Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: A Visit to Jaibalito


Neighborhood market and cafe, Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.

Jaibalito is a village on Lake Atitlan that neighbors Santa Cruz. You can walk between Jaibalito and Santa Cruz or you can take a launch between the two village docks.

My original plan was to walk, and I set out to do just that.

But I allowed myself to listen too closely to my fearful side. On occasion, tourists experience robberies on the path between one village and another. My impression was that, as it pertained to the path between Santa Cruz and Jaibalito, it would *probably* not be an issue.

Years ago, when I was in my 20s, I did a summer study in Ecuador and Peru. The mother of one of my fellow students came with her daughter. I don't remember her name, so I'll call her Dorothy. Dorothy was probably in her 50s. She had silver hair. Peru at that time was rife with pickpockets who used a variety of creative ploys to separate you from your valuables. Pickpockets singled Dorothy out for several attempts. In other words, thieves perceived her as the weak gazelle to be culled from the herd, simply because of her age. I filed this observation in my memory bank.

It doesn't matter if I, as now that woman with silver hair, could ward off a theft attempt. What matters is that I might be put in the position of handling such an assault, when a younger traveler might not, simply because the perception exists that I am more vulnerable. This is annoying, but it's a variable that's got to be considered.

Another variable in my intended walk was that I was alone, which I also factored into my risk calculations.

I think what clinched it for me, though - the decision to take the boat instead of walking - was when I reached a point in the walk where I was veering away from the openness of the water and a line of houses, into what seemed secluded woods, and I thought: Dogs. Mean dogs.

Risk management is a balancing act. I talk with my English-language students about the connotation of some words; where they are on a continuum of similar meaning.  In the vocabulary of risk, I strive to be adventurous yet prudent. I try to avoid being foolhardy or fearful.

Was it safe for me to walk from Santa Cruz to Jaibalito? I think it probably would have been just fine. On this day, however, fearfulness won out.

These negotiations of the mind. They are part of solo travel.


Laundry day in Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.


Lake Atitlan communities are home to both Mayans and to affluent expats or Guatemalans, "affluent" being a relative term. The Mayans are unlikely to have decent access to education, good healthcare and nutrition, and well, many choices in general about their life trajectories

Shortly after I disembarked from the launch and approached the hamlet from the dock, a local gentleman came up to me and inquired if I was looking to buy property. If so, he would be delighted to assist me in doing so. 


At the Jaibalito dock, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.


At the Jaibalito dock, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.

My first stop was at a tiny market and cafe, where I ordered a café con leche, and just sat in a chair while I took things in. I had no agenda in Jaibalito other than to poke around. Oh, and have lunch somewhere.

No, none of these chickens were lunch:


Jaibalito rooster, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.

Jaibalito rooster, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.

Jaibalito hen and chicks, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.


I passed a church as I wended my way upward through the village. The door was open. This must mean I'm invited inside, right?


Renovacion Carisma Catolica Church, Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.


Renovacion Carisma Catolica Church, Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.


Renovacion Carisma Catolica Church, Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.

I did have lunch in Jaibalito, at the Posada Jaibalito. The lunch wasn't remarkable one way or another, but my heart fluttered at the idea of the hearty, homemade German bread offered there. I bought a loaf, in which I indulged over the next day and a half.

The above-pictured chickens provided some entertainment at the Posada, which has a tropical-lush backpacker-y vibe. Meals on wooden tables, which are under a roof, but open on all sides.

I filmed the trip back to Santa Cruz on the launch below:





Below is the view of a bluff that is between Santa Cruz and Jaibalito. This is where I walked part of the way the previous day.




You can see the stilted wooden "boardwalk," as it appears from the lake.

Here is the perspective from the boardwalk itself:

Boardwalk en route between Santa Cruz and Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.

Boardwalk en route between Santa Cruz and Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. April 2016.




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