Friday, October 25, 2013

Qanajuyu, Atitlan Villas

On to one of the most picturesque places on Earth!
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala...
A beautiful lake, surrounded by doormat volcanoes, and 12 unique Mayan villages. I can't think of a better place to kick back and relax after an epic fishing adventure with Captain Chris Sheeder aboard the Rum Line out of the Casa Vieja Lodge.

 Wow! Breathtaking.......

 Onto Atitlan Villas, accessible only by boat right now, they are working on a trail from the mountain road through their coffee plantation, but right now it's a beautiful boat ride from one of the Mayan villages surrounding the Lake. As the property comes into view, my mind is filled with anticipation of what is next- the temazcal (the Mayan version of a sauna- where they steam fresh eucalyptus leaves) a dip in the pool, a stroll up the mountain to the coffee plantation, take out the kayak, grab a nap on the hammock... Decisions, decisions!

Just in time to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the sunset... Sitting on the balcony, enjoying the moment- the smell of fresh dorado and tuna that we caught being expertly prepared by World Class Chef Luis makes our stomachs growl.

Nothing like waking up to a cup of the best coffee in the world....

Wow! What a breathtaking view from our balcony.

The facilities here are top notch- the pool sparkles in the sunlight- spotless and inviting, the hot tub is perfect for the cool nights on the Lake.

The last time we were here, I had the privilege of meeting Jose Manuel, this guy's a fishing machine, every time I see him, he is fishing.  This time, I brought him something special, a brand new Eagle Caw travel combo and a bunch of tackle.

Talk about happy guy! He couldn't wait to get a line in the water...

Good thing I brought an extra combo for Minor Antonio , he loves fishing too! After a little instruction with the new gear, these guys are ready to go.

Of course, if you are going to fish with your new gear, you have to sport your new Salt Life swag too!

The kid in me wanted to stay right there and fish all day long, but we had plans to meet with my good friend Juan Carlos for a day trip to a couple of the surrounding Mayan villages.

Every time I pull away from Atitlan Villas, even if its only for a few hours, I find myself looking over my shoulder wondering "why am I leaving this place?"

My good friend Juan Carlos, whom I've known for years, is THE ultimate tour guide. Talking to him is like opening a history book of Guatemala, he knows about every aspect of the culture and scenery- which helps us to make the most of our trip. 
I asked him to give me an overview of Lake Atitlan, and this is what he said:
"Lake Atitl├ín. One of our largest lakes covers over 125 square kilometers. Also it is considered the deepest lake in Central America and is surrounded by three amazing volcanoes and twelve Mayas communities. The Volcanoes that surround the lake are Toliman 3,134 meters high, Atitlan 3,535 and San Pedro 3,020.  The lake offers an astonishing landscape that has made it a natural jewel for thousands of travelers. Lake Atitlan is very famous in Guatemala for its natural beauty and for the combination of rich cultures, where history mixes with religious traditions and mysticism. Lake Atitlan has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the world.
 What to do in Lake Atitlan: 
In addition to the cultural activities, you can take a coffee plantation tour, go zip lining, kayaking, hiking, visit a nature preserve or go shopping.
Atitlan means "place of the waters" in Nahuatl."
We took a boat trip to visit some of the Mayan communities around the Lake next.... 

Juan Carlos explained,  "between Maya cities around the lake most visited by tourists have Panajachel, Santiago, San Juan and San Pedro la Laguna. But is in Santiago Atitlan where history mixes with religious traditions and mysticism
The following story tells of the native's view of Maximon.( This story comes from local oral tradition and was written down by an Atiteco.) Maximon means he who is tied with string or lasso. Ri Laj Mam means "great grandfather" or, in other words, the grandfather of all the people of the village of Santiago Atitlan.
At times very wise and times very crazy, the figure of Maximon has confused outsiders for many years. This combination saint/devil is one of the strongest remnants of the native philosophy in Santiago Atitlan."

You have to see Maximon for yourself- it is quite a unique experience! It is a statue that is housed by a different family each year, and according to tradition, he must be honored with constant rum and cigars at his disposal.  He is most often wearing multiple ties, and kept in an incensed room.  Usually you pay a small boy a few Q's to lead you to him from the boat ramp...
To check out more about Lake Atitlan or Guatemala- Juan Carlos has a lot of information on his website for his travel service,
V & C Tours:

Time for one more stop along the Lake- lets head to the open market at San Carlos, another Mayan town around the lake.

Fresh papa frio while strolling through the market, sampling black corn tortillas, fresh fruit, and other fun delicacies along the way.... 

I think we're good on the seafood today-

I like the way they bundle their live crabs.

Home sweet home. What a fun day! Looks like there is time for a session in the temazcal before dinner... 

Fresh eucalyptus leaves ready to go, time to relax in the temazcal for awhile

These guys were still fishing!

How could I resist... There's no place I'd rather be- fishing always seems to make the world a smaller place.

Just one more cast before dinner... Please?!?

I'm a go-go-GO kind of guy, never slow down or sit still- but something about this place makes me take a deep breath and relax, and reflect and soak in all of what life has to offer.

Awakening to another epic sunrise... Lets do something different today

Fishing from the kayak with the hand line... Dragging a spinner bait, hoping to find a bass or two. 

What a calm, picturesque place, with a more beautiful view around every corner.

Even though fishing was slow this morning, the gorgeous time on the awake made up for it, and made for a morning  I won't soon forget.

Around every turn, another postcard view awaits...

Onto another adventure on the lake, a day trip to Santiago, for a nice lunch

Onto San Pedro to sample some more local cuisine... She's in!

On our last night there, at a little after 9, I heard a light tap on our door. I opened it to find Jose Manuel holding a fish he caught with his new combo and lures! I don't know who was more excited, him or me! 

The night bite is on, this guy is a fishing machine!

Fish after fish, he loaded up the stringer!

Man I don't want to leave this place! 

But it is time to go... Short ride across the lake, gives me time to reflect on another epic adventure, surrounded by great friends

There's always time for a little more Guatemalan flavor! 

We take another look, reflecting on crazy new adventures, great fishing,  kick-back time, delicious food, nature, indescribable scenery, and  most of all the incredible people, who I'm now proud to call my friends.

One last look.....I can't wait to come back!

Livin' the Salt Life,
Capt Don