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Published: February 13th 2011
Just hoping to finish the race.
This morning we are up early (5am) & have decided a new rule. No rum drinks the night before a travel day! Ouch. We packed last night (see rule #5) & were out the door before the sunrise to meet our shuttle to Antigua. We decided to spend the extra dough to take a tourist shuttle & avoid the sardine-fest of the chicken buses. This way we go direct,no stops & no changing buses. We would have had to take 3 different buses to Antigua & it already takes 7 hours to go directly. Not up for that. I'll pay $6 more, yes please!
In typical Guatemalan fashion, while we tourists were all ready to go & waiting a few minutes early for our shuttle, the shuttle driver showed up right at 6 & was totally confused about who was on what shuttle. There were two shuttles & it took a good 15 minutes to sort all that out. It's almost as though communication is not highly regarded & they would rather talk in circles for awhile than just get straight to the problem at hand. But, it was figured out & we were on a shuttle with only 3
other people! What luck, a whole row to ourselves. First class!
Once in the van, we still waited another 15 minutes while the money exchange occurred. There was a lot of talking about gas prices & then some negotiation & then we were on our way. In typical Geoff fashion he couldn't find the camera that he had just used minutes before so we had to have the shuttle driver turn around & take us back to look for it. We found it, in Geoff's bag right where he had put it (which was on the bus with us, oops). We've spent some quality time looking for things that were just in Geoff's hands, but at least they have always turned up so far!
On the road again! Our shuttle driver was like another Mario Andretti except driving a mini-van. I decided to attempt sleep rather than watch his crazy maneuvers on the very windy mountain roads, where he loved to pass cars around blind corners. I thought the mountains were bad but I learned that the traffic in Guatemala City was like Frogger for him. I thought for sure we were going to die. He was on
his cell phone jabbing away most of the time, which was good because he slowed down by about 5mph when on the phone. It was a tad stressful, but again, we made it!
Guatemala City was nutso! We only drove through it & didn't stop but wow! The city is huge. It's the biggest city we've been through so far & it was nuts. It was also very very stinky. There are apparently no exhaust laws because every truck would hit the gas & a large, dark plume of smoke would exit the exhaust pipe. It was stinky & you could actually see the haze hovering over the city. The city buses in GC are old US school buses again but super duper tricked out. Chromed out & Foamed out. Literally. They're painted with flames & bright colors & chrome & lights everywhere. All different. But still jam packed with people. We passed one bus stop where probably 75 people were waiting. And, as far as we could tell, there was about 2 stop lights in the entire length of the highway around GC. How would you ever cross? I wouldn't last a minute.
All the kids were getting
From the mini-bus.
out of school when we were driving through. Everyone in every country we've been through wears uniforms to school. Maybe because most of them are catholic? But the kids look so sweet & cute. White collared shirts & slacks for the boys. Pleated skirts with white collared shirts & knee high white socks for the girls. Absolutely the most adorable thing. The colors of the slacks & skirts would vary in different cities & countries, but the general theme was the same. I love it.
We arrived in Antigua in record time. Thanks Mario! We got checked in to a hostel called Umma Gumma. It's not the nicest place we've stayed & again I'm scared of the bathrooms but it works. We're right in the center of the city. It's a pretty city, surrounded by 3 volcanoes that just loom right over us. It's like being at the base of 3 Mt.Rainiers but with peaks. This is by far the most touristy town we've visited in Guatemala. There are all kinds of boutiques & spas. Apparently, not only world wide tourists come here but the Guatemalans (with $) come here as well. It's a quaint colonial style town &
Bus stop in Guatemala City
Would you believe all of these people will squeeze onto the next bus? Yes, they will.
all the buildings are the same size. There are a few old crumbly churches. We walked around a bit & checked out the sights. It's kind of a bustling medium sized town. The streets are all cobblestone & fortunately one way streets. A little easier to walk around without the fear of getting run over by a car or scooter. There are beautiful brightly colored old churches & buildings. After all the things I read I kind of expected it to be super colorful & really clean. But honestly Flores was brighter & cleaner. Much smaller but more colonial I guess.
We had lunch, our most expensive meal in weeks, at Las Cuevitas. $26 with tip which is $7 more than our room! (Oh, I guess we spent that much at Tikal when we had no $$) The portions were ginormous & the food was fabulous. We had enough leftovers for dinner so I guess we could count it as two meals? It was a cute place though. They have tons of different meats in different sauces all being kept warm in terra cotta pots, with several side dishes to choose from. I had chicken, Geoff shredded beef, with
sides of guacamole, rice, pasta salad, a kidney bean salad that is called Antigua, & it was all really good! We have found that the food is better at places with the least amount of white people & furthest away from the most touristy street. Usually it's cheaper, but this is a swanky town. We had our first Moza beer. It's a darker beer & pretty tasty.
While out walking we ran into a British couple that was on our bus from Lanquin to Antigua. They are an older couple that we didn't talk with at all but they recognized us & came up to talk with us about their difficulty in finding a tour company. The funniest part, to us, was that neither of us were interested in talking with them, or anyone else for that matter. When the conversation ended Geoff said, "Thank you... Take care!" We walked away, turned the corner & then both laughed hysterically at Geoff's final remarks. Not only was there no reason to say thank you, but he kinda ended the conversation with his sudden closing remarks. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Thank You, Take Care! Or See
ya, stop talking to us. Just translating Geoff speak.
Then with our very full bellies, back to the hostel for a long nap. Why does traveling, even when you're not driving, take so much out of you? We slept so hard during this nap. You would think I hadn't napped on the drive over. We woke up to the dark & the noise of the bar, which is right next to our room. Someone was blaring a hodgepodge of random music. Blaring. We spent the evening doing some blogging, reading, sitting on the lovely patio here. You can see the volcanoes from the rooftop patio & all the lights of the surrounding villages on the hills, mountains, volcanos were really beautiful. We ate our leftovers & talked about our plans & headed to bed. Earplugs a must, but the party ended pretty early thankfully! We are too old for the "youth" hostels I think.... Old married couple... Oh well.
I've also decided I have a new element added to the mix of my natural body elements. It's called exhaust. Seriously, the exhaust in this country (well all of them really) is horrific. I feel like I can taste
it all the time & that it's coming out of my skin. It's probably pumping through my veins as I type. I've had a constant headache for weeks. That might be the cause...
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