Boat Rides & Locals With My Pack Mule

November 4, 2010 in Guatemala, North America, Travelogue







It’s a forty minute lancha ride to Panajachel.  Gabe timed it.  There is no schedule for the boats, you merely turn up at the docks when you’d like to go and then wait as long as it takes for a boat going your direction to arrive, and then sometimes wait again for enough people to join you to make it worth the gas for the captain to make the trip.



There are at least three prices for travelers on the lanchas.

  • There is the local price for the Mayans, and it seems you have to speak Kichaquel to get that price, about 10Q from San Marcos to Pana.
  • Then there is the local-foreigner price, 20Q one way.
  • And finally there’s the tourist price, 25Q for the same trip.
  • Oh, there’s actually a fourth price as well, the one you pay if you ASK how much the boat trip will cost.  Add at least another 5Q one way, perhaps ten if you look like a sucker.

It’s the one place where pre-negotiating your price is NOT the smart way to go.  Simply get on the boat, be cool, and pay the price that you’re supposed to pay.


I let Gabe be the man and carry the money for our lancha yesterday morning.  I gave him a fifty, because we’ve always paid the tourist price.  However, when we disembarked, he pointed at me and said, “Dos!” to the money man, he was given ten back in change.  We tried not to high five in front of the guy.  It’s official.  We’re local-foreigners!


Gabe makes an excellent pack mule.  He brought his big travel pack and I loaded him down with

  1. Plastic bowls
  2. Tupperware
  3. A container to make yogurt in
  4. Toilet brush and plunger
  5. Mop
  6. Broom
  7. Pan to make cheese in
  8. And about ten other little things we’ve been unable to procure on our side of the lake

I added four kites (left overs from the Dia de los Muertos celebrations) that were being sold off cheap and two bags of little plastic animals to add to their games in the garden.





Our left over Dia de los Muertos kites!


By the time we boarded the boat for the return trip, the afternoon wind had kicked up and the ride was more than a little choppy.  One quickly learns to sit in the BACK of the boat.



We ferried both directions with some other interesting local-foreigners:

  • A German lady and her little son who’ve been here since March, she teaches Yoga
  • A sweet older lady headed from Tzunana (next town nearest to us on the lake, no road to it) to Santa Cruz for the doctor for her ailing husband
  • An enthusiastic Canadian fellow who’d arrived just yesterday but had purchased a quiet place to retire right up the hill from us.  We invited him to dinner.
  • John, a colourful Brit with sagging ear lobes from long since abandoned expansion piercings, enlightened us to a few key items of interest on the return trip:


“Everything is cheaper in Pana (which we knew.)

These pipes (he’s loaded six twelve foot lengths of half inch PVC pipe onto the boat next to us) are 15Q cheaper in Pana than in San Marcos, the locals will take an extra buck everywhere they can!  They know we’re stuck! (Which we don’t mind that much.)

If you’re wanting to buy cheese or butter, the little tienda on the hill in el Centro is the ONLY place to buy it… they actually leave their fridges plugged in overnight, no one else in town does, so their dairy products are likely to “go off” after a few days.

They’re also the only ones who actually sell FULL replacement cooking gas canisters, everyone else uses “just a little” off the top and then puts them back on the rack.”

It’s good to know a few locals.  We’d found that shop already and instantly felt good about “Herman” the fellow who runs it.  Nice to have our instincts confirmed.  Nice to know where the cream cheese won’t be soured too.


It can’t be over a half a mile to walk from the boat through the narrow foot paths of San Marcos up to the main square and then out to our place.  It seems a lot longer when you’re carrying a pack load and have to purchase the day’s veggies and a flat of 30 eggs to balance atop the whole lot for the last quarter mile.


Gabe was a trooper and even rearranged all of his stuff so he could pull the fishing line and open the gate for me.  We felt like Marco Polo, returning from China, loaded with treasures… well, maybe not quite.



Gabe took my picture at lunch in Pana