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Published: December 2nd 2014
We were dropped off at the bus by Carlos the owner of Casa Verde hostel in the morning with our friend from Norway. The bus arrived from San Salvador an hour late and we headed to Guatamala City sitting at the back of the bus by the toilet. On the bus we met another kiwi and the four of us caught a local chicken bus to Antigua. As we were first on the bus we ended up sitting towards the front which turned out to be a bad idea, as the locals would prefer to squeeze onto an already full seat rather than walk a couple of rows further back to an empty seat. Let's just say at times it was rather cozy.
Antigua is a beautiful city with cobblestone streets and some stunning buildings. It's one of those places that sucks you in and you end up staying much longer than planned.
On the bus to Antigua Gary noticed that his foot was swelling up from a bite which he originally thought was just a mosquito bite. By the evening his foot had become uncomfortable to walk on so the next day he decided it was best to
rest it. While Gary rested I explored Antigua and its fantastic shopping with bright coloured textiles, ceramics, masks, and paintings.
Gary's foot had really swollen up so the next day I finally convinced him to go and see a doctor. The hostel recommended a private hospital so after breakfast we headed there. The doctor recommended Gary be admitted for 24 hours (as we had travel insurance) so they could give him intravenous antibiotics. His boss came in to confirm the diagnosis and when he first saw Gary's foot the look on his face was priceless.
They were concerned the infection was going to spread up his leg so he was transferred to a private room with private bathroom and flat screen TV and given intravenous antibiotics. I dropped off the tablet and his book to the hospital so Gary had plenty to keep himself entertained while I headed to a Street Food tour that we had organised a couple of days earlier.
I met the tour guide and one other person in the main plaza and we headed off to our first stop. We tasted a Chuchito from a street vendor with his little stall by a
small plaza and a local hospital. A chuchito is similar to a tamale found in other Latin American countries. The chuchito is made from maize with a small filling and usually wrapped in dried corn husks.
Our second stop was from a small 'hole in the wall' unnamed restaurant where we tasted a Pupusa. A Pupusa is originally from El Salvador and is made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla and usually filled with cheese, cooked pork, or refried beans.
We continued our tour and walked into what looked like a little shop, they removed the barrier next to the counter and we walked through to the back area where there was a strange little dark restaurant. Here we received Pepián with chicken, rice and potato and an Empanada with a sweet centre. Pepián is the sauce that was served with the chicken, it a dark red colour and very tasty.
Disappointingly the restaurants selling chilli rellanos and another selling mole had run out. Our last stop was at a traditional Sweet shop which is popular with both locals and tourists. The most popular sweet was sold out so we tried two others.
On my way
back to the hospital I stopped for some banana bread for Gary as I wasn't sure how the food would be in hospital. It turned out that Gary was well looked after but still enjoyed the banana bread.
The next morning after breakfast I headed back to hospital and the doctors had just been to visit Gary. Unfortunately the swelling in his foot hadn't gone down so they were keeping him in another night.
While Gary spent his second night in hospital I headed off for a Guatemalan cooking class. The menu included Chili's rellanas (stuffed chilies), Gautamalan rice, refried beans, guacamole, tortillas and for dessert Rellenitos de Platano. I really enjoyed the class as the owner joined us for most of the class and he talked about life in Guatemala and Antigua and answered any questions we had. The cooking part of the class was not as good as I hoped but was similar to other classes I have taken. Everyone in the class shared all the preparation and cooking so while doing one bit you ended up missing something else.
The next morning Gary was released from hospital but as the insurance company hadn't provided
a guarantee of payment he couldn't leave. We finally agreed with the hospital that they would keep his passport until his check up in a couple of days to give time for payment to be arranged.
While Gary was in hospital and recovering I had plenty of time to explore Antigua. I really enjoyed wandering around and seeing all the different architecture and exploring some of the sites, shops and markets.
I visited Catedral de Santiago which was ruined in the earthquake of 1773 and only partially rebuilt. Behind what is now the cathedral are the ruins of the original cathedral. There is no roof, only the remains of the large pillars with some arches and vegetation growing through the cracks.
The handicrafts market next to Iglesia el Carmen was great, all the stall owners were very friendly and chatty. In the weekends there were additional people selling out the front, but I found the prices inside to be much better.
I often walked past the yellow church, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced so I decided to visit and take a closer look at it amazing facade. The Spanish used local Mayan labour to
build the church and the Mayans included their symbols in amongst the Christian ones, when the Spanish found out they sadly killed all the Mayans that worked on the church.
I also walked under the Arco de Santa Catalina many times. This arch is some of the remains of a 17th century convent, and allowed the nuns to cross the street unseen.
I decided to visit the Iglesia y Convento de Santa Clara. It was inaugurated in 1734 but was destroyed four decades later by the great earthquake and subsequently abandoned. Now a lovely five star hotel has been built around the ruins - oh how the other half live!
When we visited the hospital for Gary's check up they gave us back his passport as the had received what they needed from the insurance company. The doctors were also happy with Gary's foot so we made the decision to leave Antigua the next day for San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico.
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