From Antigua, I headed directly to Lake Atitlán and got to re-unite with my friends! Atitlán is “where the rainbow gets its colours” and the vibrant life in and around the lake reflects this name.Lake Atitlán is a volcanic crater, created by volcanic activity 84,000 years ago. This unique lake is basically a bowl of water high up in the hills – it’s surface level is 1,562 meters above sea level. There are 15 towns dotted around the lake, but there are few roads near the lake. Public transit is comprised of a fleet of water taxis. The region is rich in Mayan culture, which you can see in the colourful woven clothes worn by many of the women, the fishing boats that would linger in our bay each morning and evening, and the corn and coffee planted on the steep hills.We had rented an Airbnb on the lake, which was a perfect place to relax!
This short video by Cat Facts shows our perfect lakeside home, complete with a private sun deck, perfect for morning yoga and afternoon beer, a private dock to learn how to dive, and a hammock (the most essential furniture item for a sunny vacation destination):
We quickly settled into a routine of lounging, coffee drinking, hammocking, heading out in the kayak to pick garbage out of the lake, swimming, reading, and napping. In fact, my journal has the following rigorous to-do list:
Tuesday, December 19th:
- yoga on the sun deck
- nap in hammock
- drink coffee
- kayak garbage picking
- yin yoga class at the Yoga Forest
Life on the lake has a tranquil ease about it. Even though it is sometimes hard to disengage from the pressure to achieve and “be productive”, it seemed like this place facilitated that process, and provided a necessary contrast to my sometimes frantic London life.
We did have to do regular scorpion shakes (shaking out blankets, clothes, and shoes just to be sure). I did have to re-locate a scorpion from my futon bed :0Between all the relaxing, Lisa and I decided to do our part to help clean up the lake. On our daily paddles, we reached pro-level in kayak garbage picking – pulling out massive snarls of fabric, fishing line, plastic bags, and assorted flotsam like shoes and discarded oil bottles. While we puttered around the lake, fishing out errant plastic bags and bottles, I spend a lot of time thinking about my commitment to living a zero-waste life. I know how my consumption habits can negatively impact the environment, and I have been actively trying to make better choices. However, it is impossible to ignore the larger situation – that the issues of plastic waste are much more complex when you consider how ubiquitous cheap plastics have become in low resource settings and where many don’t have viable alternatives. This beautiful lake faces several environmental threats. The lake was found to be contaminated with cyanobacteria in 2009, which threatened the health of the residents (for whom the lake is the primary source of water) and the livelihood of those who fish in the lake. This contamination was likely caused by runoff of fertilizers and sewage into the lake. Despite efforts by biologist and conservation organizations, a more recent algae bloom in 2015 indicates that this lake is still in a fragile condition.
There are several interesting articles highlighting the situation of the lake:
- And the human-health impacts: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15565263
It is clear that innovative solutions are needed to protect this unique and beautiful lake. After our grueling schedule of relaxing, exploring, and discussing eco-warrior ideas, we would end the day watching the sun set on the volcanos.