Started a bit later than planned from our lovely hostel in Guatemala City and got a taxi to the bus station. At first we were a bit sceptic about taking the 2nd class bus (chicken bus) but this turned out to be quite a fun little adventure. They really cram the bus full so we got squashed to within an inch of our lives, but it was a nice atmosphere in the bus and everybody has a big smile on their faces. Every now and then the bus picks up vendors who pass through the bus selling their goods before being dropped off further along the route.
When we arrive in San Marcos la Laguna it’s around eight in the evening and as we don’t have a map of the place we have no idea where the guest houses we’d looked at are situated – and there is no roads here, only a network of small paths so the guest houses’ addresses are just San Marcos la Laguna and no street-names. Along the paths there is no lighting which doesn’t help us in our navigation. After walking up and down the main path and then up and down countless of more times we finally find a place to stay for the night. It’s not the nicest place – it’s a very basic room, which isn’t anything unusual or bad in itself, but the shared facilities are downright very grubby. It serves us for the one night though as we find it near impossible to find any open guest houses. Next day we learn most guest houses close their receptions around six in the evening (apparently for security reasons) although San Marcos seems completely safe to us.
First thing in the morning we head over to Hotel Aaculaax to see if they have any available rooms. We’re in luck and get an amazing room – really spacious and with a nice view of the garden. We could also have opted for one of their self-contained flats up in the hill above the hotel with what must be an amazing view, but at 800 Quetzales (US$ 100) per night it is a bit above our budget. Our room is unfortunately not available for our whole stay here so for the last two days we go for a smaller room (the good thing is that it’s cheaper of course). We love the décor in this hotel – everything is built by volunteers and out of recycled materials. It’s got heaps of character and the staff and owners are really friendly and helpful. The breakfast is also absolutely amazing with lots of fruit, home-made jam and fresh locally grown coffee. No wonder this place holds the top spot on TripAdvisor.
The atmosphere here in San Marcos is dangerously relaxing – almost hypnotic – and we find time just flies by while we get a well deserved rest and recharge at the end of our trip. People here are also really friendly and as we walk around exploring the place virtually everyone you encounter says hello with a smile – it’s infectious and really makes it a pleasurable place.
The most important highlight of my travels was played out here in San Marcos la Laguna. It all happened when we went to jump into the Lake Atitlán from the rocks. It’s a really popular thing to do here in San Marcos and there is even a seven meter high platform where you can jump off of. The water has a really nice temperature and it’s really deep so it’s very safe to jump in even from very high up. I decide to try to dive from the platform and have Hannah take a photo of me in the dive. Little does she know of the upcoming surprise. I dive in and when I surface and swim into land I call to Hannah saying I found something on the bottom of the lake. She’s very curious about what this can be and as I hand it over to her it becomes clear it’s a small ring and as she receive it I ask for her hand in marriage. To my relief there is no sign of hesitation and I get an instant YES. It made me feel like the luckiest man alive.
We spend the rest of our stay just lounging around in town eating gorgeous food – all locally sourced and organic of course – and find it really hilarious with all the hippies we encounter – some are really, really “far out” and like a throwback from the sixties. Here you can actually find true hippies – something we’d hoped to see more of previously in our adventure, but unfortunately not had much luck with. It’s also really fun when there is live music in the restaurants and as they pass by they dance in the style of seaweed on the bottom of the ocean, swaying around with their hands high in the air as if in slow motion.
We decide to splash out a bit as we’re close to the end of our trip and hire a private taxi from the hotel to Guatemala City Airport for our flight to the last destination Mexico City. We get picked up just after eight in the morning so there is no time for breakfast. Our driver stops at a petrol station which has a little restaurant attached though and we have a fantastic traditional breakfast there – really unexpected how good this meal in a petrol station is – a very pleasant surprise. After this it’s direct drive to the airport and we arrive nicely in good time for our flight.