Throwback Thursday: Paddle or Die


During our visit to San Pedro, two friends and I decided that we should go kayaking on Lake Atitlan.

At first, I was a little hesitant, due to the fact, that I am not a good swimmer…

Okay, I can’t swim at all.

However, I was reassured that it was impossible to flip a kayak and they would have life jackets on hand.

Sunday morning we got up early and headed out in search of a kayak rental service. After thirty minutes of scavenging the cobbled streets of San Pedro, we finally found one. The company charged 10Q/$1US hourly to rent a kayak.

Pretty cheap, right? Well, you get what you pay for.

We rented one double and single kayak. (I was able to secure the double alongside my friend Karen, a sufficient swimmer).

Shortly after paying we were handed a white slip and driven by a tuk-tuk to the dock. As soon as we exited the mobile a man greeted us and we handed him our “receipt”.

He immediately began to untie the heavily used kayaks.

“Do you have life jackets?”, I asked.


Obviously not understanding my subtle request, he continued to untie the kayaks.

“We never kayaked before. Is it easy?”

“Si, muy facil”

Before I knew it, I was placed in the kayak and being pushed off into 130 km^2 of Lake Atitlan.

“I need a life jacket!” I called as our boat slowly moved away from the dock.

Immediately he grabbed on to the kayak and went in search of a life jacket.

TEN MINUTES of searching, he was finally able to find a life jacket and returned to the dock. holding a life jacket. He then proceeded to place it inside-out on me. A nearby onlooker quickly corrected him.

Like I said, you get what you pay for.

Next thing you know, we are floating away from shore, not quite sure how to

1) Paddle

2) Turn or stop the boat

I began to panic and shout the onlookers standing on the dock.

“What do we do?”

“How do you turn?”

They all tried to instruct us while trying to hold back laughter. Luckily, we were able to run into a huge clump of seaweed and shrubs that was able to impede or kayak from moving.

Kendra who was on the single kayak continued to float out farther into the sea and dug her paddle into a nearby growth of seaweed.

Freaked out, she declared that she was ending her kayaking experience early and began to attempt to turn around back to shore.

It was just me and Karen left stranded floating in Lake Atitlan, due to lack of training or knowledge on how to actually operate a kayak.

Having pity on us, a local, well trained in kayaking, came to our rescue. He partnered up on a double with Kendra and paddle out to where we were drifting aimlessly.


After a quick five-minute tutorial, our kayaking experience dramatically changed.

What seemed to be the last five minutes of my life turned into a wonderful excursion down the banks of Lake Atitlan.

We strolled up to a nearby island of rocks, tied our boats up and went swimming. He showed us all the different volcanoes surrounding the lake.



Not having to worry about my life, I began to notice the beauty of Lake Atitlan. The morning was cool and fog rose from the waters and the clouds covered the peak of the mountains. The water was calm and soothing. I began to feel at peace.


Our to two hour rental had ended. We began to paddle to the shore, but this time we knew what we where doing.



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