The most beautiful lake in the world

That was one of the many things I read about Lago Atitlan.  I was skeptical, but the lake didn’t disappoint.  The lake was our last stop with my parents.  Time to relax.

We got to the villa I had booked around 5 pm.  If you recall, we left Semuc Champey at 6:30 am.  We were for the most part distracted by getting the truck into the garage.  This took us the better part of an hour.  There was however time to take in the picturesque view.   Lago Atitlan is surrounded by 3 volcanoes.   Imagine this view framed by floor to ceiling windows and you’ve about got it.  Mom was giddy with excitement.

After all the driving, we took the last 3 days pretty easy spending our time exploring the local villages, flying around town in the tuk tuk taxis, and taking advantage of the hot tub and sauna.  G and I also had the pleasure of celebrating Mom’s birthday with her, although Dad did have the satisfaction of reminding me in front of her.  Classic Charlie Batten.

The lake is serene.  There is also plenty of  culture, hiking and boating to keep you busy.  We also heard rumors that you can kite board on the lake.

All and all, we had a great time with the parents.  And for all my worrying, they were troopers the entire trip.  Thanks mom + dad!

PS The submerged buildings in some of the shots are a result of the lake rising.  The lake is in a crater and doesn’t drain.  Each rainy season means the water level rises a little.  You’ll also notice a handful of shots from a local weaving collective.  All of the dyes they use are organic and made from local flora.



“…the road was worth it – right?”

Semuc Champey was the third stop on our little adventure through Belize and Guatemala with my parents.


It took us literally all day to drive from Tikal to Semuc Champey.  The day started with a lot of gravel road and potholes, the middle was mostly decent highway (with the exception of the cra cra chicken bus drivers), and we ended the day with a steep, rough, narrow road into the Semuc Champey valley.  I admit, I didn’t look at the topography of Semuc Champey before compiling my plan.  The owner of the hotel in El Remate (Tikal) had compared the drive into Semuc Champey to driving into the belly of the earth…you just go down and down.

We never did find the hotel I booked.  Put a sign up would you Utopia.  I felt anxious with no secured accommodations for the night, but we finally checked into a quaint little hotel near the park.  George and I were able to camp and the parents got a Spartan little casita (1 bed, no electricity after 11 or so, and cold showers).  The following day, we visited the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey.  There were truly beautiful and great for a dip.  Our photos don’t do them justice.

We had a little euchre tournament in the afternoon after visiting the pools (dad + g, mom + me).  G and mom were definitely the most passionate players, but G didn’t manage to deliver on his threats.  After a slow start, mom and I took the last two out of 3 games and are consequently reining champions.

That evening, I tried to force dad to admit the drive was worth it for some personal gratification.  He didn’t budge.  I do think the drive was worth it though, no matter what dad Batten says.

The following day we left at first light for the 10+ hour drive to Lago Atitlan.  I had booked some more cush accommodations on the lake to end the visit on a high note.



Jungle City

The Belize to Guatemala border crossing was pretty uneventful.  We had a detailed account of the crossing from another traveller’s blog which did not lead us astray.  I kept a close eye on the parental unit, trying to decipher what was going through their minds.

We found the hotel, Hotel La Mansion Del Pajaro Serpiente, in El Remate with relative ease.  Although the term ‘rustic’ kept being thrown around by mom, it was a beautiful spot with a great view over Lago Peten Itza.  Mom was happily snapping photos of the local flora and fauna, so I was happy.  We ate at the hotel that night.  A local woman prepared some delicious Guatemala food for us.  The favorites were definitely the soup and fresh fried tortillas (similar to nachos).

Tikal was stunning.  Although there are many Mayan ruins peppered through a handful of countries, Tikal stands on its own because it is 1. massive and 2. in the middle of a dense jungle.  The wildlife is as much of an appeal as the ruins.  We picked up a local guide at the park entrance who showed us around the massive site all morning.  Highlights included the views from the top of the pyramids and the local monkey population.  Words cannot express how haunting the howler monkeys sound.  We lost our video of the monkey due to some phone issues, but here’s a taste.  We finished the day up with some cervezas overlooking the lake.

Next stop would take us way off the beaten track to Semuc Champey.


The Battens are coming, the Battens are coming

I had known for a long time that the parental unit wanted to visit us on our journey.  They knew when they could visit which helped us focus in on Belize & Guatemala.  I was a little over exuberant in suggesting that we drive through Guatemala together.  Soon after they purchased the plan tickets, I started experiencing waves of anxiety.  No turning back … – what the f%$k had I done.  I was thinking about the border crossing into Guatemala, the bad roads, the long distances, and the simple (I’m being very kind) accommodations.

I planned for 4 dramatically different stops.  The first of which was Ambergris Caye, Belize for a little fun in the sun before driving into Guatemala.


They flew into Belize City, and then hopped on the Tropic Air taxi to Ambergris Caye.  We picked them up at the San Pedro airport with cold beer and a golf cart (basically the only form of motorized transport on Ambergris Caye).  We were off to a good start.

The parents landed in Ambergris Caye in time for carnival.  The main attraction seemed to be painting each other with colorful water paint.  The local businesses had prepared for this by covering everything with garbage bags.  I absolutely had nightmares of mom getting tagged with colorful handprints.  The kids were respectful though and gave us a fairly wide birth.  Phew.

On the first evening, G and I introduced them to ceviche (I love, love, love ceviche).  The following morning, I took mom for a massage to loosen her up for what was to come.  We then took out a small hobie cat.  George was a champ with 3 deadweight passengers.  We walked the hobie cat out through the sea grass and muck to clear the peers.  After a few false starts we finally got on our way.  We lucked out with great wind, so we were flying along pretty well.

On a recommendation from Catherine and Dan after their wonderings in Ambergris Caye, we went to get lobster burritos.  Also delicious.  Some locals (some women, some men in drag), were making there way down the street performing for donations which was lively entertainment for dinner.

The next day we planned a snorkel trip to Ho Chan and Shark Ray Alley, but decided not to share where we would be snorkeling with mom and dad.  Ho Chan was unfortunately a little disappointing because of the strong current and hordes of tourists.  As we headed to Shark Ray, the parents didn’t realize there was still another stop.  Shark Ray did not disappoint.  There were tens of sharks and many more rays.  I have to admit, I didn’t man up and jump in until dad took the plunge.  George, being George, was the first one in.  We finished up the day with another great dinner.

The following day, we would be packing up, taking a water taxi to Belize City to grab the truck, and driving across the Guatemalan border to Tikal.  I could not relax…all that was on my mind was the truck being taken by armed banditos (…no matter how irrational the thought).