San Pedro and the dreams from another dimension

Lake Atitlan

Having to describe this place to you or rather the energies here would be quite a challenge. But I can say one thing for sure – I have never been to a place with such strong energies before. There are many ways in which energies can materialize – here the energy is especially evident in dreams.

I have always been a dreamer but my dreams have taken a completely different shape and form in this place I have seen deep into my past, crossed bridges at night that were never crossed before and been shocked and amazed. And I have met many travelers who tell a similar story "a story of very vivid, strong and present dreams. And it can’t be a coincidence that so many places here have dream catchers as decoration surely they are a needed interior.

One thing for sure – this place holds a different dimension. For generations the elders here have told the young people to be careful when in nature around here. To be careful not to touch unknown objects because they might be a gateway to another dimension. There are many tales around here about people having lost days of their life without knowing where they went thinking they had been gone for 1 hour but were missing two days etc.

So when I woke up this morning at five with a very strong dream about giving birth to a boy, I was not surprised. I lay in bed for one hour and took it all in and then I decided to get up and write this article that has been on my mind for as long as I have been here. Perhaps the dream symbolized the birth of an idea or a project or maybe a foresight into the future or maybe a longing I don’t know…but the dreams are ever-present in this place.

To tell you the truth; when I first arrived here I felt really at unease with the place. I felt like someone had taken me by the legs and hung me up-side down and I couldn’t make any sense of neither myself nor the place and I was really upset and disturbed. I knew all along that it was a matter of strong energies that I had not adjusted to and thank God my Spanish course forced me to stay in this place. My initial confusion has been replaced by appreciation appreciation for being allowed to fall in tune with the place, to dream the dreams I dream and to have a chance to peep into that other dimension.

With admiration for Lake Atitlan,

San Pedro and the longing for empty spaces

San Pedro, Guatemala, Lake Atitlan

Arriving in San Pedro was by no means a surprise because I had no expectations for neither San Pedro nor Guatemala.

San Pedro de Laguna is a relatively small village (although not as small as I could wish for) on the shores of Lake Atitlan. It has 13.000 inhabitants spread out on the hillside.

Obviously San Pedro is very different from Asia where I have spent a long time. It’s much less developed than Thailand, but it is also much more traditional which has its own charm. The people here are very friendly and despite a growing tourism not jaded and unfriendly.

But don’t let this fool you San Pedro have been discovered many years ago and is not your "undiscovered paradise". It’s a growing village living from tourist, coffee and maize. It has everything from beautiful scenery, kayak trips, horse riding, restaurants, market, and internet shops to bars and drug problems.

We arrived at the end of the rainy season and thus the landscape was very damp, cloudy and misty. My feelings for the country are mixed. The people seem very nice despite the horrors of the past, the landscape is also beautiful, but the country suffers from the same problems as other developing (and developed) countries pollution. They still cook with firewood so three times a day the village of San Pedro is smoky wherever you go and it makes me long for empty spaces with neither people nor buildings just nature.

I admit though that I have had this longing for a very long time now Chiang Mai was too big and polluted for me, Copenhagen also contains too much cement for me too many people, too many cars, too much development. The older I have gotten the less of a city person I am I long for peace and quiet and stopping smoking (nearly 2 years ago) has not made me more tolerant to pollution, smoke, dust, fumes and all the other things that big cities "offer" on the contrary.

I suppose ideally I would live in a very deserted place surrounded by nature, sea, animals and with very few inhabitants I know it sounds like Alaska .however, I couldn’t live in such a cold place. I hate darkness and cold so more like the south pole than the north pole 30 degrees all year round is great J Any suggestions?

Video: Panajachel at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

This video shows the amazing views of Lake Atitlan from Panajachel, Guatemala. It gives you glimpses of the magic surrounding the lake and of the city of Panajachel itself.

