My guidebooks told me that San Lucas Tolimán is the next town along the lake shore beyond San Antonio Palopó, and there are boats from San Antonio to San Lucas on market days, which includes today, so I planned to accomplish two trips in one.  I would visit Juan and Juanita and their family in San Antonio, and then make a pilgrimage by boat to the site of the San Lucas Band.  To get to San Lucas by road would be a much longer trip, involving multiple buses and hours.

I rode the pickup truck from Pana to San Antonio, a half hour,  made the rendezvous with Juan using cell phones, and he took me up to their house where I bought some of their weavings to take back home as gifts, and they gave me some more little gifts, and I took pictures of the family.

I learned that the last public lancha for San Lucas had departed at 8:30 AM.  The lanchas run only on market days, and and the last one is at 8:30 AM.  To get there now, I would have to hire a private boat, which was “muy cara.”

The town of San Antonio is on a mountainside overlooking the lake with steep, narrow, winding streets, very picturesque.  Leaving their house with my day pack full of gifts, I walked down the hill and debated with myself whether to make the trip to San Lucas. I was reluctant to go. San Lucas is a commercial center, said to be the least picturesque town on the lake. I didn’t know if there would be anything interesting there.  I was on the fence, and almost decided to get in the pickup and return to Pana.  I walked around some more and finally decided I ought to say yes to this instead of habitually saying no.  I should not pass up the chance for a pilgrimage to San Lucas, even if it turned out to be a total bust, if only for the sake of this story that I’m writing.  So I walked on down the hill to the lake.  There were boats tied up at the dock with no people in them.  San Antonio is a pretty quiet town, and nobody sits in his boat waiting for passengers to show up.  I asked a random guy on the street if there was a boat, and he repeated the information I’d heard about the public lanchas.  He pulled out his cell phone and said he could call someone who could take me to San Lucas.  It would cost about 100 quetzales.

I decided not to do it.  This recapitulates an earlier experience that occurred when my father died.  My father stipulated in his will that he wanted his ashes to be scattered at sea.  So after his memorial gathering in Palo Alto, California, my two brothers and I and Ron’s wife and sons and my ex-wife and kids took the ashes to the nearest bay.  There was no boat captain there to take us out to sea, but a guy in a store said he could call someone to come and take us and it would cost about $200.  Ron strongly wanted to do it, but I was extremely resistant.  I dug in my heels and insisted we should walk out on the jetty and scatter the ashes from there.  I prevailed, although maybe I shouldn’t have. We did it from the Jetty.  So why didn’t I want to go out in the ocean on a boat to scatter my dad’s ashes?  One consideration was the cost, and I think that was in the spirit of my dad himself.  I think he would have balked at spending $200 for a boat when there was a jetty right there.  What also bothered me was that I didn’t want to commit myself to waiting an unknown amount of time for a boat captain to arrive from somewhere, and then start up his diesel boat and do whatever it takes to get it ready to set off from the dock.  I had in mind that we wanted to have fish and chips at a well-known restaurant there by the dock, and we had to catch an airplane out of San Jose in just a few hours.  So basically, I didn’t want to miss lunch in order to scatter my dad’s ashes out in the actual ocean from a boat. In this instance, as I mentioned, I don’t think he would have disapproved of saving the $200.

So there I am in San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala, repeating the experience in an eerily similar way.  A guy offers to make a phone call to get a boat guy to take me to a destination of dubious interest, for a cost that is a lot of money by Guatemalan standards, but not all that huge to me.  100 Q is approximately $13 US.  I backed out, just as I had before.  Then as I was starting to walk away, a tourist van pulled up and a family got out and started walking down toward the dock.  I stopped and watched them, and they were meeting a boat captain and boarding his boat. I don’t know where he came from, or why I hadn’t seen him.  So I went down and asked the guy if he was going to San Lucas, and he said,  “No, no a San Lucas.”  That did it.  I went back up the hill to the church and returned by pickup truck to Pana.  In time for lunch, I might add.

Juan, Juanita, and Family

Juan, Juanita, and Family


The view from their house in San Antonio