Ill skim the details of the bus ride over to San Pedro, Lago Atitlan, because by now you know they’re all long, boring and generally overcrowded. We even picked up a hitchhiker and her daughter on the way, and the two of them shared the last seat in the back. Needless to say, it was rough. More so for Matt and his 6 foot 10 frame, who was sitting front seat with the driver and another man (not a small guy) in the middle of them. But then more so for me again when I realized I didn’t have my sunglasses and would likely never see them again- along with my beautiful onesie.
So ya, I was irritated. But without room to move my arms to look in my bag to double check, and thinking back on the surprisingly long relationship I’ve had with my Ray Bans, I decided the only rational thing to do was remain positive. Everyone’s already irritated at this point, the last thing they need is the antics of a forgetful girl causing a scene because she has once again lost her sunglasses, only to find that they’ve been on her head the whole time.
But they weren’t on my head this time, and they certainly weren’t in my bag when we pulled up. By this point I had been trying to retrace my footsteps, only to remember that I had my sunglasses in my hand along with my wallet and passport. So I was really, really, trying not to freak out. My things were gone – or left somewhere, the hostel, the bathroom. I didn’t know, because the bus driver who had been half an hour late had the nerve to yell at us to rush, without giving me a second to collect my thoughts, do a last minute check, or even pee.
I’ve learned to be really good in a crisis, and I can credit that to one of my favorite books, The Buddha Walks into a Bar by Lordo Rinzler. Its simplistic brilliance really. It reminds you to listen to, but not act on your emotions. To remain focused on the present, stay positive, and always keep an open mind. If you have a high stress job, or just need to be reminded to breathe every once in a while, give it a read.
I mean, I could have stood there on the pier crying, feeling sorry for myself because my Visa to England was in that passport. Not to mention the incredible inconvenience of having no money. But I have good friends, they support me, and never criticize when I make mistakes. And I hadn’t yet ruled out the possibility of good karma keeping my wallet safe at the hostel (By this time I had used a phone and called the hotel of the restroom I used, and it was not in fact there). So I remained calm. Very bummed, but positive and open minded that my passport would once again be in my hands, and I’d be able to see my boyfriend in London.
Matt paid for the boat trip over. Meanwhile Corey, Reece, Jack and Max met us with open arms at the Pier. We grabbed a beer while I connected to the WIFI to get a hold of Aydann, a Vancouver resident l I befriended at Jungle Party. All my positive thinking paid off, because she was waiting for me to message her so she could tell my what a loser I was to leave it in the Lobby. Even luckier, that she had put it safe in her bag and would be on her way to the Lake the next day.
With my hand still throbbing, and the guilt of my forgetfulness still looming I skipped out on the nightly events and opted to take it easy that night.
The next day we met up with Aydan and spent the day touring San Pedro. Lago Atitlan is a large, and unfortunately polluted crater Lake, surrounded by fertile, mountainous hillside, and volcanoes looming overhead. Due to the lakes unique characteristics, and the fact that there are no rivers leading out stream the Lake rises so high it actually drowns many waterfront structures, and cycles back down approximately every decade or so. The views are spectacular from the main street spots, and you’ll likely see fisherman in the bay catching your potential dinner, and women doing their laundry, while also bathing their children along the shoreline. Morning coffee is usually extended because there is so much to marvel at.
This was certainly the hippest place we had all been to thus far. The town is full of beautiful well dressed girls (I’m still wondering where the hell they had room in their backpacks for their unnecessary assortment of impractical hats), and bearded hipster boys. This is also the coolest spot on Lago Atitlan, with a large group of travellers, all around the same age. Many of them even getting sucked in by its charm and staying months to volunteer at a bar, instead of moving on.
The streets are somewhat confusing, but your bound to find tons of cool shops, neat artisans and sweet eats even if your completely bat shit lost. The main street off the pier is where you’ll run into most of the friends you’ll likely meet at Mr.Mullets, the bar attached to the hostel of the same name. There you will find a lot of the action is centered. The nightlife, though a bit clique, is fast-paced and never ending. There’s weekly offshore raves that are easily accessible by boat ride and always after hours. Needless to say, the drug scene is prominent. It goes without saying however to be careful, your still in a foreign country no matter how “acceptable” it may seem. Monday is trivia night at Hostel Fe, but every other day of the week one is sure to find a themed party. On Sundays most respectable bars closed, and everyone heads over to La Piscine for a midday bbq and full day party.
Don’t let the ravers throw you off however. There is a ton of hiking and hammock swinging to be done, and kayaks are available for rent to tour around the lake at a fair price. There is also a huge Spanish school community. After the stint in the hospital I decided to take advantage of that perk, enrolling myself in Spanish lessons for 4 hours a day 5x a week for around 70US.
Though I love a good party, I don’t however enjoy sleeping in a party hostel where people are vomiting to your right, and passed out to your left at all hours of the day. Mr.Mullets, though nice just isn’t for me. We found a really nice Hostel called Rise and Shine, they offered daily yoga class at 8 am, and nightly meditation at 5pm. They also provide you with full use of their kitchen, granted that you don’t bring any meat or fish into it. It boasts a really laid-back hippy vibe, and your bound to meet some very interesting people during your time there. They also provide a discount to the Language Hub, the school in which I immersed myself in my daily Spanish with my favourite instructor Juan. I’m not sure if he liked my bubbling, to goofy for school personality on the first day, but he warmed up to me eventually. I even convinced him to teach me at the outdoor bar over a couple of beers because I didn’t want to miss the sun. I had to promise not to speak a word of English all class. I must say, though it was a tad alcohol fuelled, it was probably our most progressive day. Juan even taught me how to Salsa dance one day. I highly recommend the school, and if your budgeting, it’s definitely the cheapest option,.
If you do end up staying at Rise and Shine, and your not a fan of cats, I recommend closing your windows at night. I had some surprising company one evening and woke up cuddling, what I was sure was a stray cat one morning. Luckily I learned it was Luna, and she belonged to Mario the owner. But when you wake up out of a deep sleep petting a purring orange cat and have no idea how it even got there you’ll be as confused and terrified as I was. But then you’ll probably laugh as hard as I did the next day over breakfast with your friends.
And if you love food as much as I do MAKE SURE you have at least one, if not ALL of your meals at the Idea Connection. It’s this sweet spot past Buddha Bar (great dinner spot), and the food is fucking amazing. Tipoca breakfast included 2 eggs, fruit salad, tomatoes/basil/mozzarella, beans, and toast. Dont even get me started on the French Toast option. It is a more expensive spot than some, but the portions are so big you could get away with skipping your lunch. I was always full until dinner, especially given the fact that I was stuck in class for 4 hours in the meantime anyway. The service also far surpasses any other joint. I swear the man who owns it is ALWAYS happy. A little yoga, followed by a hefty meal served with a big smile and your bound to have an amazing day.
Regrettably, we didn’t hike, between Spanish classes, the social nightlife and the all day Sunday BBQ we just didn’t have time. If you do however, stay a couple of weeks because I hear the views from up top are absolutely breathtaking.
I really fell in love with how quickly San Pedro became a home away from home. I got back into a routine which helped me write a lot, and truly felt like I had done more than laze around during my time there. We lost one of our own to the towns allure, and said goodbye to Max when we moved on to El Salvador. We did pick up Stu, another Canadian drifter, and the youngest bodhisattva I have ever met, just living the dream like we were – or our version of “the dream”, anyway.