Driving from Antigua to Panajachel was quite a hairy ride. You drive along steep cliffs at a far from safe speed, but the views are amazing. Also the higher you get up, the mistier it becomes and suddenly you are surrounded by maize fields and you start imagining yourself as part of the film “Children of the corn” 🙂 scary

Arriving at Panajachel in the late afternoon when it was raining didn’t leave the best first hand impression, but shortly after it cleared up and we went to have the first view of the lake impressive. However, not nearly as impressive as it looked the morning after when we got up at 6 and went down to the lake. The sun was rising over the volcanoes in the distance, the mist lifting up from the water and the green mountain sides melting your soul. It was so beautiful and I immediately understood why this place attracts so many people.

Packing list for South & Central America

Tina and I have just left for Guatemala in Central America. It’s the start of a trip starting in Guatemala and taking in some of the countries in Central America and South America over the next year (or so). You can see what I packed below.

Packing list for South America and Latin America

I thought I’d publish a list of what I packed for the trip. This list is also a lesson in how not to travel light! At the start of our trip, we’re intending to study Spanish for some time, both in Guatemala and probably Ecuador – for this reason I’ve packed some extra books. Also, as we’ve bought one way tickets, I’ve brought ‘a bit extra’ in case we end up living and working in Latin America. My bags are now so heavy (22.6KG for the main bag, 6 KG for the small bag), I feel like a pack horse. Here’s the list:

1 Berghaus Gore-tex waterproof raincoat
1 pair Northface Terrainius Gore-Tex shoes
1 pair Billabong shorts
1 pair of board shorts / swimming shorts
1 O’Neil fleece (thick)
1 North Face fleece (thin)
5 t-shirts
1 vest top
1 pair jeans
1 pair cotton chino style trousers
6 pairs underwear
5 pairs socks
1 pair flip-flops
1 sun hat
1 beach towel
1 pair hot-pants style swimming trunks
Swimming goggles
2 pairs sunglasses (+ 1 case)

Sony Vaio laptop computer + power supply
Canon Eos 20D digital camera + recharger + case
Canon Powershot G9 digital camera + recharger + case
Apple iPod 40G + charger
Iriver IFP 899 MP3 recorder/player + external lapel mics (for Podcasting)
Mini Sony Walkman speakers
1 LED head-torch (+ 2 spare Lithium batteries)
1 mini wind-up torch
160 GB external drive
1 Nokia mobile phone + charger
4 spare memory cards
4 spare Panasonic batteries for Iriver MP3 player
3 travel plug adaptors

Miscellaneous items
Roll-top waterproof bag
Box Earthoria Business cards
5 CD-ROMs in case with important software
2 pens
Camera cleaning tissues and blower
1 sleeping bag (comfortable to about 6 degrees C)
1 cotton sleeping sheet
1 extra light trek towel
4 pairs of ear plugs
1 eye mask
1 large padlock and keys (for room doors)
2 mini padlocks and keys for rucksack
Rucksack wire net security mesh protector
Rucksack waterproof rain cover
1 Money Belt
1 Leather wallet
1 Swiss Army pen-knife
1 small key-ring thermometer

Spanish Dictionary
Spanish Verb Tables
3 x Novels
Footprint South American Handbook 2009
Canon G9 Canon User Guide
A4 pad of paper

Toiletries & medical supplies
1 toiletries bag
2 bottles insect repellant with DEET
2 small deodorant bottles
1 Gillette Mach 3 razor
8 spare razor blades
1 small shaving foam canister
1 extra small shaving oil canister
40 plasters
Nivea Factor 30 sun lotion
1 comb
Radox shower gel
Travel size shampoo bottle
Mini pocket tissues
Migraleve migraine relief tablets
20 Aspirin tablets
20 Ibuprofen tablets
1 tube Antihistamine cream
1 small bottle Iodine
1 packet water purification tablets
6 weeks of Nicotine replacement therapy patches

Learning languages

With all this Spanish study floating around in my head at the moment, I thought I’d mention an interesting article about language acquisition written by Timothy Ferris, author of the The 4-hour Work Week.

