Next stop on our whirlwind tour of Central America was Antigua. This was supposed to be the better option compared with Guatemala City, as rumour had it, that place was crazy. On the journey down to Antigua, we drove through a town that seemed to resemble the inside of a car exhaust….Hot, sweaty, full of smoke and fumes… this it turned out, was Guatemala City! Looks like we may have made the correct decision.
Upon arrival in Antigua, it was clear that that was indeed the correct choice, as it was a far cry from the rough and tumble of Guatemala City. Cobbled streets, great little buildings, and surrounded by Volcanos. These were the qualities of the town that awaited us, and it was just what the doctor ordered. We spent a little time finding a hotel, walking the streets and asking about rates etc., and finally came across the friendly and clean Posada Don Luisa. So after putting the packs down we headed out for a wander and to book ourselves on a couple of the tours that were on offer in the area.
Day 2 was spent on the first tour we booked, Pacaya Volcano. This was
an opportunity to climb an active volcano that last erupted in only May 2010! Unfortunately for us the last of the lava that was left from this eruption had gone a few months back, but it meant that we could climb it, and still check it out, so that was a bonus. We were driven to the Volcano by what we assumed was our tour leader as he spoke good English, seemed to have a good knowledge about the place and had a huge shotgun with him! We assumed he carried this in-case anyone bothered the tourists whilst climbing the Volcano ( a few incidents had been reported a while ago, so would really just be a precaution), however as soon as we got to the start of the ascent, he buggered off and left us there with about 6 dudes with horses (that they were trying to get us to ride up the Volcano for a fee) and a ‘guide’ who’s English was probably worse than my Spanish, which although improving is dire! So after several refusals to the horse guys and a few near misses to the face when the horses decided to kick each other, we made
it half way. From here the horses and their owners disappeared and it was a much more relaxing climb up the rest of the Volcano. The climb up from there was pretty awesome as the whole place was still smoking from the last eruption and there were a few craters where the heat emanating from them was immense, so much so that one cave that had a crater, was basically a natural sauna, and a fantastic, if rather sweaty place, to relax after the gruelling climb up.
That evening, we headed back to the town, and went to see the old Cathedral of Antigua. This place, along with the whole town, was battered by an earthquake back in 1773 and has only recently had work started on it to try and build it back to its former glory. Every detail is being painstakingly recreated, and they believe it will be another 50 years before this place can be used as a church again! The guide that showed us round was really informative and the $2 or so it was for us to both go in, plus a small donation to the rebuilding of the church, was well worth it, and
I would recommend going here if your find yourself with a few hours to kill in Antigua
The second tour started off really badly in that we were not on the list the bus driver had with him. The office wasn’t open either, and therefore we had to pay him to take us there, and we would be reimbursed by the tour company that evening….. sounds dodgy right? Anyway……. The tour consisted of going to one of the most visited places in Guatemala, Lake Atitlan. This place has been compared to, and in some circumstances been claimed as being more beautiful than Lake Como in Italy, as well as being ‘The most beautiful lake in the world’. A bold statement, but one that may potentially be valid. I have never personally been to Lake Como, and in the whole scheme of things, probably haven’t seen that many lakes, however from viewing Lake Atitlan, it would have to be a pretty amazing lake to rival this. Unfortunately, the three towns surrounding the lake that we visited ( Santiago, San Marco, and San Juan) were not the nicest of towns really, and for us the view of the lake with surrounding
volcanos were the draw of this place, and not the towns surrounding it. Upon return, the office in which to get our money back that we had laid out earlier in the day was of course shut….surprise, surprise….
Being that we were due to leave at 8am the next morning in order to catch the bus to El Salvador, it meant that we wouldn’t be able to get to the tour office to receive our promised refund as they opened at 9am, and therefore it meant waving goodbye to our £10……Bastards!
So we wrote that off as a loss, and got some sleep, as El Salvador awaited, and these waves were about to get surfed like they hadn’t be surfed in a while….. To the Beach!
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