First three photos: Dock in Pana and boat ride pictures, on the way to Santa Cruz la Laguna.
This year I was able to spend Christmas at Lake Atitlán with a friend in the Peace Corps. I usually go to Panajachel for overnight stays. It’s a bustling city and I have friends and fun there. But this time I stayed at La Iguana Perdida (IP), a lovely place on the waterfront in Santa Cruz La Laguna. We opted for the “cheap seats” as my friend calls the dorms which is what made it affordable for us as Peace Corps Volunteers.
Photos above/below: La Iguana Perdida
La Iguana Perdida has a gorgeous view of the volcanos. They have seating areas with wicker and wooden chairs, couches and hammocks and there are opportunities nearby for diving, weaving, and kayaking. There’s no wifi but there’s a computer room and a cafe close by with internet. They also have a beautiful reading room with a large screen tv if you are an introvert. It’s possible (though not necessarily easy for non-hikers) to hike along the mountain ridge and visit other hostels and cafes. But if I did it, so can you. Boats are always at the dock for trips to nearby towns around the lake, until around 5pm. Best of all is their friendly staff!
So, I managed to get to Iguana Perdida in the afternoon and happily sank into relaxation mode. I met up with my friend and we sat and watched the sunset and enjoyed the breezy night air. It was Saturday night and the IP makes a big dinner for its guests every Saturday (for Q70). I was deliriously happy to eat such healthy food. No photos because I was too busy eating!
Just before I retired for bed, my friend mentioned that the dorms are coed. I said, “What the fork!? What the fork did you say?!” [I said the real word, but if you haven’t watched it, see “The Good Place” which uses “fork” often. It’s hilarious!] My friend laughed at my shock and left for her own dorm while I scrambled to mine in the dark. The dorm was actually fine. Whew! My bed was set against an open window with a screen so I could feel the night’s breeze and see the stars and tree tops. There was no electricity, door, or bathroom in the dorm. A shared bathroom was a few steps away, outside. Thankfully, everyone was politely quiet.
On Christmas Eve morning we took a boat to the nearby town of San Pedro to meet another PC Volunteer who lives on the lake. It was my first time at San Pedro, which has only recently been made accessible to Volunteers. We strolled the hilly streets, had coffee then breakfast, then found a great health food store so I could buy things unavailable in my region. Our friend took us for a short walk over rocks on a hillside to see “a better view.” The “view” however, is everywhere. The dazzling blue lake with its sparkling diamonds is everywhere you look. Photos: San Pedro & friends
At night we dined at a large table and met travelers from around the world. I’m more of a listener than a talker, except with close friends. So I listened and gave a Reiki session to a young couple’s dog that had some sort of ailment. But the conversations were fascinating. One young woman had read and watched documentaries about health care and the prison system in the U.S. (and other gloomy topics). She kept bringing up things that made me sink lower and lower in my seat. I finally said, “You’re talking about all the things I’d like to forget right now.” Then I motioned to a very intelligent English woman at the table and said, “Shall we talk about Brexit?”. Her face fell and she said, “Oh, nooo!” And that’s what led the conversation to diving, a much more interesting topic for our holiday evening.
On Christmas morning the atmosphere was buzzing with holiday cheer. Pine needles were laid on the floors and a few Christmas lights and decorations rounded out the Christmas atmosphere.
My friend and I headed out for a hike along the mountain ledge that led to a few other hostels and hotels and finally to the next village, Jaibalito. There, we sought the Posada Jaibalito, owned by an Austrian man by the name of Hans. Hans specializes in German food, excellent homemade breads, his own coffee farm, and affordable prices. As a result, he enjoys a steady stream of travelers to his inn and cafe and apparently does a lot of good for the community. He has a great reputation.
On the way back, we explored the fancy hotel, Casa Del Mundo, which friends had recommended for special occasions. But my favorite place along the path was Hotel Isla Verde (see photo below). They have a lovely deck for meals but the thing that I really liked was their lounge and 60s & 70s music selection! I would’ve stayed longer if I had the time.
We returned from our hike just in time for Christmas dinner which was glazed snow peas with orange & blanched almonds, baked carrots in spiced red wine, turkey, ham or vegan choices, stuffing, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and stellar Christmas cookies. They also have a full bar in the dining area every night. Many guests came just for Christmas dinner which apparently is a tradition for a lot of folks on the lake.
I was happy to make the acquaintances of some people with whom I would have liked to have continued our conversations. I was delighted to meet a woman that served in the Peace Corps for three years in Benin, in West Africa. I also enjoyed meeting a photographer/teacher with a big smile and artistic flair to her dress. And I was so happy to see one of my Reiki students and her husband there, and to hear a little bit about her work as a teacher; she was very impressive. Mostly, though, I was glad to get to know my friend better. We shared some stories about our lives and now I feel blessed to know her and to know that someone so good is alive in the world. I do recommend la Iguana Perdida but if you go, go with a friend unless it’s easy for you to meet new people. I’m more of an introvert which is why it was good for me to be there with a friend.
On the morning after Christmas my friend went kayaking and I went up the hill in Santa Cruz, to my favorite cafe on the lake, Cafe Sabor Cruceño. I ordered a piece of zucchini bread and coffee. It was divine! with a pomegranate-cream icing and flower decoration. And since the IP doesn’t have WIFI, I indulged at the cafe while looking up frequently to see the magnificent view. (see photos below)
Upon leaving la Iguana Perdida, my friend continued her vacation week elsewhere on the lake. I can’t wait to see her pictures! I have returned to my home and must get ready to teach my first English class tomorrow. And I’m getting ready for 2018 with new intentions & ceremony. Happy New Year everyone!