How to Learn Any Language in 3 Months explains:

The ideal system "” and progression "” is based on three elements in this order

1. Effectiveness (Priority)
2. Adherence (Interest)
3. Efficiency (Process)

Effectiveness, adherence, and efficiency refer to the "what", "why", and "how" of learning a target language, respectively. In simple terms, you first decide what to learn, based on usage frequency (priority); you then filter materials based on your likelihood of continued study and review, or adherence (interest); lastly, you determine how to learn the material most efficiently (process).

He then goes on to explain that the following words are the 100 most common written words in English, and that this is generally applicable to other languages. The first 25 of the these words make up about 1/3 of all printed material in English. The first 100 comprise 1/2 of all written material, and the first 300 make up about 65% percent of all written material in English.

In other words, focus on these for the first few weeks (along with the most common spoken words, listen below), and you’ll be making a great start to your language learning.

1. the
2. of
3. and
4. a
5. to
6. in
7. is
8. you
9. that
10. it
11. he
12. was
13. for
14. on
15. are
16. as
17. with
18. his
19. they
20. I
21. at
22. be
23. this
24. have
25. from
26. or
27. one
28. had
29. by
30. word
31. but
32. not
33. what
34. all
35. were
36. we
37. when
38. your
39. can
40. said
41. there
42. use
43. an
44. each
45. which
46. she
47. do
48. how
49. their
50. if
51. will
52. up
53. other
54. about
55. out
56. many
57. then
58. them
59. these
60. so
61. some
62. her
63. would
64. make
65. like
66. him
67. into
68. time
69. has
70. look
71. two
72. more
73. write
74. go
75. see
76. number
77. no
78. way
79. could
80. people
81. my
82. than
83. first
84. water
85. been
86. call
87. who
88. oil
89. its
90. now
91. find
92. long
93. down
94. day
95. did
96. get
97. come
98. made
99. may
100. part

The 100 Most Common Spoken Words in English

1. a, an
2. after
3. again
4. all
5. almost
6. also
7. always
8. and
9. because
10. before
11. big
12. but
13. (I) can
14. (I) come
15. either/or
16. (I) find
17. first
18. for
19. friend
20. from
21. (I) go
22. good
23. goodbye
24. happy
25. (I) have
26. he
27. hello
28. here
29. how
30. I
31. (I) am
32. if
33. in
34. (I) know
35. last
36. (I) like
37. little
38. (I) love
39. (I) make
40. many
41. one
42. more
43. most
44. much
45. my
46. new
47. no
48. not
49. now
50. of
51. often
52. on
53. one
54. only
55. or
56. other
57. our
58. out
59. over
60. people
61. place
62. please
63. same
64. (I) see
65. she
66. so
67. some
68. sometimes
69. still
70. such
71. (I) tell
72. thank you
73. that
74. the
75. their
76. them
77. then
78. there is
79. they
80. thing
81. (I) think
82. this
83. time
84. to
85. under
86. up
87. us
88. (I) use
89. very
90. we
91. what
92. when
93. where
94. which
95. who
96. why
97. with
98. yes
99. you
100. your

Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala #3

[Download MP3 | Add to iTunes | Subscribe to Podcasts]

I have now entered week 5 of my studies at the Co-operative of Guatemalan Spanish Teachers in San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Click below to listen to it.

Cooperative School, San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

In this podcast we give you an update of our housing situation, having moved out of the home stay and into a wonderful new house by the lake, we visit the cemetery during a festival for the dead, and discuss how our Spanish studies are going. We finish the podcast with a brief chat about some of the strange energies and mysteries surrounding Lake Atitlan. We’ll post more details of these here in the next few days.


