Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chillaxin' in Panajachel.

Calle Santander, Pana's main street, lined with commercial establishments targeted at tourists including yours truly :-)

We arrived into Panajachel ("Pah-nah-hah-shell") from Antigua via a short drive from Chichicastenango.

The town is nicknamed Gringotenango ("place of the gringo") by some, in reference to the number of tourists who visit and the foreigners who choose to live in Panajachel, but most people call it "Pana" for short.

Pana's appeal is all about its position overlooking Lake Atitlán and its laid-back atmosphere.  After the hustle and bustle of our first four days in Guatemala, I was looking forward to a bit of down time.

We arrived into Pana in early afternoon.  As we approached the town, all we could see were clouds and fog.  I could barely make out where the waters of Lake Atitlán were let alone the volcanoes that surround it.  I hoped it would clear up because this was not the weather I wanted for my chill time.

Our mini van pulled into the hotel parking lot and Sue got us settled into our rooms.  Of course, the boys and I were ready to hit the streets.  With a map in hand, we headed out towards the lake.

Not a great day for photos.  This is a view of two of Lake Atitlán's with it's tallest volcanoes, Tolimán and Atitlán in the backdrop.

Posing for the obligatory photo.  We're not looking happy or relaxed :-(

It started to drizzle and that just amplified what was already a dreary day.  We took a quick walk along the water's edge and then went in search of a place to shelter from the rain and to grab a bite.

As with so many tourist hotspots, it's not hard to find a place to eat.  We stumbled on *restaurant row*.   I've been in this situation so many times in so many places.....it's all the same.  Restaurant sentries a.k.a "waiters", stand outside the restaurant's main entrance with open menus in hand.  As you walk by, they shout out the restaurant's specialties.   How to pick one when they're all probably just tourist rip-offs?  If you have the answer, let me know.  I end up just going into whatever restaurant looks good and usually regret afterwards :-(

I think we were all a bit too mentally to decide so we just entered into a restaurant and followed him up to the 2nd floor balcony where he put us at a table with a view.  Not much of  a view on this cloudy day.

The only thing memorable about this restaurant was the guacamole that I had.  Who knew that I would crave guacamole but this one was soooo good - creamy as butter with an intense avocado taste.  I couldn't stop eating it.  Little did I know that pretty much all guac in Guatemala is lip smacking good and we agreed it's because of the type of avocado they have there.  I've never had such good guac in my entire life.....not even in Mexico.  (Apologies to my Mexican friends.)

After lunch, we found ourselves on a small street lined with (no surprise) vendors selling handicrafts.   I should have realized by now that the guys enjoy shopping.  It didn't take them long before they zoned in on some shirts they liked so there was quite a bit of time spent trying on different styles, sizes and colors.  Not kidding, they did all the shopping....I just stood by and watched.



Poor Valiant though.  He really wanted to buy the same style cotton shirt as the other two guys but the vendor didn't have his size - dos equis......XXL.  She ran off to see if there was ANYONE else who had  shirt in that size but no luck.  They made plans for him to come back two days later and she would have some shirts for him.  I think he did go back but she forgot so no shirt for Valiant......oh well.

We eventually wound our way back to the boat dock but there really wasn't much to see or do there.  There, met up with a cute doggy who would become our walking companion - not only on this day but on the following day as well.  I named her Perro which is the Spanish word for "dog".   I must be a dog magnet because I picked up Archie in Croatia and Catchup in Turkey.  Archie did leave me once I got up from my spot by the harbor.  On the other hand, Catchup spent several hours hiking with me through the valleys in Cappadocia and then hitched a ride with me back to Göreme.  There, I left him with my friend Şahin.  Last I saw Catchup, he was sleeping next to the woodburning stove in Şahin's shop.

Perro, patiently waiting for me while I took a picture.  She rarely left my side.
Perro accompanied us as we walked up Calle Santander.  We all agreed that she was an exceptionally smart dog - always keeping an eye out for us but never getting in our way.  She would expertly dodge in and out of traffic and negotiate going up and down steps with ease.  She knew enough to not follow us into stores so she would patiently wait for us outside.  I really wanted to reward her for tailing us up several blocks but I could not find anyplace to pick up a treat for her :-(   Eventually, we parted ways but as I told the guys, had she been a stray that followed me back in the US, I would immediately taken her to the vet, had her cleaned up and vaccinated and taken her home.  She and I really bonded. 

Although I spent my fair share of time strolling up and down Calle Santander, I really was not in the mood to do shopping....no haggling over price to save a few dollars.  I just wanted to chill out and so that's what I did. 
On the hand, the stomach is always on the prowl.  Trust the three little piggies and one girl to zero in on the food vendors.  We found this one selling taquitos.  Even Byron got sucked in.

Why bother with plates?  With the Ang Bros, food barely stays on the plate long
enough to make it worth while having a plate :-) 

Byron, counting out quetzales to pay for his taquito. 
Wisely, we took the time to relax because the next two days would be activity filled. Tomorrow will be spent cruising around the lake and visiting several lakeside Mayan villages. The day after, which will be our last day in Pana, I get to paragliding in the morning and horseback riding in the afternoon.