guest rooms were location and the lobby/check-in building.
Each floor of the four story building was surrounded by an open wrap around balcony bursting with sunlight and decorated with all kinds of colourful art, sculptures and beautiful plant-life. Our room was on the third floor, looking out onto the back of the hotel and Lake Atitlan and its family of volcanoes in the distance.
Breakfast was included in our stay at this posada, so we headed down to the lobby in search of where it was being served. The lobby was connected to the check in/front desk area, the restaurant (which was more of just a room connected to their kitchen where breakfast was served) and a garden. Breakfast menu was pretty standard but had something for everyone - light, heavy, vegetarian... you name it. Full and very satisfied we headed into the lobby, Steve went over to the front desk to ask Julio about getting to Atitlan Nature Reserve , while I was in search of Paco, the Posada's parrot! (The main reason I wanted to stay at this hotel)
We walked along the unfamiliar main streets of town in the direction we thought the reserve was based on a hand drawn map - it seemed easy enough. After wandering for awhile not know how to get where we needed to go we decided to grab one of the many tuk-tuks cruising by. The tuk-tuk driver came to a stop while we got in, then looked to us for instruction.. "Oh right, Spanish... hmm..." I thought to myself as I looked at Steve for help. Throughout our trip thus far, Steve was able to understand enough Spanish to get us by. He really struggled with this one, especially with payment - sentences and ideas could somewhat be understood, but money and numbers was a whole other issue, but he did much better than I would have! Once payment was sorted we climbed out and headed to the entrance of the park.
The reserve offered two ways to get around the park; either hiking the entire trail and crossing all sorts of suspension bridges or a little bit of hiking combined with zip-lining. As much as I would love to report that I was able to round up enough courage to zipline hundreds of feet above jungles and alongside mountains and cliffs going who knows how fast, I couldn't; believe me.. the bridges were enough of a test. The choice was especially easy reading all the signage directing us towards the zip-lines.. "Cables X-TREMOS" and "Cables ULTRA X-TREMOS" definitely not for the feint of heart. The hiking path had its own rewards, such as being able to take the path at my own pace (not having the zip-line guide) which means I get to stop every 20 seconds to take a bunch of photos!
The pathway through the reserve was a beautiful hike through the forest, we quickly discovered a popular spider monkey feeding spot. The parks caretakers leave enticing open bananas around in key viewing areas to promote monkeys and other wildlife to come and feed. Great alternative to zoos for local wildlife, the reserve is protected and wildlife is free. Win - win for all involved!
We saw butterflies, birds, and monkeys with lots of great views of Lake Atitlan, many waterfalls, and the neighboring volcanoes along the mountainous trails and many suspension bridges.
After we had been hiking for awhile, we turned a corner and discovered something pretty unlikely to find along side a mountain hiking trail... a goat! He had a rope around his neck, the other end snaking loose along the path. I was fairly concerned about this because the goat was alone, was his caregiver coming back? How long had this goat been here? I couldn't just leave him there! I greeted and pet the goat and he seemed to like me, after a few moments we heard some commotion and discovered his caregiver not far off working on one of the reserve buildings, a butterfly reserve.
Once we finished at the reserve, we unloaded our laundry with the hotel for washing and decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the more modern part of town. I desperately wanted to be a tourist and wander the crafters markets they had set up and visit all of the brightly coloured shops and restaurants. Panajachel was most definitely a tourist town - most of the shops along the main roads were either souvenir shops peddling various trinkets and toys or merchants selling all sorts of handwoven and embroidered goods, restaurants, bars or trip planners. The streets were full of cars, minibuses and tuk-tuks going every which way, women walking around with as many hand-embroidered clothes as they could possibly drape across their shoulders, hoping to sell on the street, children selling bookmarks, key chains and whistles. "Hello lady, good price for you!" many of them shouted in my direction. This was probably the first time we were faced with an overwhelming amount of people trying to sell you things on our trip so far.
There were so many beautiful items I wanted to buy. If I had more space in my bags I probably would have spent a good portion of my money here. Every time I found a bag, belt, skirt, or blanket I had to convince myself to hold off, knowing my luck I would buy something and then the very next town I would find a blanket I would like even more. I tried to keep in mind that over the next few days we would be visiting places known for their handmade goods.
We had lunch at a place called Guajimbo's which we heard served incredible steaks and huge portions at that. The restaurant was open to the street so you could watch all the commotion.
We stumbled into a small museum located on the grounds of a hotel in the village called, Museo Lacustre which was actually a fantastic little museum for its size! The museum displays information on the nearby volcanoes, lava flow and depicts how the lake was formed. A small collection of ancient artifacts are showcased that have been recovered from the area and a whole exhibit focused on an ancient town that was discovered submerged at the bottom of the lake!
After spending the day exploring we relaxed in the hotel for awhile and decided to venture our for the evening to find a place for dinner. We discovered a place called, Jose Pinguino's which turned out to be one of my favourite places on our trip! The restaurant is run by Jose, his wife and his daughters. They put on a very entertaining and informative show nightly where Jose talks about Mayan culture, dress, stories and food and introduced us to the marimba! I could have sat and listened to his daughters play the live marimba music all night, other visitors even got up to dance. The food was delicious and you even got to learn how to make tortillas! The restaurant is definitely geared towards tourists but I loved ever minute of it! Jose and his family were truly gifted entertainers.