Our photos of Guatemala – including Lake Atitlan, San Pedro, The School, & Antigua
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala #1
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala #2
Video tour of the Cooperative School plus an interview with the Coordinator

Some myths about Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

During my six weeks of Spanish classes in San Pedro, some of the things I’ve discussed with my teacher have included the myths and legends surrounding Lake Atitlan. I’ve re-written a few of them below.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Missing tourist

Seven or eight years ago, a French tourist in San Pedro with his family told his wife that he was going across Lake Atitlan for the day to visit Panajachel. After a few hours he telephoned his wife, and rather cryptically told her "I’m in a beautiful place, I’m surrounded by flowers and amazing plants and have an amazing view across the lake". His wife said he sounded elated, and she presumed he had changed his plans and decided to climb the San Pedro volcano instead of going to Panajachel.

After a few hours when he’d still not returned, she began to worry. When he also didn’t return that night, she notified the authorities. After a couple of days there was still no sign of him, and the authorities sent out helicopters and specially trained sniffer dogs to look for him. The San Pedro villagers also helped in the search for him, but after several days of extensive searching there was still no sign of him, and strangely, even the sniffer dogs hadn’t picked up a single trace.

Several years on, the locals talk of his disappearance as though the volcano opened up and swallowed him up. Local folklore talks of doorways to an ‘alternate dimension’ in the countryside surrounding the lake here, and when children are young, they are warned not to touch or go near any objects they come across in the countryside that seem ‘out of place’, as they could be gateways to this mysterious dimension.

The woodcutter’s story

In San Pedro there’s an elderly man with an interesting story from his youth. It happened about 40 years ago, and his experience has now passed into local folklore.

When he was young, he walked a few hours from home into a deserted forest near Lake Atitlan, where he stopped and began felling trees for firewood. Feeling weary after a couple of hours, he stopped to rest for a while, and placed his axe carefully on the lush grass covering the area in which he was working. When he went to pick his axe up again to resume work, it was nowhere to be found.

Utterly perplexed by this, he hunted for his axe for a couple of hours but was forced to give up as nightfall was approaching and he was some distance from San Pedro. He walked back to the village, and upon entering the house was startled to find his friends and extended family all gathered in his house. "Where have you been?!" they asked anxiously, "We’ve been so worried we’ve hunted everywhere but there was no sign of you!"

The woodcutter replied rather sheepishly that he’d lost his axe and had been hunting for it for a couple of hours, which was why he was a bit late home. "But you’ve been gone two nights!" they replied.

The woodcutter had no recollection of the time he had missed, and the next day returned to the spot he’d been cutting wood. The axe was back exactly where he’d placed it, and everything was the same except the grass that had previously covered the area was no longer there.

The Atitlan attraction

For many years locals in San Pedro have wondered why so many people come to Lake Atitlan and fail to leave. Since the 1960s Lake Atitlan has been a Mecca for hippie types, and there are countless stories of people coming here for a week, and remaining forever. It’s not hard to attribute this fatal attraction to the natural beauty of the place, but there’s something else here, an indescribable magnetism and energy.

There’s a local myth that attempts to explain the Lake Atitlan magnetism, and it goes back many centuries to the time of the Spanish Conquistadors’ arrival in Guatemala

When the Spanish first arrived in Lake Atitlan they were camping somewhere around what later became Panajachel, when one of the young soldiers set eyes on a local Mayan girl washing clothes in the lake. Transfixed by her beauty, but fearing there was no way she would consider the advances of a Spaniard, he concocted a plan to win her over. He visited a local witch and asked her to cast a spell on a gold ring, which would ensure that she would find him irresistibly attractive.

The spell worked and the young Mayan woman fell in love with the Spanish soldier. However, a short while later, the soldier’s commander found out about the affair, and ordered her execution. Standing over her body, the commander saw the ring, and stole it from the body. A short while later, he started feeling irresistibly attracted to the young soldier, and fearing that the ring had something to do with his developing homosexual tendencies, he took a boat to the middle of Lake Atitlan, and disgusted, hurled the ring in.

The story goes that through the years the ring has passed its powers onto the lake, working its spell on all who venture here