After deciding to cut our stay at IMAP short, or, rather, in half, Dave and I left San Lucas this week and headed off to the touristy side of Lake Atitlan in search of food we didn’t have to cook ourselves. One can only eat so many hard-boiled eggs. Remembering the cheap happy hour at La Iguana Perdida, we set our sights on Santa Cruz and those rum and cokes for 10 Quetzal — about $1.30 USD.
Like the chicken bus that we took from Guatemala City, the kitschy mode of transportation on the lake – really the only way to get around between towns along the water – is by small motor boats. Aside from the occasional lake spray that escapes the confines of the boats’ flappy, plastic windows, the experience is pretty much like any other 9-to-5, public transit commute. Often times you’re sitting next to locals who caught the rush-hour boat after work, and the rumbling motor lulls them to sleep after a tough day at the office.
As a tourist, however, you may ride the rush-hour boat, but you’ll have to pay the gringo premium for the service. Supposedly there are two types of boat taxis — public and private. According to the guidebook, the public operation is “semi-regulated,” which, I suppose, explains the men in matching white polo shirts, and the sign at the dock that lists the prices for various destinations. However, these numbers are pretty much meaningless, as the public boat drivers will make up endless excuses as to why today’s price is doubled. At first we believed them — it was Semana Santa, after all. But after a few days of this routine runaround, their excuses began sounding more and more like paltry attempts just to make more money. They ranged from “Oh, those are our morning prices,” while trying to explain the sign, to “the water is choppy right now.”
Still, you don’t have many options when it comes to transportation around Lake Atitlan, and the rides are pretty fun. Toward the end we learned to hold out for a better price and they usually took pity on us.