Ok, so I last left you chilling out in our hostel after a 430am start Saturday to Tikal. As mentioned we had booked our trip down to Antigua Guatemala, first class, for 10am Sunday. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, we checked out Sunday morning at 830am and you couldn’t pay by card, only cash, so I had to hot foot it down to the ATM, praying the shop was open as it was a Sunday, get out cash then pay the remaining 180Q. Done. Our ride, Sergio, was to pick us up at 9am from our hostel, he was about ten minutes late and picked us up in is car, with presumably his wife in the passenger seat. By the time he’d thrown our luggage in I swear the boot of the car was dragging along the cobbled streets of the island.
Nevertheless, we were on our way. About twenty minutes into the journey, he stops randomly on the side of the road and asks for our ticket. I got it out and handed it to him and he gave us our bus passes. I asked if this is where we wait for the bus and he replied no it’s across the road. Luggage got, we crossed the road and headed in to wait. He then informs us that our bus goes at 1030am not 10am as the 10am one was full (despite him calling to confirm Saturday???) This wasn’t a problem we would just sit and wait for an hour.
I went to get us some drinks and the language barrier here is huuuuuge. Like my vocabulary in Spanish extends to…”Si”, “Non”, “Uno, dos, tres, Quattro, cinqo, seiz, siete, ochto, neuve, diez” (spelling incorrect I know), “gracias”, and “donde esta…followed by any English word that I need the location of.” We needed to learn and learn fast. When I asked for a Coke and a Sprite he only gave me a Sprite as I was stood there at the counter pointing to the Coke as well! Then when I asked how much, he actually held up his fingers to tell me, 16Q. How embarrassing! Needless to say the Spanish guide book is now with us and easily accessible.
Anyways, back into the waiting area, Sergio comes up to us again and gives us 100Q as a refund because we are now no longer travelling first class. I was looking forward to the TV, air con, wifi and delightfully reclining seats. Seems we had been slightly mis sold here??? Then he gives us our ticket for the shuttle from Guatemala City to Antigua, as we have to change there. The kicker was, the last shuttle goes at 8pm, so if we arrive after that, we need to find our own way to Antigua and then call the company to get a shuttle somewhere and then only pay the difference. It had gone from what seemed like a nice journey to we may as well have been in the back of a tuk-tuk.
We queued up to get on the bus, I’m not going to call it a coach, it was bright yellow too. Luggage was stowed underneath and we went to our assigned seats 21 and 22. Bags were searched as you got on too. There is security everywhere in Guatemala. The seats reclined and there was air con so it wasn’t all bad. To begin with…
There was even wifi for ten minutes. Spoilt ey!! The journey was expected to take ten hours so after about two hours, we nodded off for all of about an hour. The journey did go quickly though! We stopped for a bit in Rio Dulce so people could grab refreshments and use toilets that didn’t resemble an assassination like those on the bus and then continued onwards. The bus kept stopping to let people off and at one point it was full and there were also about ten people just casually standing in the aisle for about two hours or so! Glad we got on when we did.
It started to get really cold. The air con was turned off but it was still coming out of the speakers. I was shivering I was so cold with my coat on and my bag on my legs so the air couldn’t get to them. Still cold. Even colder than leaving the aircon on all night and being on the boat whale watching! Nothing we did turned it off and it must have been a problem throughout the bus because everyone was doing their best to hide under whatever jackets they had. It was 30 degrees outside so not everyone had something to put over them!
We hit a very long winding road at some point along the journey. It was dark so must have been about 630pm ish. It was ascending and winding and the drivers here are crazy. Including our bus driver. I mean he was overtaking lorries on the wrong side of the road going round bends!! Then the lorries would somehow speed up despite going up hill and get infront causing our bus to sit behind it again. The amount of horn honks we got was insane. Seeing lorry mirrors coming at me and missing the bus by centimetres. Whilst being close to the side of the cliff in the pitch black! We didn’t crash but crikey I thought it close.
We hit Guatemala City and the Fuente del Norte station was in zone 1. I say station it’s literally down an alley on the side of the road. It was 20:10. We had missed the connecting shuttle. No worries as there were swarms of taxi drivers ready to take us wherever we wanted to go, if you could speak Spanish. This time I resorted to showing the hotel address on my phone and then all we got was “ah Antigua, si.” Then luggage was picked up and we were bundled into a very nice taxi.
