Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lakefront Property

We’ve been shopping in a massive outdoor market in the regions capital, Solola. With every single female being dressed in traditional skirts and tops. It was at least as big as a football field. I bought food for our week at a house with our own kitchen. I bought a whole organic chicken and had the butcher halve it for me. Potatoes, carrots, cucumber, avocados, and limes followed it into our borrowed shopping bag. Down in Pana, we stopped at a grocery store and bought sausage, eggs, milk, OJ, canned cream-of-chicken soup and smoked gouda cheese. That was Saturday afternoon. That night I roasted the chicken with the carrots and potatoes and the soup . . . it was absolute heaven. 

The next morning we could hear the school bands pounding away on their drums as they marched up the hill from the dock to Santa Cruz perched above us. It’s Independence Day. We followed the noise about thirty minutes later. The road looked steep. A tuk-tuk offered to give us a ride, but we said no. An hour later we finally dragged our sweaty selves up the last ten feet only to find that we overshot the festivities by a couple of blocks. I could barely breath. Lake level is 5,000 ft above sea level! Who knows how high this village is.
A sweet young Mayan girl led us back down the hill to the school yard. It was packed with the majority of the townsfolk. The pre-school rhythm and dance children were the first act. They strutted out onto the basketball court to “We Will Rock You.” This was followed by two more grades.
Tired moms watched.
We finally gave in and went back down to the lakeside. A hippie hotel and restaurant called Perdido Iguana (the lost lizard) had ice cold beer and yummy sandwiches. It started raining.
Later, for no good reason, we decided to join Lee and Elaina (owners of Los Elementos-our place) and another couple for a hike up to a friend’s house. In the rain. It’s embarrassing how hard it is to adjust to the altitude. The house we went to hangs over the lake with a nice balcony. The guy is a German doctor and the wife is a Nicaraguan. They have two adorable sons. Jenny didn’t speak any English so I got too practice my Spanish. When we left we returned to the house while the others went on to the next town. That turned out to be a mistake on their part. They got stuck in a torrential down pour. We sat on our porch and watched.
I had noticed how most of the pueblos are located way up the mountain. The only lake front property belongs to foreigners. I thought this odd because the villages had been built long before outsiders came here to build their vacation homes. The puzzle pieces finally came together when Lee pointed out the remains of his submerged home. They built it seven years ago, now it’s under water! The lake has risen over twenty feet in seven years (18’ in two years). Today we took a tour of the lake and stopped at Santiago, and San Juan Baptisto.
As we cruised along the shore we saw home after home submerged. The Maya just shake their heads at the silly gringos down on the shoreline. Lake Atitlan has no exit. She is over a thousand feet deep and surrounded by mountains and volcanos. Over the centuries she has risen and fallen by hundreds of feet for several reasons.
Rain and shifting tectonic plates are the main culprits. One time it dropped fifty feet in one year! So if someone offers you lakefront property at a great price, you have been warned.
Maya legend says there is a lost city in the lake with all of its treasure left behind. You can imagine how smug they were when divers discovered a completely intact city at about 150’ below water. Now all of the artifacts are in the museum in Guatemala City. The center of all Maya power is the middle of this lake. The two massive volcanos looming 11,000’ over the lake represent a woman’s breasts, and the lake is the womb. In the center is the bellybutton. A wind will sweep up the coastal slopes between the two peeks and then plummet down to the lake every afternoon. Sometimes a wind will come from the opposite direction. This will create water swirling funnels of wind and water over the bellybutton. Our host said he’d been lifted off the water in his kayak once by a water-devil. On the 2012 Maya cycle changed. Many people believed the world would end. Most of these ancient Mayan tribes saw it as the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one. But on that day the lake’s surface was covered in water funnels/tornados. Lee said it looked like the lake was boiling.
We stopped at a traditional home in San Juan Baptiso to watch the youngest members of a family of eight perform a dance. It was a traditional love dance (cute guy washing at the lake by the cute girl, she ignores him, he tries harder, if he can break the vase on top of her head he can marry her, she holds onto the vase very tightly, he pulls her pigtails). We visited an herb garden and then a weaving shop. In this town everything is cooperative. They have a much higher standard of living and are strict about maintaining the Maya ways.
In Santiago we rode in the back of a pick-up with twenty other locals. We visited the elusive shrine of Maximon. He was in a shack with a priest chanting prayers. Those who seek help will put on one of his two hats during the ritual, or maybe smoke a cigar with him (He is armless, legless, and made of wood so this is bit of a mystery to me). Every year on Good Friday he and Jesus act out a battle between the official Maximon temple and the Cathedral. Jesus wins each time. And then Maximon is taken to a new location. All of the followers have to bribe anyone who knows where he is, until he is found.
Definitely a different world.

1 comment:

  1. The hotel we stayed at on Lake Atitlan has lost part of its lakefront garden. The hotel itself is set a ways back, but the owner (who has had the hotel there for about 50 years) knows she's going to lose another layer of her terraced garden when the lake rises some more. At least she's prepared for it!