One of my favorite things about living on the shore of Lake Atitlan is that I can hop in my kayak at any time, getting nice exercise while taking in the breathtaking beauty of the whole lake. My husband is usually my kayaking companion, but he was off canoeing with his son this morning. So I did the next best thing: I went kayaking on Lake Atitlan with my coffee mug. I recently got this stainless, spill proof mug, and thought it was time to take it for a test drive. We saddled up the single kayak and headed into a light breeze, blowing from the northeast. I pointed the kayak into the wind and started paddling toward Cerro de Oro.
The majority of foreign tourists and many residents here couldn’t place Cerro de Oro on a map or identify it in a photo. Cerro de Oro is the small volcanic hill that sits in front of Toliman volcano; it’s also the name of the surrounding village. The hill is one of my favorite places, and is thought to be the model for the “boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant” in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (but more about that in another post). We frequently kayak along Cerro de Oro, sometimes going through houses that were partially submerged when the lake rose significantly in 2010.
As I rounded the point of Cerro de Oro, the water got rougher and waves were crashing into the rocky shore. Still, it was calm enough to take another photo: this time, my coffee mug was enjoying the view of Toliman Volcano and Cerro de Oro. Feeling the wind getting stronger, I turned for home. At first the breeze was gently pushing me toward my destination. Within a few minutes, I saw the wind pattern on the lake change and whitecaps start to make their way toward me, from north to south. I took a last swig of coffee, knowing that soon I wouldn’t want to set down my paddle. It was the start of a full-blown Norte: the wind from the north that can bring large swells and even dangerous conditions to Lake Atitlan.
Soon I was zig-zagging my way home: alternately riding the wind and and swells toward the shore, then turning out to paddle into the wind, then riding the swells in again. The aim is to keep moving in the direction you want to travel without the swells hitting the kayak broadside. The swells were just big enough to make the kayaking feel like a water park ride. It’s hard to describe the beauty and the majesty of the lake when the wind is blowing, the surface is roiling, and the clouds passing in front of the sun shift the color of the lake between jade and deep blue.
I pulled up to my dock, climbed the ladder, and took the final sip of coffee. My new mug had performed its task admirably. It didn’t help paddle, but the coffee helped me make my way through the wind and waves. The whole morning was perfect.