We arrived in the town of Santiago Atitlan on the 30th December, 1999, without reservations, but secure in the knowledge that there was one very good and famous hotel in town. In retrospect, this might appear a little foolhardy, but Pete Adams (currently travelling with us) never books anywhere, so what else could we do?
After driving a few kilometres down a dirt road to confirm that our first choice was indeed full, we checked out a few dumps before eventually settling on the Hotel Chi-nim-ya, a small, tatty, but adequately clean place. We then discovered that they didn't have running water, but decided not to move, as in fact the entire town was without that particular luxury following the recent demise of a somewhat critical pump.
After a splendid local dinner, we took in a floodlit five-a-side football match, vociferously supported by a crowd of several hundred locals. For me, a highlight was the local caballeros, dressed in their traditional dress of pinstriped knickerbockers, big white stetsons, and whatever else they fancy. They look a bit like the New York Yankees on the set of City Slickers. Excuse the quality of the picture: it's hard enough to sneak photos normally, and not aided by pitch black.
The next day we decided to move on to another lakeside village to see in the millennium, preferably one with water. We took a boat across the lake, spent a while on an isolated beach, and then walked a few kilometres through a coffee plantation into San Pedro. At this point, the two boys - Peter and David - took the return boat trip to bring the car around the "rough" road. Rough in this context means about an hour, contrasting with the fifteen minutes in the boat, but we didn't meet any of the advertised bandits, so that was fine.
Meanwhile, the girls - Clare and Jan - searched for rooms. It turns out that a combination of no water in the next village and a new millennium less than twenty four hours away (pedants need not apply) had left accommodation at something of a premium. Eventually two rooms, arguably even tattier than the previous night's, were found, and we set out for the millennium bash.
This took the form of a short pubcrawl, which eventually left us at a lakeside Italian restaurant. The owners, although Italian, had done their best to conform to local mores by investing in a big fire and a lot of fireworks. We sat around drinking, checking each others' watches, watched a power cut blank out most of the lake (including our bit) then watched the power come back, then the last of the watches ticked over and the last of the fireworks rocketed skyward, and that was that.
Not very climactic, but then these things rarely are, and I for one couldn't think of many other places that I'd rather have been. Happy new millennium to everyone who's watching!
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
Caballeros, Santiago Atitlan
Jan at work, Lago Atitlan
Revelry, 31st December 1999