Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lago Atitlan and Guatemala

We made it to Guatemala and Lake Atitlan today. As we approached the border, (or frontier as it’s called here), we could see the rugged steep and green mountains that formed the natural boundary between Mexico and Guatemala. It was breath taking.

The border crossing was fairly easy. First we had to check ourselves and our vehicles out of Mexico. Then we went a little bit to the Guatemalan border and had our bikes sprayed with some sort of insecticide/herbicide. Then we filled out the vehicle import documents and got our passports stamped for entry. It was very simple, easy and pleasant.

The cultural atmosphere was quite different. There were more indigenous people and lots of color. Mexico was rather grey in comparison. One thing I immediately noticed is that people in Guatemala are not in the habit of waving or nodding to drivers. I had the sense that there was tension in the people. I saw this in many places and in many people. There were not many smiling faces. Later as we were further away from the main road I saw a few smiling faces.

As we approached Lake Atitlan, the road became steep with many switch backs. At one point the entire lake and the volcanoes that surrounded it came into view. The sky was a deep blue with puffy clouds. There are about fifteen villages or so that ring the lake. The city streets are steep and narrow cobblestones that I find quite challenging when I can only effectively touch one foot at a time. All the off road training that I did is proving quite valuable.

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