Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just the clothes on my back and camera around my neck - Antigua, Guatemala

If you're just now following along, here's the super fast back story: My cousin asked if I was going to be doing any trips this summer, and would I like her to come with me. I told her I was considering making my way from Guatemala to Mexico with Bamba Experience, a company that helps you book your transfers between places and gives you free inclusions. She said she'd love the adventure and so off we went. And believe me, it was an adventure.

Our itinerary was as follows: Antigua - Lanquin - Flores/Tikal - Belize Caye Caulker - Tulum - Cancun.

On July 24th we boarded the plane in Toronto and landed in Guatemala City (after a brief stop in Miami) around 7pm, ready for an adventure. Our plan was to meet our transfer to take us to the hostel in Antigua, get a drink and some sleep, explore the city and then get ready to do our first included tour - hiking the Pacaya Volcano located just outside of the city. 

As we all know, travel doesn't always go as planned, and this trip was no exception. When we went to pick up our luggage we discovered that it had apparently decided that Miami was a better place to stay and hadn't made it onto the plane. We reported the situation and were told that it would arrive sometime the next day, but no specific time was given. We were told to call the airport in the morning and they would let us know what was going on. 

This wasn't that big of a deal, because people's luggage gets delayed all the time. The problem, however was that pesky volcano we were planning on hiking. Neither of us had thought this far ahead and were wearing completely inadequate footwear, had no warm clothes to speak of and were generally unprepared. However, we decided that there wasn't much point in stressing over it and we'd figure out a solution. 

This is what I had to wear. Not exactly ideal.

We made it to the hostel, checked in and had a beer. Made the plan to call the airport in the morning and track down our stuff, wander the town and perhaps find some cheap but reasonable footwear, and grab a bit to eat before meeting the group for the volcano trip. Crawled into bed (in our clothes, of course) and fell asleep. 
Our hostel in Antigua upon arrival

The next morning we woke up early. Breakfast was included at the hostel, so we indulged in that. It was amazing. One bite and I was in love with the food in Guatemala.  And the coffee... oh my. Delicious. Much better than my coffee experiences in Peru (they seem to export amazing coffee and keep none of it for themselves!). 

Huevos, tortillas, beans, tomatoes ... so good!
After filling up on breakfast and calling the airport to ask about our bags (we were told they would arrive sometime that afternoon) we ventured out into the streets. The city immediately made me think of Cuzco, though the streets were in a bit rougher shape. As we wandered in what seemed to be the direction of the town square, we saw a group of children dressed for what looked like prom. The closer we got to the square, the more elaborately people seemed to be dressed, and the more of a buzz there seemed to be in the air.

We quickly realized that there was a celebration of sorts about to take place. Having nothing else we needed to do (besides find some shoes and perhaps warmer clothing for the night air at the volcano) we found a spot to sit along the street. Later we learned we happened to arrive the day of the town fair and there was about to be a parade. 

I'm not usually one for parades. I generally find them boring. However, this one was enthralling. Maybe it was the not knowing WHY it was happening, maybe it was just the excitement in the air, but I was amazed. We sat along the street with the locals for almost an hour, watching marching bands, dance troupes, and kids dressed as local landmarks, cartoon characters and more. 

Our bus was due to pick us up at 2pm  for the trip to the volcano. We glanced at our map and started off in the direction of the market that the girl at the hostel had circled for us. By this time breakfast had started wear off so we stopped for a bite to eat and something to drink right by the market. 

Sandwiches and nachos. 
The mojito to which all others will be compared
Full of food we ventured into the market stalls. We walked around a bit hoping to find a good deal on some running shoes but ultimately decided to each spent about 20Q (equiv of about $3) on some knock-off Crocs (or Croc-offs, as they came to be called). Not really ideal for hiking, they were still more practical than the worn out flats I was wearing. Having been told that it got cold up in the volcano area, I also bought a wool sweater for about 60Q ($10). Becoming short on time we started to head back towards the hostel, stopping at a grocery store for some snacks for the hike. 

We'd joked that with our luck, if we bought shoes for the hike our bags would miraculously appear before the bus arrived to pick us up... which was exactly what happened. With about 2 min to spare before we had to get on the bus to Pacaya, our luggage showed up. We tossed our stuff in the room, grabbed our running shoes and went out to meet the driver to head to the volcano.... but that's a story for another day.

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