La Iguana Perdida, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – R and R or Social Epi-Centre?

Arriving at La Iguana Perdida, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Arriving at La Iguana Perdida, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

This little village of Santa Cruz de la Largo Atitlan is a stew of Mayan Indians, ex-pats and travellers resulting in a unique little dish. Some say the lake is a vortex energy field similar to the pyramids and Machu Picchu, attracting people from all over the globe. I don’t know about that but my body used  it as an excuse to rest, even if it made me sick.

Nesting on the balconyFor most of my visit to La Iguana Perdida I dealt with a cold keeping me mostly stuck in a nest on my balcony made up of two chairs, a quilt, pillows and kindle books on my Air. Hours were spent reading vampire love stories, writing and staring at the water and the volcanoes. I continued to read long after dark, occasionally closing the lid so I could stare at the stars. As I let go of all my expectations for this trip it got easier.

I had thought that it would be in the vein of a retreat, all quiet and lacking in any kind of sensory overload. There would be few people and adventures to distract me. I would sink into myself, do yoga, meditate and maybe explore really writing for long periods of time. Yeah, right.

Sunset from my balcony

Sunset from my balcony

What I had instead was a large lovely room on the second floor with a balcony offering a stunning view of the volcanos and the lake. Good so far, right? Yeah, well this picture perfect space was right behind the kitchen and bar/restaurant and up from the public docks. The kitchen started chopping, rattling, chattering and crashing from about 7 am till 8 pm.

All day long the hawkers on the dock yelled  “PANA! PANA! PANA!”, to let you know that the boat to Panajachel had arrived. Panajachel was the main town on the lake and is the landing point for shuttles around Guatemala to spit out hordes of travellers who then take one of the multitude of boats that daily criss-cross the lake from dawn till dusk, going from community to community.

The busy docks.

The busy docks.

The dock was also the converging point of the fleet of tuk tuks who were responsible for moving people up and down the mountain to the village, so there are always a gang of young men hangn’ with their hommies. And, oddly enough, there were a few car taxis whose car alarms occasionally go off. It is odd because there are no roads to Santa Cruz so I didn’t expect cars, let alone car alarms. Go figure.

La Iguana Perdida is a very social scene. Very social. That meant from 8 am, when the restaurant opened there were people eating, milling and chattering. It meant at 7 pm there is a communal dinner with music and more chattering and such. Sometimes after dinner there was jamming with instruments and voices, which has been known to tumble outside. The old Iguana next door is now used as a lounge with over stuffed couches, hammocks, pool table and a stereo. Yeah, a stereo. And you know what young people do with stereos? Play them loud… at night. The worst night was when I was treated to a 3 hour heavy metal ordeal, cranked. I loath heavy metal, I really do. It is akin to jamming a screwdriver into my head over and over again. I had all the windows, the balcony door and curtains closed, ear plugs in and a pillow wrapped around my head before I could dull it enough for sleep.

Another night the lounge lizards decided to yell their conversation. They didn’t sound angry, it was just regular chatting at a high decibel. Finally they stopped and sighing, I started to slip into sleep. Then my neighbour and her pick up for the night came stumbling up the stairs. NO NO NO… but yes, apparently the yelling was foreplay. Treated to the lovely sounds of OTHER people having sex for over an hour is not the best way to sleep. Please note: if you choose one of the deluxe rooms, be aware that the walls are actually paper maché. Making the experience even more special? Girlfriend was a squeaker, through the whole thing, over and over again. It was like having a Golden Retriever next door with a big squeaky toy going at it for an hour+. All I could do was lay there and laugh. The icing on the cake of  mirth was  we left Santa Cruz together. I don’t think she knew I was her neighbor or that I had audio witnessed her fun and games. As we chatted, waiting for the Antigua shuttle, I tried hard not to hear ” squeak squeak  squeak squeak  squeak squeak .…” in the background.

Dive shop.

Dive shop.

The ex-pat community also uses this place as their social centre and people from other hotels also joined us for dinner. I quickly realized there is no sense in skipping dinner as it only means that I have to listen to it with none of the fun stuff, including awesome food. There was always a vegetarian option as well as a carne version and from watching people lick their plates clean, I think meals were a 2 thumbs up. 2 thumbs upAn odd thing  happened with me and the whole dinner experience. I am shy, truly. I dread being put in a group social situation. I travel alone so I am usually the odd woman out. But I accepted the inevitability of just doing it and getting it over with and somehow I ended up enjoying it. The scene was not couple focused even though, of course, there were couples, they weren’t those kind of couples. And there is a trend of friends  travelling together. Somehow I slipped into the small spaces that were created and connected to some really awesome people.

A group of nurses volunteering at the clinic run by a Western doc.

John and Monica were part of an non-profit that is teaching Mayan women to install solar panels and start their own businesses.

Kids travelling for extended periods who decide to stay for a while work work behind the counter at the hotel.

Anne and Lisa, an older English pair who had spent 6 weeks exploring Central America. Lisa was going home in a week and Anne was continuing on her own for another month. Just retired, she was coming into her own and blooming into another “travelling crone” 🙂 .

A group of young people from the US volunteering to build things in the villages like wells and such.

The English gentleman who created La Iguana Perdida 20 years ago, whose multitude of lives from an architect to a hotel owner to an artist and a lot in between made for entertaining stories. He sold the place to Deedle 16 years ago and now has a home at the back of the property. He is often seen enjoying happy hour in the evenings where I spent time in his delightful company.

Deedle, who bought the hotel when it was 4 rooms literally in the middle of nowhere and has turned it into not only a wonderful hotel but also an experience and the centre of the community. You can see an interview with her talking about how it all got started and what it was like.

So it was a very different experience than what I had anticipated. And, as per usual, I railed against it, causing so much angst that my body decided to take things into its own hands. It rendered me sick enough to stop me from spinning around trying to “fix” things and just accept the gift that I had been given. To accept seems to be my life lesson. I am a fixer of things, solver extraordinaire. Not always to my benefit. But I  also learnt (ok “learnt” is more of an ongoing process than something that happens the first time)  that sometimes it is best to cut your loses and just leave. I get stuck in the stay and fix mode but I do have a choice, I can leave and find a better fit. Travel is such a good teacher, no?

I finished the slideshow of the Lake Atitlan portion of the trip if you’d like to check it out. If you want to watch it photo by photo just click “esc” , click on the first photo and then use the arrows on the side to progress. Remember the quality is crappy since I had to use my phone camera because I forgot the camera battery at home. This was the worse trip for forgetting stuff!

9 thoughts on “La Iguana Perdida, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – R and R or Social Epi-Centre?

  1. I hear you about the people next door having sex thing, I always feel somehow guilty because i can hear them – weird, hey! Another good read, even though you had a few dramas, it sounds like you did enjoy it.


  2. I guess the motto here is when travelling to a far off place,” have no expectations and an open mind, grasshopper” – easier to say than do for sure. Interesting photos–love the butterflies! the spider…not so much! video of local doing her “weaving” is quite fascinating even though it is hard to figure out how she does it.


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