The journey took about an hour and cost 300Q so not too bad. It was about 35 miles. We passed horrendous traffic, as well as McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut etc it was like being back in the USA! The taxi driver was just as crazy as the bus driver overtaking, undertaking, driving on the wrong side of the road, cruising over two lanes when rounding a bend. Eventually he pulled into a street and asked for direction in Spanish. Again I showed my phone and he jumped out to ask a local.
It was straight down one road. The roads in Antigua are grid-like so it’s very easy to find your way around. He had to stop again further down the road as he didn’t understand us saying keep going. Then we went down one way which is where Nathan’s phone was taking us but the driver didn’t believe us so I got out to look and low and behold our hotel was tucked away in the corner. We grabbed our luggage and went in. The hotel is locked at all times so someone has to let you in from the inside. Within seconds we were taken to our room and showed where the shared bathroom was. We have three nights here. After a long day, reaching our hotel at 930pm it was time to sleep.
Our room is very basic with just two beds in it. It is big enough to store our things and we only need it for sleeping so it suits us perfectly. Now we were travelling as cheap as possible! We hadn’t anything planned for Monday except to catch up on some z’s and plan out the next few days. Priority one was a Taco Bell breakfast. Nathan had found one 0.2miles away! Score!! Up and dressed we ventured out. We found it quite easily. It was huge and had an armed guard on the door.They did a 40Q Taco breakfast box which was delicious but try asking for no egg!! “Sin el hueve,” or something like that. In my appalling accent I managed to get the request across and got no egg so it was a successful attempt at Spanish communication. It was just what we needed to set us up for the day.
We decided to just aimlessly wander round the streets to see what we could find. We did need to find a travel agent to see if we could go to Semuc Champey and Lake Atitlan as well as enquire about how to get over the border to El Salvador. I also needed a toothbrush and Nathan needed deodorant. First stop, travel agent.
We wandered into the north face shop first and then next door found a Travel America tour agency. We had already asked at our hotel about the trips but the language barrier is too bad for either of us to understand. Thankfully, in this little place, the guy spoke great English. Sadly we couldn’t get to Semuc Champey as it takes 8 hours and only comes back the following day and we already have our hotel booked. We could get to Lake Atitlan though, and we booked it deciding against having a guide but giving ourselves time to wander around Panajachel, which sits on the lake. We also booked a coach into El Salvador on Thursday. Plan one was sorted.Templo Santa Teresa de JesusPalacio de Los Capitaines GeneralesSanta Catalina ArchEl CarmenParque CentralFuentes de las SirenesAntigua Guatemala Patrimonio UNESCOConvento Santa ClaraTanque La UniónIglesia de la Merced
Antigua Guatemala is adorned with beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. Everywhere you turn there are brightly coloured houses, old churches and convents and Guatemalan women dressed in their stunning brightly coloured dress. This is one of my favourite places to get lost in. It is safe. There are police and armed guards everywhere. You don’t get harassed. There are sick, injured homeless people everywhere but it is a truly spectacular place to visit.We even found a pick n mix sweet shop and then we stumbled across the market. Nathan’s worst nightmare. I loved it!They literally sold everything. We got a toothbrush and deodorant from here! They had beautiful kaftansand about a hundred or so stalls. They had mobile phones, mobile phone cases, clothes, toiletries, baby things, fidget spinners, toys, everything you need was here!! There were women in their beautiful dresses, carrying things on their heads.Their clothes were beautiful. We wandered round the market, actually got lost and couldn’t find our way out and found some fruit which if it wasn’t for the flies, would have been delicious.On our way back out once we eventually found the way out, there were dozens of people shining shoes too.There were people making jobs for themselves wherever you looked. People selling drinks, jewellery, portable sewing machines even! It is a different world over here. We take for granted what we have yet here they have so much less and are seemingly so happy! It puts things into perspective.
We went back to our hotel so I could figure out the route for the next week and how we get through El Salvador then we headed hack out to find some flip flops, withdraw cash (card got declined at every ATM except in a pharmacy??) pay the guy for the tours and locate a post office. As we left I asked someone “donde esta the post office…” how very English of me 😂! It was bloody closed as it’s converting from a private post office to a public one, whatever that means? A few more snaps of the beautiful streets before we headed back to chill before our early start tomorrow…They even had a friggin dunkin donuts!!!!!!!! Our hotel had a laundry service which is the reason I chose it, and the lady bless her, turned it all round in a few hours!!It had a beautiful view of the volcano from the roof terraceEverythung about Antigua Guatemala has been amazing ❤️
Until next time….