Sunday, January 22, 2012

Life Off the Bikes

Since our last update we’ve switched from physical to mental exercise here in San Pedro, Guatemala.  Right now we are halfway through a planned 6 weeks of Spanish classes.

So far we have loved our Spanish school “La Cooperativa”.  Starting at 8AM, 5 days a week, we have four hours of one on one Spanish instruction at the school.  In the afternoon we usually spend 2-4 hours studying at one of the numerous cafes in town and drinking coffee.  We are staying with a local family here: Miguel, Maria, and their three girls Ana-Maria, Norma, and Angela.  We couldn’t have asked for a better family.  They have welcomed us into their home with open arms and Maria is an excellent cook!

During our free time we’ve been hanging out with the other students or exploring the surrounding area.  In addition to providing assistance to local families, the school organizes activities for students outside of class time.  These include salsa class once a week, Spanish movie night, lectures on Mayan history and issues, and activities on the weekends.  Here are four of our most memorable activities so far:

1. Tour of a Local Coffee Processing Plant

The San Pedro economy is based heavily on tourism and coffee production.  The Cooperativa organized a tour of one of the local, fair trade, organic coffee producers here.


Coffee spread out to dry (still in the pods)


A worker separating the coffee by quality.  The higher quality beans are denser.  We were surprised at how much water is used during the whole process.


The final unroasted product.

2. Hikes Around Town

We had the opportunity to take a hike up “Nariz del Indio” (The Indian’s Nose) one morning for a wonderful view of the lake. 


Panoramic view of Lake Atitlan.  The lake was formed in a collapsed volcanic crater.


Active Volcan Fuego erupting in the distance.  We saw it erupt three times while hiking!


Our first ride on local transportation in Guatemala.  There are 20 people in the bed of this normal sized pickup truck and another 5 in the cab!

3. Exploring the Lake

Lake Atitlan is rightly known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.  During some of our spare time we have been able to explore some of the other towns surrounding it.


Our favourite swimming spot in San Marcos La Laguna.  This is about a 10 minute lancha (boat) ride across the lake.


Pretty waterfalls in the ecological reserve near Panajachel across the lake.


Monkeying around in the ecological reserve.


Lake Atitlan in the early morning light

4. Exploring Around Town

San Pedro is quite small, but it’s a very interesting place.  We enjoy sitting or walking around taking in some of the crazy Guatemalan things happening. Some of our wackiest experiences so far have been watching someone try to sell half of a whole cows head in a local market (I was curious how she cut it in half!) and seeing a woman walking down the street at a good pace while holding her son’s hand, carrying a basket of vegetables on her head and breastfeeding her newborn. Now that’s multitasking!


Two of our favourite things in San Pedro: 1Q (about 12 cents) frozen chocolate covered bananas and 5Q fruit smoothies.


A new friend at a local wedding we were invited to.

We now have three more weeks of Spanish lessons before we leave San Pedro.  It’s going to be tough to move on as we’ve made friends with some of the other students and have really come to love the area.


  1. Hi Folks! Great story and pics. Who knows it may be like the experience Forest Gump had. You'll finish your southbound journey and decide to keep going and then head north again. If you do, you'd have a place to stay here, and lots of new stories to tell. I guess having the stories is how you know you've had a life. Take Care and Disfruta de la vida! (From GOOGLE translate, hope it's right!) JPP

  2. Looks like you found a lovely spot to spend 6 weeks in! I really like the photos of the volcano, so pretty!
    Very proud of your coffee-drinking skills Dave! I bet you will be pounding back the espresso shots by the time you get back to Canader.

  3. Beautiful images, y'all! Sounds as though all is going very well. Leaving will be tough but your next arrival will be worth it.


  4. oh my goodness, those pictures (especially the blue-ish ones from the Indian Nose hike!) are just MAGICAL! so beautiful!! and thanks for taking me to San Marcos!! buenas aventuras adelante!!