Paddling across stormy Lake Atitlan

I visited some beautiful lakes during my time in Central America and they all seemed to be surrounded by volcanoes, but this one was really special. Waking up to bright blue skies dotted with just a few fluffy white clouds, renting kayaks seemed like the only thing to do! It wouldn’t be the casual paddle that we had in mind through.

Morning view over Lake Atitlan
We were at Lake Atitlan, “the Lake Como of Guatemala” which sits alongside three volcanoes and is banked by steep, sloping green hills. The scenery was dramatic, impressive and you couldn’t help but feel a long long way from home as we looked out across the water. Enjoying our lakeside, pre-paddle breakfast it was hard to believe that we weren’t dreaming!
The lake looked smaller than it really was from our waterfront breakfast table, with my new friend Stevie and I both proclaiming “we can easily make it to the other end and back”. We set off and soon realised that this thing was bigger than we’d thought! The view got better and better as we paddled out, with each volcano slowly being unveiled as we moved further down the lake.
Calm before the storm, literally
We paused in the middle for a few minutes just to enjoy the moment. A good 30 minutes of paddling from land, we really were completely surrounded by water and it was amazing. The volcanoes lurked beneath some moody looking clouds behind the town of San Pedro that we had paddled out from.
Stevie and I, chilling in the middle of the Lake
We spotted some rocks on a little peninsula and decided to investigate. As we approached the shore, a child appeared out of nowhere and jumped on the front of my boat! This was the equivalent of the kids you get outside football stadiums “offering” to watch your car for you. Either you pay them, or they trash your car, or in this case, my kayak! Floating an hour away from San Pedro, we agreed that we would need our kayaks in good working order so decided to say “thanks, but no thanks” and find another rock to jump off. Luckily, the lake was dotted with similar spots.
Jumping deep in to Lake Atitlan!
We found another huge rock, jutting out in to the lake just a few hundred meters along the coast and so set about the difficult task of parking up. First I jammed my kayak between two mammoth rocks, with the growing waves loudly crashing it up and down. Just about convinced it would stay in place, I spent a few minutes trying to climb over the rock and a few trees. Walking out to the edge of the rock, the shoreline behind me disappeared out of sight. It was then that we realised how big the storm rolling over the volcanoes in the distance was becoming – HUGE. Dark clouds had changed the colour of the water from a bright blue to a dark shade of green.
Stevie rides a huge wave on Lake Atitlan
We both jumped high off the rock, in to the dark cool water. It felt great! I swam back to my boat where my paddle had been replaced with litre upon litre of water! The missing paddle was found floating just around the corner. The black storm clouds were visibly rolling across the lake towards us now, and as we felt the first drops of rain we decided we needed to get a move on, and head back. Time to get wet.
We made it! Soaking wet, we arrive back in San Pedro.
The water was really choppy now, making it difficult to make much progress as the kayaks sunk to the bottom of the huge waves, before rising up high above the water as the peak of the wave took control of the boats. Within minutes, the rain had set in and we were soaked through. I couldn’t tell whether it was the lake water splashing up against the kayaks, or the rain pouring down from the heavens that was responsible for the water half filling my kayak. We briefly attempted to scoop the water out before quickly realising that our efforts were going to be in vain. Instead, we just kept paddling across the dark lake.
An amazing coffee from Café Cristalinas
Drenched, we made it back to land.
The rain was very much here to stay so after drying off, we grabbed a coffee from the coffee place in town (Café Cristlinas), took shelter and chilled out for the rest of the day.
Which is the most impressive lake that you’ve visited?

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  2 comments for “Paddling across stormy Lake Atitlan

  1. November 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Great post. The action shots made it look like such a great adventure!

    • November 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Thanks Sophie!! 🙂 It really was!

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