Aloha (cheeky bit of Hawaiin to get this blog started) from Antigua!
Again, getting here was a bit of a nightmare, can you see a pattern forming too? So after our slightly uncomfortable chicken bus ride into Chiquimula, we decided to treat ourselves with an express, ´direct´ bus for the next leg of our journey. We even said the words ´let´s definitely go on the direct one, it´s much safer and worth the extra money´. Unfortunately it didn´t quite work out like that. On our way up to the bus station, we saw a bus with ´GUATEMALA CITY´on the front whose conductor seemed fixated on us getting onto said bus and it stopped in the middle of the road despite the heavy traffic. Not left with much choice, we begrudgingly got on the bus and made our way to our favourite seats right at the back, nightmare situation. We´d just settled down and started scoffing our way through some hideously unripe (worse than English) mango when the bus stopped and everyone dismounted, leaving us alone with our mango. It became clear that we had to swap buses, so we hurried off, leaving the disappointing mango behind.
Four hours later on our new chicken bus, we arrived into Zone 17 of Guatemala City, although we had to ask a local where on earth we were as we didn´t recognise it at all. After much confusion and several laps of the station looking like donkeys with our huge bags, we discovered that there were no buses to Antigua from this station, fairly ridiculous as it is one of the most visited places in Guatemala. We haggled with a taxi driver to take us to another bus station (if you can call it that) in Zone 1 which is where the buses leave from. Ha. Again we had agreed to definitely not take a chicken bus as Guatemala City is renowned for being one of the most dangerous cities in, wait for it, the world. As soon as the taxi pulled over, two men took our bags and put them on ANOTHER chicken bus, looks like we had no choice. Upon entering the bus, which was half concealed in a warehouse, we saw that we were the only passengers. Feeling slightly uneasy, we got out our trusty Lonely Planet which proceeded to tell us ´Due to the alarming increase in (OFTEN VIOLENT) crimes on Guatemala City´s red chicken buses specifically in Zone 1, it is widely accepted that tourists should only use them in case of DIRE EMERGENCY´. Fab. Just as we finished reading this comforting sentence the bus pulled out of the warehouse and into the streets of Zone 1, Guatemala City. Fortunately our nerves were eased fairly quickly as women with children and a Nun got on to join us and we arrived in one piece into Antigua.
The journey was more than worth it. We have the spent the last five days and nights watching incredible processions with hundreds of men carrying each statue/monument/float with marching bands following. They make beautiful 'alfombras' on the cobbled streets, which are intricately-designed carpets made out of coloured sawdust, flowers and, to our amazement, even chocolate! On Easter Sunday itself, we went to a Church service in an amazingly ornamental Catholic Church. We did our best to understand the majority of the service, but with the echoes it wasn´t easy. We even watched a cheeky marriage ceremony half-way through the service, which came as a lovely surprise. Our favourite part was when we were invited to hug our neighbours, so we felt very loved and accepted by the Guatemalans.
During our cultural week here in Antigua, we´ve met some amazing people along the way (that´s you Lia FRIEND) and discovered some awesome hide-outs. These include a candle-lit cafe bar which served free popcorn with your drink and a beautiful Alfresco dining cafe with hidden tables surrounded by flowers and birds.
That´s all for now folks, take care, big love x
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