We got up a little after 6am. It was cloudy outside, and thus we still had no views. But...it was quiet. The only sounds were birds, plus the sound of the lake lapping against the hotel's concrete walls. Justin walked around the grounds, and the only people out were folks cleaning the pool. This sort of peace and quiet is what we expected, well, minus the clouds. Back in the room, we received an email from our travel agent, indicating he was working on things, and would have more information in a few hours. We caught up on the trip log, and then got ready for our day tour around the lake. Breakfast opened at 7, so at 7 we headed over to the restaurant. To our surprise, there were a bunch of macaws out and about. We assume these aren't wild, but there was nothing indicating that they couldn't fly away if they wanted.

At breakfast, there was a buffet, but despite having just opened, only the beans were hot - we aren't sure how this is possible. On the eastern side of the restaurant was a huge enclosure with dozens of parakeets. After breakfast we gathered our stuff, then went to meet our guide. We looked at the paperwork, and we weren't sure where to meet for our tour, so we just picked the lobby. As we were waiting, several workers started making a carpet right outside the front door. Compared to what we'd seen in Antigua, this seemed like amateur hour. The workers moved the outer border several times, but this was difficult when the sand was already out to edge of the border. Our pick-up time, 9am, came and went. Finally our guide Eduardo showed up, and apologized for the delay, stating that things were really busy because of it being Good Friday. He told us to wait for a minute, while he went to check on the boat operator. While he was checking on things, we wondered whether there was anyone on the planet actually named Eduardo Corrochio, and then we remarked how everything can be related back to Seinfeld.

Eduardo came back five minutes later, and we walked down to the pier. We were with one other group, with their own separate guide, on the boat. Our first stop was south across the lake, to Santiago. It was really busy at the dock. In preparation for our trip, we read up a bit on the various towns around the lake. [This website has a very good summary.] There are close to a dozen villages, each with their own vibe. Some are more touristy, some are more hippy oriented, some are louder, some are quieter, etc. We couldn't remember what was what, however, including what Santiago's vibe theoretically is.

Aura had told us the day before that Santiago was special on Good Friday because of a big procession, including a part involving Maximon. Eduardo told us the same thing, and told us that we were going to Santiago first, since it would be crazy in the afternoon. He wanted to show us the carpets, and it was evident he wanted to see them too. He'd just moved here from El Salvador four months ago. He'd heard about Maximon as well, and specifically a "fight" with Jesus sometime during the day. Maximon is a weird amalgamation of many things. He is worshipped, but not in the traditional sense. Maximon is well known for philandering, chain smoking, and heavy drinking. He has a shrine, and during Holy Week, he leaves his shrine and leads a procession through villages. As best anyone knows, Maximon is a result of a fusion with pre-Colombian beliefs and Catholocism.

There were lots of people out and about this morning. It was very tight quarters, especially since the streets themselves were roped off for carpet making. There were no cars or bikes out, just a ton of people walking. It was claustrophobic around the market area. Eduardo took us to the central plaza area, and the nearby catholic church and Maximon shrine, which happened to be right next to one another. We went in the Maximon shrine first, but we didn't stay long since it was small and full of smoke. The smell was overpowering. Eduardo told us that in a room next door, there was a bunch of supporters who had been up all night drinking. They were being very quiet - or alternatively, they were all passed out. In church, meanwhile, people were getting ready for the Good Friday service and for the procession.

If possible, everything we saw was even brighter and more artistic than in Antigua. Then again, we went on a Wednesday in Antigua, and there were processions on Thursday and Friday as well, so perhaps what we saw were "basic" or "practice" carpets, with the more outlandish in later days? We walked around the neighborhood some more, then tried to get a tuk tuk to lunch. But this was harder than planned, since the roads were closed to vehicles, and there were no tuk tuks in sight. We asked how far away the lunch spot was, and he said "far." But then after a moment he said it was about 10 blocks. We told him we could walk.

On the walk, we walked past a small marina and a beach-type area full of people. The hotel was a bit south, outside the main part of town. The grounds were very nice, and it had a very chill vibe. This is what we were hoping for in our hotel, but it was not meant to be. We'd read good things about this particular hotel (Posada de Santiago), but 1) it was at the base of one of the volcanoes, so you couldn't see that volcano, and 2) it was booked anyway. Lunch wasn't until noon, and it was about 11:40, so we chilled for a bit in the pool bar area. We asked Eduardo what was planned for the afternoon, and what would be happening in Santiago in the afternoon. It was apparent he wanted to see the procession, and we wanted to see the procession, so we asked if it would be possible to just stay in town and skip the other stuff, and thankfully he said that would be no problem at all. We had a great lunch, with entirely too much food, and chatted with Eduardo about his background, his move from El Salvador, and what to see in San Diego.

After lunch we walked back into town. We watched the end of the church service, in the main courtyard outside of the church and the Maximon shrine. The service was in Spanish and also the local Mayan language. We tried to pick up what we could from Spanish, but that was minimal. It was bright and sunny outside, and we definitely did not need our wind/rain coats, which had been wrapped around our waists for hours at this point. We should've brought a backpack with us, but instead it was sitting in our luggage back at the hotel. We were a bit concerned about getting sunburned, but there was nowhere in the shade, and we'd put on a good amount of sunscreen in the room. Once it appeared the service was about to end, we headed out and grabbed a soda and a bottle of water, and sat for a bit, waiting for the procession to start.

