Tourism, of any kind, destroys a place. I am an hypocrite making that statement, because I am a tourist myself. I suppose there are responsible forms of tourism, being low impact, Not flocking to popular spots, Try to be culturally sensitive, not look for cheap drugs, etc… But The reality is that tourists destroy communities. Terry Pratchett quoted in one of his books, “He calls himself a tourist. I don’t know what it means, but from what I can gather, I think it means an Idiot”
One of the pleasures of bike touring for me is putting myself way off into boring little villages no one ever wants to visit. These are refreshingly beautiful places to be and genuinely interesting people to meet. I do not know what carnage I leave behind in my wake, but I can just hope the community would recover before the next tourist passes by. While I pass thro a tourist infested place, it just reassures me of my preference for staying away from them.
For starters, I loved the small little tree house we had dug out and slept like a baby in my hammock. Some opossums ran around the camp site and wok me up a few times. I had no idea what they were until our resident ecologist, Hannah, mentioned that it was an opossum. I could have easily hung out in the tree house for a few days, but we figured we’d check out the more ‘hippie’ town of San Marcos across the lake and hang out there a bit. Hannah had scouted some walks around there and we figured, if the party town could be quaint, the hippie town must have more such spots.
The best part of being here was bumping into Stephen and Ulli when I got off the boat. I should have taken a picture and sent it to Sergio and Veronica
It was pretty downhill from there on… San Marcos is a town where you cannot talk with anyone without the universe coming in the middle. The moment I got off the boat, there were a few local kids who I thought were cute playing with the horn on my bike until one kid looked at me and asked for some money. To me a place has lost it when the children are reduced to begging.
Walking thro the narrow alleys, we hit a market and walked further looking for a place to stay. We spotted a fancy place which after scouting we decided to stay in, simply because the views were lovely. It was expensive, very expensive, but we figured it’d be fine to hang out with good views of the lake.
Turned out this spot was choke full of people loaded with Indian Kool Aid. Like Edwin pointed out, everyone has the right clothes, the right tattoos and believe themselves to be something they are not. There were circles, chanting, humming, sitting around, and talking about the universe. I Love what the idea of being a hippie stood for. During it’s day it was a movement, a revolution. But now I see posters of Tantra, Kundalini, Shamanism, guiding light and what not advertised, it is just the next yuppie thing to do for people to do and go back to their homes to tell people of their exploits in a pub over a craft beer.
There is nothing Guatemalan about this place. The front desk is filled with young ‘foreigners’ who do not seem to speak a lick of Spanish and the kitchen is staffed by women from the Village around. It just felt completely wrong, everything about this place is a statement for what is wrong with exploitative tourism.
I had a couple of good moments though. I met a Kiwi cyclist, Ben, who is on a short tour of Central America and was nice to hang out with. There was a local market which was selling cheap rubbish, as it always is in most markets. As we walked around there was some sort of masquerade at a school which reminded me of Tintin and the Picaros. I cooked some veggies given we had access to a kitchen but the hostel was super anal and did not let me use their blender.
The hostel was Anal, Period. Their clientele seemed to be the recreational druggie, drunk, spirituality seeker who need a space for meeting like minded loonies and not really for the grungy bargain hunting, baseline service seeking cyclist. Teh place is called Del lago, and I suppose depending on what one prefers, this place might be a paradise or a shithole.
Hannah said it best, “My spirituality is out there in the mountains”, and I agree with her. So we pack up our stuff and head back to our treehouse today.
Route: San Marcos (Atitlan)
Distance: 0 km (yay!)
Ascent: 0 m
Descent: 0 m
Expenses: $ 29.57
Comment: Ben called the place the Gestapo Hippie and that’s the best way to describe this spot.