City of vulcanos and colonial ruins

Trip Start Aug 31, 2006
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Trip End Aug 15, 2007


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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

To go to Antigua from Rio Dulce, I wanted a direct bus, so that I wouldn't have to change in Guatemala City, which is said to be a chaotic and dangerous city. That was not possible, but I found a company that did it with a change of bus in their terminal in Guatemala City... fair enough! When I arrived in the morning at the terminal to buy my ticket though, they said the mini bus for the Guatemala City to Antigua leg was full. Seems like a problem but after some negotiating, begging and looking very sad they found me a seat anyway. Well, so I thought, as in Guatemala City it seemed that the mini bus was




really full. That was my luck though, as their solution was to send me to Antigua with a personal driver in one of their parcel delivery vans. The driver turned out to be a nice guy and we chatted the whole way about Guatemala, Belgium, the civil war, football, ... An interesting and nice way to travel!!

Antigua has a special feel to it, in some way it s very beautiful with beautifully colored houses in cobble stoned streets, lots of colonial buildings, convents and churches and surrounded by volcanoes, but it s also partially destroyed, almost all of the older buildings miss at least one wall, most are more like ruins and all of them could use some restauration. It is nice to walk around in though and is a very popular base for tourists who want to learn the language. You can also notice that from the many nice restaurants, cafes and bars. I can imagine someone staying here for a month or even more!!

I stayed only two days though. One day to explore the city, the other to take a tour to the active Pacaya volcano. You can only do this as part of an organized tour because there are lots of reports of robberies along the way up. One I received in person from a couple that went to climb another volcano "Agua" and were robbed on their way down by two masked men with manchetees. So it was as part of a big group (see picture) that I climbed Pacaya. The end point was where two lava streams ended, well, after a while it was clear they did not end there, but were slowly moving downwards (see movie). At some parts there was even lava flowing under the older rocks, so we could get very close to it. Here you could see (and experience) a BBQ like effect with white glowing stones and an amazing heat coming up. Groups always act pretty funny, and this time was no exception. I arrived with the first people and took a save distance from the end of the lava stream, then as more people arrived everybody wanted to go just that little bit closer than the rest, so that at the end some people would almost pose for the obligatory picture with their feet in the lava. It s an amazing sight to see lava coming out of a mountain and the stream got more and more impressively red as the sun set and it got darker. Meanwhile also the view of the other three volcanoes, at the other side of Antigua was amazing (sorry, don t find another word) and with beautiful colors.

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