Published: January 29th 2012January 29th 2012
Day 4: We got up early and had coffee on the rooftop of our hotel (which is, by the way, connected to a cinema and nightclub with is quite loud, but thankfully not really noticeable from our room). The view of the city, which is beautifully old and European-feeling, was beautiful in the morning with the volcanoes looming in the distance. We walked around the city for a while, exploring and getting lost and taking in the sights. For lunch, we went to the market and got some stuff for a picnic in the park. The weather was beautiful, the food delicious, and the park pleasantly bussing with people. A pseudo-band began playing- 2 guys on various flutes and panpipes with a backing track, and they were really good. After lunch we went to a cultural museum where we learned about the history of coffee and toured a coffee farm/ production plant, saw some historical and cultural houses, and went through a musical instrument museum. Fun coffee fact: The Civet, a cat-like animal, likes to eat fresh coffee beans. After passing through the cat's system, the beans are collected and washed and sold as specialty coffee. Yum.
We got back
from from the museum, rested for a little, then got dinner. As it would turn out, all the food we got in Antigua was really really wonderful, and left us not wanting to return to the relative culinary void that was Roatan. After dinner we ran into a friend that we had met in Copán, and hung out with him and his travel buddy for a bit. We went to bed early that night, because the next day we were going to be getting up super early to go climb Pacaya Volcano.
Day 5 (New Year’s Eve): We left the hotel at 6AM to go climb Pacaya Volcano. After about a 1 ½ hour ride in a decently packed “chicken bus”, like a mini-bus but crappier, we arrived at the volcano. We had been told it was an easy hike, and were thus mildly surprised when we started the hike and it was really steep. The guides, which were necessary so that we didn’t get lost/robbed, kept up a brisk pace, and I kept waiting for us to get to the part of the hike that was ‘easy’. There were lots of guys on horses along the route, calling
out “taxi” and offering to let people ride horses up the mountain instead of walk (for a price, of course). We stopped at a few viewpoints along the way, which gave me time not only to take pictures but to catch my breath and regret how terribly out of shape I am. We made our way to the summit in about an hour, and then continued just a little ways more to some steam vents. Oh yeah- Pacaya is an active volcano that erupted just last year. I don’t want to know the safety rating of coimbing an active volcano. Anyway, the views were amazing of other volcanoes and a lake, and we could even see all the way to Guatemala City (it wasn’t nearly as intimidating to me, seeing it from the top of a volcano, as it was when I was delirious and surrounded by neon signs and fast food restaurants). The hike back down was fairly anti-climactic, except for a the fact that we were going quickly and almost everyone slipped on the volcanic rocks and ash that we were hiking on. We made friends with some of the other people on the trip, mostly friendly backpackers,
so it was a lot of fun. When we got back to Antigua we took some time to clean up and rest. All of us were completely covered in dust and had to dump volcanic ash out of our sneakers. The day after, I was still blowing ash out of my nose. Lovely picture, I know.
We napped for a little while, but then made ourselves get up so as not to miss the New Year’s Eve festivities. One of the main streets, called Calle Arco due to the arch stretched over it, was filled with people. Earlier in the day there were street performers and musicians. The music was mostly made up of Guatemalan marimba ensembles- approximately 6 or 7 men playing beautiful handcrafted wooden marimbas (one about 6 octaves, the other a little smaller) accompanied by bass and drum set. It was really wonderful. Later in the evening the real festivities started- groups of performers on the street, almost like a bunch of mini-parades. All the groups had fantastic, colorful costumes, with a lot of people on stilts, and all accompanied by a trio of drummers. These groups would parade down the street, put on their performance,
then continue down the street and do it again, followed by masses of people. All of them were really amazing, and had cultural significance- some of which, I am proud to say, I even understood as they explained in Spanish. There were huge crowds but I always felt pretty safe- the people here formed a happy mob, with no pushing or shoving like you would find in the States. After the big blowout performance around 10PM, where everyone said Adios to 2011 with fireworks and music, people proceeded to Parque Central- the central park. There were lots of illegal fireworks going off in the street, some scarier than others. We explored a bt and grabbed a drink at one of the packed bars, then went back to the square before midnight. There was no countdown to the New Year, like I was used to. Rather there was a lighted sign that said 2011, and then at what I assume was midnight the sign switched to 2012 and there were tons of fireworks going off in every direction. They mayhem continued for a few minutes with mostly individuals setting off fireworks, and then very slowly the chaos began to die down.
Fireworks could be heard sporadically for the rest of the night, and even into the next day, though. After midnight we continued to wander around the town with travelling friends we had run into during the festivities.
Day 6: We were all pretty tired from staying out late on New Years, but didn’t want to waste our last day in Antigua sleeping. I spent a bit of time writing in the park- amazingly quiet after the previous night, but with the ground still littered with ghosts of the festivities- and then got a croissant with Nutella for breakfast. Not quite traditional Guatemalan fare, but exciting for me after being on Roatan for so long. And really, there’s only so many times I can eat the tipico breakfast before it gets old.
We spent most of the day walking around and exploring the city some more. For lunch we went to this hole-in-the-wall place, where you had to walk into a little shop and ask to go to the restaurant which was behind the store, literally behind the counter. I unfortunately couldn’t eat there, but got some excellent pupusas on the street. After lunch we went to
a chocolate museum, and then got some local ice cream (much better than Roatan ice cream). We also went to a huge market, and some members of our group got the traditional Guatemalan blankets, etc. After that we grabbed dinner, which was quite a difficult feat considering that a ton of places were closed for the new year, and then got more ice cream. My friend and I had thought about pulling an all-nighter that night, since we were leaving at 3AM, but we ended up not doing that. She wasn’t feeling well, and there was some weird activity going on in the street when we looked out the window of our hotel to the Parque Central- there had been people around, and then all of the sudden a bunch of police came and cleared everyone out so it was eerily quiet. Later on there were a few people in the square, but not many, so we deemed it too sketchy to be wandering around at night. Instead we just got a few hours of sleep before our long day of travelling.
Day 7: Our bus left Antigua at 3AM and the whole day was a blur of travelling
on busses; stopping over in one town and then continuing on to the next. We got into La Ceiba in the late evening, and had to stay the night because we missed the afternoon ferry. We stayed in a kind of sketchy hotel, but it was clean enough and safe. We ventured out just a street or two to get food, but let’s just say that I was very happy to return to the hotel and not stay out on the street.
Day 8: We got up early to catch the morning ferry, but it was bad weather so the ferry wasn’t running. After a decent amount of confusion and trying to contact Galaxy Wave, the ferry, we decided to wait a few hours and see if the weather got better. We walked around a little, and I bought a few things I had needed but hadn’t been able to get on Roatan. I also got what has thus far been the best baleada of my life. The weather still wasn’t improving so we decided to go to the airport and fly back to Roatan. Unfortunately, the weather was so bad that the Roatan airport was closed. And then
I was super impressed how they danced on stilts on cobblestone streets.
it opened again. But then it closed again. After waiting around for about 4 hours and talking to some very frustrated airport people, all in Spanish of course, we finally got on a flight and got home. I think that this part of the trip was definitely necessary, though, because we had been really lucky and not had many hassles the rest of the time while travelling, so we had to balance out the good luck with a little bit of bad.
So yeah, that was my trip. I very highly recommend both Copán and Antigua, because both were really amazing to visit and not too expensive. I also felt really safe the entire time I was travelling, besides in La Ceiba, and would not hesitate at all to go back again. More pictures below!
There are more photos below