San Marcos at Lake Atitlan 

From Antigua we planned to head to Lago de Atitlan not really knowing what to expect other than the fact that it had been described as stunningly beautiful. So sounded pretty good.
The sun was almost out in Antigua so we decided to spend our last few hours wandering around admiring the beauty of the place. Unfortunately the chicken buses were going to take too long to get to San Marcos so we went by shuttle instead.
It felt as though we were all on the bus and heading into the unknown and the 2 hour journey to the lake took us through some stunning scenery. The whole area is dominated by volcanoes of various degrees of activeness and it actually got quite cool as we ascended to over 2000m above sea level.
Our first glimpses of the lake were quite impressive. It’s about 20km in diameter and surrounded by volcanoes all covered in lush green forests. There are a number little towns around the lake and we were dropped off at one of the bigger ones where we had to catch a boat to San Marcos.
It took us a while to find the public ferry and on the way down some local boat captains were doing their upmost to try and get us to catch their boats for ten times the price. They were using some quite underhand tactics but we managed to avoid getting conned and were soon on the boat cruising across one of the most beautiful lakes we have ever seen!
The area and San Marcos in particular has been inhabited by hippies who believe in a special spiritual nature to the place. While a lot of the other towns have been invaded by the backpackers, San Marcos has retained its hippie roots.  
From the dock on arrival we walked up a narrow path through a hodgepodge of houses to our hostel. All the way we could see signs for yoga, meditation and a whole host of other alternative and spiritually enhancing activities. Needless to say there was a calm about the place which was quite infectious and Sarah and I were quite happy with our decision to come here.
Our first night was nice and relaxing and we enjoyed a curry at one of the local restaurants, owned obviously by an Englishman. The next day Sarah got up and went to take Bill and Emma for their first yoga class which by all accounts was an intense session.
I managed to get out and enjoy some peace and quiet in the nature reserve looking out over the lake. It was all very serene and I can see why people have come here in order to achieve some spiritual enlightenment.
We spent most of the morning in the reserve going for a little hike to get better views of the lake and then jumping off a wooden balcony into the clear blue waters. After enjoying a swim we decided to catch a boat over to San Pedro which certainly had a lot more going on being full of hostels and restaurants. While it was nice to have lunch here we were glad that we had decided to stay in San Marcos.
When we got back Sarah and I went to our first Meditation class. We had enquired the day before and we had told them that we were absolute beginners and they said that we could join in one of their classes. It turns out that the temple was one of the first buildings here built 20 years ago and the shape of the building and the setting were almost a little intimidating along with the fact that we didn’t know what to expect.
The class we were joining was 15 strong and 3 weeks into a month long class. So we were told that there was no talking in the temple and sort of looked at each other and copied what everyone else was doing.  
We entered the square based triangular temple through a small tunnel and inside it was all wooden and the were something akin to an alter in the middle and all around were placed white mats for us to sit in. Trying to see what everyone else was doing and copy, Sarah managed to get herself comfortable quite quickly.
I on the other hand struggled. I could see that some of the people had managed to get a small stool to sit on and fancied one of those. Luckily the leader of the class was allowed to speak and took sympathy on me and showed me where the stools were. I then took it back to my mat and tried to sit on it. Unfortunately the mat caused the stool to wobble and I ended up rolling over onto my back with the stool clattering on the wooden floor and completely destroying whatever calmness and silence there was!! Not a good start but at least no one laughed I guess.
Once I had finally got settled the class could begin and the class leader said “we will begin with 30 minutes of silent meditation.” Well I wished at this point that I had done a little more research into what meditation was!!
I remembered somewhere that it was about breathing calmly and emptying the mind and I thought that there was a technique about thinking exclusively about a stone. So anyway I tried and to be fair must have cleared my mind somewhat as the time passed fairly quickly although I will admit to me having to pull my mind back from a whole host of random thoughts.
The main issue that I had was that my legs had gone completely numb from the knee down but luckily we were told at this point to lie on our backs and we were going to do an exercise to discover our mission in life (ideal and convenient). I was feeling pretty relaxed at this point and the lady took us through a mental visualisation where we ended up at the bottom of Lake Atitlan in a temple where (to cut a long story short) we ended up picking a colour (t yellow, s blue) a number (t 4, s 9) a planet (t Mars, s Sun) an element (t water, s fire) and a symbol (both circle).
She then explained what each of these choices meant and we had to spend some time interpreting them. The interesting thing for me was that I have been on a few courses and read a few books and done quite a few exercises to determine what sort of person you are and they all come to a similar conclusion. As did this method which for me was fascinating.  
We had a bit of a debrief afterwards and I have to admit I felt very relaxed and refreshed even though I don’t think I did it properly but I think I might read a bit more into it and have another go.
All in all a nice relaxing experience in San Marcos and I can see why people spend some time here and while we just dipped our toes into the spirituality of the place I think that whether it’s the people or the environment or both but there is a spiritual nature to the place. T

The port at San Marcos.

San Pedro volcano, looking absolutely fantastic on the first morning.

The seat I managed to find to enjoy the beauty and tranquility.

The view from the bench.

The national reserve where we went for our wanders.

Full of weird and wonderful flowers.

A couple of shots of San Marcos, not much happening here.

Sarah, saluting Hitler as she jumped into the lake.

San Pedro, just the other side of the lake.

The Main Street in San Pedro.

A typical shop front in San Marcos, all very hippy.

The kitchen at one of the restaurants we ate at.

The temple in which we did our meditation, unfortunately no cameras allowed inside.

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