There were roped off streets everywhere, so it wasn't easy to tell what the procession route would be, and Eduardo got conflicting information from everyone he spoke to. We did find out that the procession was supposed to start at 3:30, not 3pm, and we were supposed to board our boat at 3:30. Eduardo was kind enough to text the boat operator and get him to pick us up at 4pm instead. There was an exit from the church courtyard in multiple directions, so we made our best guess and chose the west exit, at the bottom of the stairs. From there, we could see that they were taking the Jesus statue down from the cross in the courtyard, and taking it to the large float that they'd be carrying. We were wondering why there weren't more people around where we were, and then Eduardo spoke to someone indicating that where we were was the spot the 7pm procession would start, and that the 3:30pm procession would start from the north exit of the courtyard.

We walked around to the north exit, and sure enough, there were people everywhere, most of them on the balcony of the church, about 20 feet up from the courtyard. We found a spot at the base of the church wall, just below the balcony, right in the sun. Eduardo started a conversation with a local, who gave him - finally - some correct information about what is going on. According to her, the 3:30 procession was with people "who liked to party a little bit" and was slightly less formal and somber. The 7pm procession would be the one to head down the 18 steps to the east, and would last much longer. On cue, the procession started right around 3:30, and we were in a great spot, except for the sun right in our face. They came right by us, and we could tell the float weighed a ton, the people looked like they were struggling more than those in Antigua on Wednesday.

As soon as the second float, carried by women, went by, we headed out the other exit of the courtyard and made a beeline to the dock. It was a bit less crowded - no doubt because people were watching the procession - and we got to the dock in 5-10 minutes. Our only stop was to take some pictures of one of the carpets we'd seen getting started in the morning. It was absolutely spectacular in terms of its artistic skill, particularly since this was with sand that had to be drizzled. For a single color, a stencil would work, but this artist had put faint black lines on a red rose that almost certainly had to be free-formed. Eduardo took some photos as well. We've noted that when our guides get out their cameras, it's definitely worth taking note of. We can remember this with BiBi in Botswana (maybe for the wild dogs) and Jalil in Kyrgyzstan (for the snow leopards), but not much else.

Our boat driver asked if we could go to San Juan (one of the towns we skipped) to pick up the group we were with in the morning. We told him that he was nice enough to re-arrange to pick us up at 4, so we had no problem re-arranging for him. On the trip over, we told Eduardo about how we live part of the year on the slope of a volcano, but that it is compeletely different in its shape and activity, i.e., it is constantly flowing, but very liquidy, and thus much more horizontal than vertical. We showed him one of the videos we took of the "fire hose" last year, and he was amazed. Frankly, so were we - we've never seen anything like it, and were blessed to see it in person (Justin) and video (Crystal).

San Juan is on the southwest part of the lake. Compared to the mass of people in Santiago, San Juan was a welcome change. The main street coming up from the dock was very steep, and full of art shops, bars, and language schools. We went in a couple of the art shops, and they were full of extremely vivid-colored art, lots of which were paintings of the lake and towns. One of the stores had art from an artist that had interesting vantage points; it looked as though they were painted from either directly below or directly above groups of people. The other group wasn't quite ready yet, so we made one last stop, to grab some smoothies with fresh mango. Justin got his with rum, Crystal with tequila. The total price was 25Q, or just over $3, for both. We were incredulous. We spoke with Eduardo about travel, including a trip he took to Cartagena, Colombia, which sounded amazing.

The trip back across the lake was bumpy, but otherwise good. The views of the volcanoes was mostly unimpeded, but it was still quite hazy. We dropped off the other couple and their guide in Santa Cruz La Laguna, where we thought we might be coming back to tonight if in fact we changed hotels. At the dock, we actually saw a guy wearing a shirt with a design we'd seen on stickers at a mezcal event in San Diego just a few weeks prior - "Donald eres un pendejo." Apparently the symbol traveled fast. We got back to the hotel around 5pm, tired and worried we might be sunburned. Back at the room, nothing looked too bad, as it had when Justin got sunburned in Bora Bora and it was immediately apparent. We checked email, and there was nothing from either our travel agent or the local guide, so we assumed they were unable to find any available room and/or the logistics necessary to move us on the evening of Good Friday. Since there was no concert going on tonight, we weren't too upset. We were happy to not have to pack, and to be able to relax for the evening. We cleaned up a bit, then went down to the bar. Just when we exited the room and started towards the bar, tonight's concert started. We just looked at each other, acknowledged the absurdity of it, and continued to the bar.

We had about three drinks, plus a giant plate of nachos, and each read. Justin actually topped his over/under on magazines to be read during the trip (1.5), by finishing his second. Interestingly, the magazine he read tonight was dedicated to "unplugging" on vacation and truly chilling out, without being a slave to a strict schedule and/or the internet. One article was about the author attempting to perfect "fjaka" in Croatia. Justin told Crystal about it, and then she showed him a book she was in the middle of reading on her kindle that was about the exact same subject (but not in Croatia). We got an email from Justin's mom indicating that Justin's grandmother had really enjoyed her 95th birthday, so that was great to hear. We went back to the room a bit after 8:30, and Justin was asleep right after 9, and Crystal around 9:30. She was awakened by a phone call from Monica (the local tour operator), who wanted to discuss possibly moving hotels. Crystal indicated that Justin was already asleep, and we didn't want to move just for one night, so that was that. We aren't sure if they even found another hotel or logistics, as the conversation didn't get that far. Monica indicated she had relatives staying at the same hotel, and they weren't happy either. Monica was happy that there was a law requiring all of the concerts be done by 1am; otherwise, who knows what might occur.

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