Saturday, December 19, 2015

Across the Lake

After our night at Buddha Bar, we got up and checked out of Mr. Mullets (approaching checkout time, due to the previous night's activities), and moved all of our things to Hotel Mikasa. I'm not a huge fan of having to pack up the entire bike just to move across town - I think this might have been the only time I've done it on the trip - but for how nice the hotel was, it was worth it. We ended up with the four of us in a private room for the first night, which turned out to be pretty nice as well, and once we got settled we started looking at what else we wanted to do around the lake.

First on the list was San Marco, the "chill" sister city to San Pedro. San Pedro was already pretty saturated with what I'd call hippies, so I was curious to see how much more chill it could get. We hopped a motorboat for a short ride over to the other side of the lake where I quickly discovered what they meant.

We had met a Canadian couple on the boat who were doing a work exchange in San Marco, and we'd mentioned that we wanted to go to the place where you could jump off the platform. So once we disembarked, they pointed us down an alley, and said to just head that way and follow the shore. As we walked, we wandered past... a collection of pyramids made out of different materials, organized in what may have been an intentional manner but it wasn't clear how, with a group of people sitting around one of them and chanting strangely. Along with the numerous acupuncturists, "natural" remedies, and new age-y things being advertised and peddled in the street, I got an idea what they meant.

But we continued onward towards the natural reserve where, after paying a small fee, we wandered down a trail to a place where there was a large wooden platform constructed with a railing around it, and a gap in the railing over the water.

So of course, we jumped.

Dan giving a little help to Delphine, since she was a little nervous.
Eventually she went.

So did Dan.

And I ended up going a few times.
I jumped off the platform a bunch of times, despite having to swim a ways over to the side to climb back out of the water and walk back to the platform. In fact, I jumped so many times, and didn't plug my nose when I did it, that I started feeling a whole bunch of sinus pressure. On that note I decided to call it quits, and we headed back towards town.

We spent a little bit of time wandering around town, but there wasn't a ton to check out, so we hopped back over to the dock and caught the boat back to San Pedro. Still a bit tired from the night before and a little bit worn out from the afternoon, we all called it an early night after a slow dinner. In fact, I was almost ready to just go ahead and get on the bike in the morning to head onward, but I stayed for one (really good) reason: we'd made reservations to do paragliding the next day.

After a nice night of sleep in our private room, we woke up... well, still pretty late. But we didn't have to head over to paragliding until pretty late, so we lounged around the hotel for a while and picked up a few snacks to take with us. When the time came, we made the walk over to the dock again, but this time took the much longer boat ride across the long side of the lake to Panajachel.

Once there, we met a Canadian guy on the dock who was our liason for the paragliding. He told us we had a little over an hour before we had to be ready to paraglide - we'd left lots of time in case the boat was delayed, and as it turned out paragliding was delayed too from the people before us. He directed us to the main street where we wandered through the shops and markets, and I picked up a bar of chocolate with cloves and a package of "chocolate cigarettes" which smelled good even just in the package.

Eventually we made our way to the river where we watched the previous group of paragliders make their landings.

We watched them swooping around the mountains for a while before they came down too.
Finally it was our turn. We hopped in a van and made our way up a steep rocky hill to the top of the hill above the city, where each of the guys started getting their parachutes ready. Dan was first up, and he set up on the "runway" and then took off. Then it was my turn.

Photo courtesy of Mylène.

After laying out the parachute and untangling the lines, the guy came over to me and gave me some quick instructions in Spanish: something like "when I count to three, start running that direction." Next thing I know we're strapped in, and he goes "uno, dos tres!"

Whoa! That was really fast. But I started running, realizing belatedly that my busted ankle, while good for walking, still hadn't been tested much for running. I started running, feeling like I was going nowhere, and then suddenly we got lifted off the ground.

...and deposited right back on the ground, a little bit to the right of where we'd been. The instructor was still yelling in my ear "Corre, corre, corre!" (Run run run!) so I continued trying to run, but with my feet hardly touching the ground, I was struggling to get any traction. Suddenly we started heading downward. Uh-oh.

Just before, uh, "landing."
Luckily, the bushes caught us. I mean, luckily in the sense that it wasn't a rock, but it wasn't exactly a soft bush, and I had the instructor on top of me. But I hadn't re-sprained my ankle or, you know, fallen off a cliff. The instructor unbuckled me, and said to head back up the hill, me apologizing profusely the whole time.

A not-so-happy instructor.
We headed back up to the top, waited while Mylène took off, and then gave it a second try. This time he decided it was better to, you know, tell me a little more about how we should do it, and directed me which direction I should be running, instead of just saying "run." After waiting a bit for the wind, we gave it a second try...

And this time we got up in the air. A quick shift of the harness to get us settled in, and we proceeded to cruise around the mountains for a while. While there's no thermals there, the wind comes off the lake and up the mountains, so they can catch air and gain altitude by circling near certain features on the edge of the mountains.

After a good 45 minutes of circling around, we finally headed down towards the landing area. I watched with envy as the person in front of me did some steep, swooping turns, but missed the part where it was Mylène, and the turns plus her propensity for motion sickness caused her to vomit off to the side, narrowly missing some people below. My instructor, however, didn't do that - and by the time I asked about doing it, we were too low. Apparently he thought I didn't want to do it, maybe because of the botched takeoff (or maybe he just didn't want to do it because of that).

My landing, again courtesy of Mylène.
After landing, we grabbed our bags and made our way back to the dock and caught the motorboat back across the lake to San Pedro - not the most pleasant experience for Mylène given the motion sickness, but also not so pleasant for me as I got stuck in the front seat and was getting splashed constantly.

We got back to the hotel and, given the 4:30 bus that the Belgians were taking, decided not to do too much. But after going out to dinner at a nearby restaurant for some curry that we'd all been craving, the girls and I decided that maybe we'd go out for a bit. True to the one-bar-a-night feel of San Pedro, there was a big party at a club called "Sublime" with a live band, and a free shot if you brought a flyer that they were handing out (or which could be found lying on the ground over much of the town, it turned out).

So we headed over there, and as we walked in we spotted the Canadian couple who we'd met on the boat to San Marco the day before, so we joined them and started chatting. Not long after, the French couple that we'd met at Mr. Mullets the first night in town. Pretty soon, the seven of us were all talking in French, with occasional switches to English (mostly for my benefit).

When the band started up, I decided going out was the right idea. It turned out the rhythm guitarist was the same guy who had led the open mic a few nights before, and the lead guitarist was phenomenal. Add in some awesome fire twirlers, and it was an awesome place to just hang out and dance.

The girls decided it was time for them to head back and get some sleep in preparation for their bus ride, so I walked them back to the hotel, and then headed back out to the street - at dinner, a French guy (I'm not kidding, French has been super useful in Central America) had told me about a jam session going on at a bar. So I wandered over there and immediately struck up a conversation with a French girl and a Swiss guy... in French. Well, really, we swapped interchangeably between French, English, and Spanish. I shared one of my chocolate cigarettes with them, and then after a bit of talking went and joined the jam session and played a few fun songs that were easy for the other musicians to follow. It ended up being one hell of a night, for a night when I wasn't going to go out to begin with.

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