A new country, another colonial town.
Trip Start Oct 04, 2007
2Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
We set off from our hostel in San Christobal at 7.15am on the 4th October with high hopes that we'd only be on the road for 5 or 6 hours, arriving in Antigua around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Unfortunately things didn't go as planned!
First of all, our 'bus' turned out to be a minibus packed with people and luggage. Both our rucksacks had to be strapped to the roof and we squeezed ourselves in next to a Dutch family. The son was 27, lived in Mexico, owned his own business in Holland and spoke countless languages! Damn him. But he was very nice and gave us some tips on what to see and do in Antigua.
There was also a really nice Argentinian guy on the bus who used to live right next to the Boca Juniors stadium in Buenos Aires
After around five or six hours on the 'bus' we reached the Guatemalan border. This was a fairly surreal experience. It was pretty chaotic and in the midst of it all we had to get our bags off the mini bus and queue up to get our passports stamped. After the obligatory bribe to the moustached Guatemalan border man, our Dutch friend suggested we change our Mexican Pesos for Guatemalan Quetzales with the dodgy looking men hanging around on the street (apparently they gave better rates than in Antigua itself). Once that was achieved I even managed to buy an icecream fromn a rather bemused looking street vendor for the grand total of 8p!
Then after waiting around for 20 mins or so it was onto another minibus. The scenery we travelled through was stunning. Lots of jungle covered hillsides and valleys. But we also saw a lot of poverty. Some houses were no more than huts and there were plenty of kids out and about trying to earn a bit of cash by selling things to passing cars and vans. Lee was almost tempted by a motorised toy rat but although it´s hard to turn the kids down a lot of what they had to sell was food which our stomachs probably wouldn´t be able to handle
Finally we got to Antigua and had our first taste of its cobbled streets which almost shook the poor minibus to bits. We were dropped off in the middle of town in the dark with no idea where our hostel was. Not a great start. Lee suggested taking a tuk-tuk and I still have no idea how we both got in the back of one with all our bags! One bone shaking ride later we were at the Black Cat Inn (2). If anyone finds themselves in Antigua I firmly suggest staying here. The staff were really friendly and the rooms and roof terrace (where you can get a great view of the volcanos surrounding the town) were really nice.
On our second day in Antigua we decided to climb a volcano called Pacaya. It was about an hour an a half to ´´base camp´´ and the last few miles were quite interesting as we were driving on little more than a dirt track which wound its way up the side of the volcano. If you find yourself on the same trip I fully recommend hiring one of the sticks the guide offers you before you get off the bus. It´ll be the best five quetzals you ever spend as the climb is quite hard going and when you get to the lava flows you need it to test the footing underneath you. We got really close to the lava (hopefully the pictures do it justice) and some people even managed to toast marshmallows on the end of their hiking sticks
On saturday we went bargain hunting in the market, which was a bit crazy with everyone out for a bit of your money. With Lee´s help I managed to get a hat, ten pens and a watch all for less than 5$! Next up was a trip to Lake Atilan and an overnight stay at a place called San Pedro, which was a little community on the far side of the lake.
We got a bit done by the boatmen who offered us a private boat trip across the lake for 150 quetzals each (about 11 pounds), when in fact the local ´´public boat´´ only cost 10 quetzals! Oh well, you live and learn I guess.
San Pedro is quite a hedonistic place. Its hippy and laid back but also a bit of a party town as we found out! Basically while eating on the waterfront we found out from our waiter which bar to go to and he also suggested there might be an after party too. And there was indeed. Basically about 12, the bar (a cool place right on the waterfront) closed down and everyone walked down the road to another building with a makeshift bar in where another DJ turned up and started cranking up the tunes. Here we met up with an English guy called Paul who was travelling with a crazy Welsh lad and an American called Drew
When we did get up it was back to Antigua, where we had a great meal in a traditional Guatemalan restaurant (Lee had Rooster stew!) and then it was time for bed as we had a 4am start to get to our next destination of Rio Dulce.
I´ll fill you in on our adventures there in my next installment.
Until the next time...adios amigos.