- We made it. Look, we’re the first ones!
- Wow, the others must be terrible.
- Haha, we have the place to ourselves, let’s celebrate!
Lake Atitlan, Guatemela, is surrounded by a chain of volcanoes. Acatenango, San Pedro, and El Fuego are the famous ones. All three are visible from the lake. Acatenango and San Pedro are no longer active, so they are open to hikers. On a clear day, you can see El Fuego spit fire and smoke into the sky.
The town of San Pedro la Laguna is built on the hillside of San Pedro. The roads, narrow and steep, zigzag from high up the flank of the volcano all the way down to the lake. Neither Marco nor I had seen lava before, and everyone who did told us it was incredible. So, climbing Acatenango to watch lava from upclose became our goal.
The Acatenango hike is difficult: 6 hours up a steep sandy path with a 1500m elevation gain. We were out of shape, and the last surf session served as a cruel reality check. We needed a place to train for Acatenango, and the streets of San Pedro seemed like a good start.
Exploring the town, we found a safe parking spot for La Chichona. After that we stumbled upon a clean and cheap hotel by the lake. It had a double room, a private garden, and a waterfront view. From the hammocks, we overlooked the deep blue waters of the lake. We found our HQ.
I don’t like to work out, neither does Marco. Yet, most activities we do require a certain level of fitness. We had to get our cardio, legs, and core up to a good shape without it feeling like a workout. We needed to do something fun yet physically demanding. Something we could do repeatedly without getting bored.
Staying by the lake was incredibly soothing. The water was clean, so clear we could see the bottom. Swimming in deep blue waters while looking up to the volcanoes was humbling. It felt like I had taken all the right decisions in my life – everything led up to this place. John was right, Lake Atitlan was magical.
San Pedro's market is located in the upper part of town. The streets are so steep that most people use Tuk-tuks to move around, even locals. Instead, we walked, everywhere. Since our culinary success in Mexico, we thought of selling food from La Chichona. Tasty vegetarian food is a rarity in Central America. So, Marco and I worked meticulously on the recipe. We invited people for dinner to get feedback, which forced us to get fresh ingredients and cook everyday. Grocery shopping from the market up the hill became our daily leg-workout.
We did this for two weeks. The market walk felt easier day after day, and the morning paddle as well. We challenged ourselves to paddle longer, and to eventually cross the 2km distance to the opposite bank. It was time to gauge our progress, and the San Pedro volcano was the perfect test for that.
The San Pedro hike was short and intense, with an elevation gain of 1400m over 3km. It is like walking up a staircase non-stop for two hours. We started on the path early in the morning and climbed through dense vegetation. There was no flat ground; a high intensity workout all along. We looked down and walked in silence.
At a steady pace with only two breaks, we were the first ones to reach the summit. We sat on a large flat rock, 3000m high, and stared at the passing mist. We smoked and chilled, comfortably numb, until the clouds claimed back the sky.
San Pedro was a pleasant surprise. Paddling in the lake was a privilege, and there was simply no way around the market walk. We used external commitment as a source of motivation. We had improved our cardio and endurance while having fun. Acatenango he we come.
Our daily habits had paid off. We hacked laziness.