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Published: December 31st 2019
Antigua is quite close to Lake Atitlan. To arrive to Antigua isn’t easy though but we tried to take the easiest way; a small travel package: boat to Panadol and a shuttle mini bus to Antigua. We had to cross the mountains, there I experienced some of the most uphill maybe at 25% incline and crazy ‘tornanti’, sharp elbow curves. The first 50 km the driver just used the first two gear.
A big lorry carrying new cheap pieces of furniture crashed into the side of the road and turned over on its side blocking both ways of transit. We lost another hour of sun and we gain 1 hour to our transport time to Antigua.
On Airbnb we had found a room in a house, reasonable price, photos looked good, just good reviews. We got it. It was a good choice; Casa Girasol was just what we wanted, an amazing huge modern kitchen where to cook a proper pasta after a week at the hostel with the dog poo. We even had a little terrace with amazing direct views over two of the 4 volcanos surrounding the area. A very quiet room with an
en-suite with bathtub, Daria had been waiting since June to have a bath, she was excited. The famous Le Coubusier chaise longue in the living room was making me excited.
We spent 4 nights in Antigua, I sat on the chaise longue for about 15 minutes and Daria didn’t have a bath. But fuck yeah we used the kitchen, we made pasta twice and risotto too. Making pasta every now and then is a must, at least for me (and Daria happily accepted the “every now and then” travel rule). Cooking pasta in Latin America has some personal rules too. Get the best quality pasta you can find, don’t get fancy master chef recipes, stick to traditions and the “less is more” rule is mandatory.
First rule is the most important: sometimes you cannot find any decent Italian pasta, in this case opt for cooking something else, that’s s why we decide to make risotto the second time. In the Bodegona super market between mountains of cheap Guatemalan pasta there was just 1 pack of Spaghetti Barilla that we bought for the first dinner, for the second one we bought an organic brand, Italian and very
expensive type of paccheri then we decide to make risotto because the super market also had Italian Arborio rice, also expensive but real one. We also got the last bunch of parsley in the Botegona that lasted for both pasta and for the risotto too. Pasta with tomato sauce, we had extra virgin olive oil from Mexico, garlic you find everywhere and chillies too. Daria was up to have some kind of parmigiano they sold at the Botegona so she added to her plate, me not, because I am “kitchen Nazi” and so I stick to the rules! For the risotto we got a bit more crazy and we add crougettes.
A chubby young lady came every day to make us breakfast (it was included in the price) and to clean the house, her name was Sandra, she also had a kind of boyfriend that use to arrive to the house with an old mountain bike to keep her company and to touch her boobs a bit. (We saw them in the kitchen!)
Breakfast was always the same but we couldn’t t complain, was yummie and abundant, kept us fine till dinner time.
Before breakfast we went to run almost every day, the route was short, but intense, we run to the “Cerro del la Cruz”, not many kilometres but a lot of altitude basically run up hill. We chose this route not because we were looking for a challenge, but because we were just trying to avoid running on the street full of pollution (basically all the streets) so going up to the Cerro was the only option to avoid stinky motorbikes.
Once you are in Antigua it’s a must to go hiking up a volcano. The most popular trekking is to hike the Acatenango one. Basically consists in climbing a volcano for many hours, and stay the night camping there to see the volcano in front of it (volcano de fuego) erupting, and come back down the morning after. Everybody told us was freezing up there and so we decided to go for a day excursion to a smaller but still active volcano at 1 hour from the city. Pacaya Volcano.
They came to pick us up early in the morning. We arrived at the foot of the volcano at 9:30am or before. There were
kids with long sticks and older guys with horses waiting for tourists arriving on the shuttles. We didn’t know why the guys had horses but we knew why there where kids with sticks, we read on the internet a review that was saying that it was a good move to rent a stick from kids at the beginning of the trail for 5 quetzals so we did. Then we heard the horses guys saying taxi, Uber... and I understood that they were there to give a horse ride service to the lazy people that don’t want to climb the 2 hour uphill trek to reach the place where we could enjoy the hot stone (lava). Two guys with their horses start the hike with us, waiting for somebody to decide to get on the horse once the trek got more difficult. They had spotted their pray, a fat American lady around 45 years old, they got it right, after 200 metres of walking uphill I turn around to see how Daria was doing and I see the fat lady on top of one of the horses, the way was steep, the temperature hot, I felt sorry for the horse. There
were also two Italians in our group who were smoking fags and drinking beer while sweating heavily and repeatedly screaming “Porca Troia” (lit. Dirty Whore). They told us they didn’t realise they would have to hike up a volcano and expected the shuttle to bring them there...had they known they would have avoided drinking whisky that morning...His words not mine.
Once we arrived to the top there was a viewpoint mirador, so we took some pics (the Italian had another beer) and then we moved to the second spot, the hot stones, petrified lava where in specific points here and there were little vapours where steam was coming out and it smelled like a sauna. There we roasted some marshmallows on woodensticks we collected during the way up. It was a nice touch and we were happy to have see and hiked a live volcano. In the distance we could also see the Fuego volcano spitting lava and didn’t feel we had missed out by choosing the easier day hike.
Another hike we did was to Finca del Pilar that was recommended by an American girl living in Antigua. We arrived there after a
25 mins walk from our nice house. The entrance is a large metal gate, a man with a rifle attend you on a side of a little ticket office, not a touristic place at all and looked more a like the entrance to an industrial place/mine and in fact it was half a cement production complex and then walking another 100 meters you could spot two long swimming pools and after another 100 meters the start of a trek getting into the jungle. At the beginning we were a bit unsure of this place as it felt quite deserted and slightly dodgy but once on the right track it was truly a beautifully maintained trail with wooden steps and wood panels that takes you along the steep jungle going up and up and up with amazing trees and plants. We only saw one other group of 4 visitors but they were Colombian/American and we left them very behind thanks to our great hiking skills and we didn’t see anybody else till the top. At the top we decided to continue walking on a road that had been suggested at the ticket box office, another hour walking on a dirt track
where at the end of it we were in Switzerland. There were three or four cottages, detached from each other, all surrounded by green lawn English style perfectly maintained with nice white picked fence. It was a surreal place, so clean, so well maintained with an amazing view of the mountains/volcanos that really made the scene looking like Switzerland. We were tired from the hiking so we rested there as much as possible, I sprawled myself on the green lawn while Daria laid on a tree trunk below an avocado tree to avoid possible bugs on the grass. After a little rest we decided to pick the avocado and play Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit. Having lots of time makes you creative! Even though we never seem to find the time to write the blog!
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