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Roland - July 2006

You could see that there was something wrong with the guy on the bicycle from yards away.  He was blond and about thirty years old.  The striking features were his wild, glassy eyes and the weird distorted smile on his lips.  He steered the bicycle around pedestrians, sometimes circling a  bystander while talking to talking to anyone.  He asked Roland in an American accent "Do you have any Canabis?".  When Roland told him, "No." He immediately responded with "Iīm a tour guide.  Would you like me to guide you on a trek up the volcano?"

We took it as quite a joke.  He might as well have said "Iīm a thief.   Would you like me to hold your wallet?"  Panajachel was invaded by a group  of hippies in the sixties and remnants of the counter culture remain.  You occasionally see Americans selling beaded jewelry, and living otherwise wasted lives in a paradise where the weather is gentle, basic needs are cheap, and little attention is paid to foreigners who ignore the local  drug laws.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  But, I canīt imagine any beholder who would not agree that lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful places  in the world.  The lake is surrounded by green hills accentuated by three volcanoes 10,000 feet high.  There are a few small villages on its shores.   They are so small that you donīt see them during the day.  At night they are distinguishable as small specks of light in the darkness.

We took a boat ride from Panajachel to three villages on the lake.  The water was like glass and the scenery was magnificent.  We stopped for an hour or so at each of the villages.  Not inclined to spending hours in souvenir shops haggling over the price of blankets, trinkets, and jewelry, we assumed our Johannesburg Hiking Club alter egos and set right out on the nearest road that went uphill.  Eventually, we would be rewarded by wonderful views of the village, the lake and the mountains.  Then, we would enjoy the thrill of exploring every nook and cranny of normally unvisited parts of town as we hurried to catch the boat before it departed.

We are now in Puerto Barrios where we will take a boat to Punta Gorda, Belize.  We visited the immigration office at 7:45 this morning where we were told that our lack of an entrance visa was "a big problem".   After some explanation that the agent didnīt seem to understand, and some discussion about going to another city to cross the border, and more discussion about penalties, we were able to get our passports stamped with an exit visa, at a cost of $20.00 each.  We signed receipts that were stamped, but, not given to us, because they had to be stamped "by the bank".  The bank was not open. We are now going to go back to see if they will give us the receipts.   We are not out of the country yet.  But, we think weīll make it.


 Len and Roland