I finally left Antigua and jumped on a shuttle to Lake Atitlán and a little town called San Pedro. This place had become pretty much the number one recommended place to stay at the lake, and many people had mentioned it to me. On the shuttle I was joined by two couples, Kaylin and Morgan from Canada, and Nina and Austin from the USA. We all got chatting and ended up at the same hostel and hung out together the whole time we were there. I was to carry on travelling with Nina and Austin for another week. For some reason they began to call me Raúl at the beginning and the name stuck. I don't think anyone called me Rob for a week or so.
The next few days were pretty crazy and we partied pretty hard the first night we were there. I randomly bumped into a girl called Kaya who I had met in Panama at Christmas, and we all hung out in a very cool bar at the back of a hostel with a pool and a platform overlooking the lake. Messiness ensued.
The town had a really good selection of bars, cafes and restaurants, mostly dotted around near the lakeside and set in adorable little gardens sprouting from a convoluted network of compact little lanes. It was all very pleasing on the eye, and the prices were so cheap that you could really spoil yourself. We took a wander through the real local village at the top of the hill and took lots of photos. This was the first time I had seen lots of indigenous people in traditional dress going about their daily lives since… well, since I was in Bolivia I guess. I would go so far as to say that I haven't really come across a large population of indigenous people with their culture intact anywhere between Guatemala and Ecuador. Whereas in South America the most intact peoples are the Inca; here in Central America they are the Maya. The Maya are still great in numbers and have an identity, a voice, and political power, and are somewhat unified, even though there are some 20 different Mayan languages in use today, all basically mutually unintelligible. Many don't speak Spanish, which can make interactions difficult, and you can sometimes sense an aura of deeply engrained mistrust of foreigners, especially in the rural highlands. I suppose it is only reasonable since the last time a large number of foreign people arrived 400 years ago, they practically destroyed their world.
At this stage I still planned to make it all the way up to Tikal and down through Belize before heading back to Costa Rica, and so I made haste and left with Nina and Austin after just a few days. I would have liked to have stayed there longer though, and I will definitely be going back at the beginning of 2013 when I start travelling again.