When last I left you, we had landed in Guatemala City and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Fortunately, the worst of the food poisoning quickly passed and my body slowly returned to normal. We had arranged transportation from Guatemala City to Antigua ahead of time, so at least we didn’t have to deal with the vast array of taxi drivers at the airport.
Without much incident, we found our driver at the airport and began the forty-five minute drive to Antigua. The first thing I noticed about Guatemala’s capital is the fume filled air. There must’ve been thousands of diesel busses spewing out gaseous fumes, not to mention the cars, most of which exhausted plenty of smoke themselves. The air quality added to my sick feeling and left me even more depressed.
Finally, after the aforementioned forty-five minutes, we arrived at the former colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua. While Antigua is a charming city, at this point I couldn’t wait to go to sleep. After a few hours of rest, I finally felt a little better and health wise I improved from there. The first day, we walked around a bit and had a little dinner before getting more sleep at our hostel.
The second day we set out with more energy to explore. To be honest, Antigua lacks much to do. It is mostly known for it’s character and beautiful colonial architecture. I can attest to the beauty of this place for sure. Other than walking around, the only other thing we did this day was explore the five hundred year old ruins of the cathedral in the town’s central square. While it doesn’t seem like much, they were quite interesting.
During the next couple of days we quickly settled into a routine. We did change hostels after two nights and found the new one quite nice. At 60 Quetzals ($1 US=Q7.50) it was certainly quite a value. While we didn’t have our own bathroom, the shared facility was always spotless and it had a kitchen so we could cook our own dinner every night. Using the kitchen gave us a reason to make a daily visit to the market to get our fresh ingredients for dinner. A visit to the market here is always an experience.
Of particular interest here is the indigenous Guatemalan Maya culture. A majority of people in Guatemala are of Maya descent and some still practice the ancient religious traditions of their people. Throughout the town Maya women sell their crafts on the streets and some of it is quite beautiful. Next week, we will be traveling through Maya country, where we are almost sure to get a better taste of this fascinating culture.
While exploring Antigua one day, we found an old colonial house that is open to the public for tours. The house was full of 17th century furnishings and it gave us a peak into how people lived in Antigua three hundred years ago. The rooftop terrace provided wonderful views of Antigua’s varied rooftops as well.
On Saturday night, Antigua had a fiesta celebrating it’s international community. The fiesta featured Mayan dancers, plenty of good food and an abundance of fireworks throughout the night. In fact, every once and a while a guy would dance down the street with fireworks strapped to his back. Shawn Reece and Jasmine almost got shot with one in a moment that was a little scary for everyone.
Originally we planned to stay in Antigua for one month before setting out to explore the region further. Unfortunately, by day four, we were getting bored and made plans to move on. We booked a shuttle on Monday to travel about two hours north to the Lake Atitlan region and more specifically a town called Panajachel.
We arrived in Panajachel late Monday afternoon with plans to only stop there for the night. Panajachel turned out to be alright, but since we heard San Pedro La Laguna across the lake was much nicer, the decision to move on wasn’t hard. The lake itself is surrounded by three volcanoes and the scenery is incredible. We can’t wait to explore this area further.
Overall, we are settling in pretty well. For the most part, Guatemala seems very safe. We have heard of a few pickpockets, but no armed robberies or violent crimes to speak of. As long as we mind ourselves, everything should be fine. Guatemala is definitely a third world country and I feel spending an extended period of time here will help all three of us grow as people. I will write soon to tell you how the Lake Atitlan area is!
The Coomer Family