Panajachel, Guatemala – Road block

We make our way down the steep volcano hill without damage. Via the big city Quetzaltenango we’ve got to get to Salcajá to the large roundabout at the town’s end from where the important junction Cuatros Caminos and the Pan Americana can be reached. But not a chance! Here road chaos is prevalent. The street is blocked with parking vehicles, car drivers try to turn round in-between. Fast food stalls already settled to offer snacks and drinks. Roadblocks were erected around the circle and people gather. What’s going on here?

We park on a piece of fallow land and are cleared up. People demonstrate for higher salaries and the blockade shall last for another seven hours. That’s not exactly what we’ve planned for today. Frustrated we have to understand that the complete crossroad area was cordoned off and that there is no loophole. 40 minutes pass by until drivers from the other side seem to discover a sideway and draw closer to where we are. We start immediately towards them. After minutes only we meet halfway and drive soon via a clumsy field path.

Finally we can continue on CA 1 to Alaska. This is how the cold and draughty plateau is called that makes up the highest point of Pan Americana in Guatemala with 3060 m. Eventually we turn off to Sololá, a mountain village at 2100 m that represent an important trade centre between highland and pacific plain. Thoroughfare is difficult for large rigs, even when following the sparse signs for heavy goods traffic. No problem for our two compact campers. Tuesday and Friday are market days where it might be difficult to get through, but it is possible to spaciously drive around town. Soon the road continues down with stunning views to Lago Atitlán. The lake at about 1500 m elevation is surrounded by volcanoes and is regarded as the country’s most beautiful mountain lake. It forms Guatemala’s touristic centre with Panajachel as main town.

Out of three camping options we choose the most likeable one at the end of town, but only a mile away from the centre. The access road, a mud path, is completely grown over and the gate is stale. Mike, the American owner, obviously didn’t have camping guests for a long time. He is old and impoverished and would like to sell the ground. He acknowledges that we would be in better keeping with the other campgrounds but is happy when we decide to stay. Since years camping fee is 35 GTQ pp. Since there is neither electricity nor water Mike grants us to stay here for half price. That’s more than fair; the site is locked, safe and quiet, and constantly guarded by Mike and his dogs.

Campana Camping, Panajachel, N 14°44’16.6’’ W 91°08’56.9’’

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