We made it to Antigua!
Carrie and I flew in on different flights, but just 20 minutes apart. The Guatemala City airport was much smaller than I had expected. Just as we passed through customs we found a booth selling tickets for the shuttle (minivan) to Antigua. The ride is about 45 minutes and cost just $10 per person. The driver dropped us off right at our hotel, Hotel Casa Cristina. It is such an adorable place! Our room (#7) is perfect!
Just twelve rooms, each with its own bathroom and hot shower (or, at least hot if you know how to use it!) Unfortunately, the knobs are reversed and Carrie and I both ended up taking freezng cold showers the first morning. I later asked the front desk attendant, Jose, “porque no agua caliente?”
In response, he rattled off a whole bunch of Spanish. Uh-oh. When I just looked at him blankly, with hand signals and some “derechas” and “izquierdas” thrown about we were able to understand that the hot knob is on the left.
After checking in we set off to explore Antigua … and promptly got lost. Signs with street names are pretty much nonexistent. We just kept asking everyone, “donde esta Casa Cristina?” The usual response was rapidly en Espanol with hands waving straight ahead. Yet, we kept going in circles. Antigua is beautiful in an old world way. We finally discovered that the yellow church is our landmark. Our hotel is a block left and then a block left, yet somehow straight from everywhere we were!
Dogs, tuk-tuks, and travel agencies are everywhere, though! Meandering around we managed to find a place to exchange our dollars into quetzals (7.75:1 exchange rate)
a place to eat incredibly yummy crepes, and a man named Juan who booked us a shuttle to Pacaya volcano at a “special price just for you.” The next morning (after freezing cold showers) we went next door to a cute little coffee shop with a cat sleeping on the register. As we strolled around Juan found us again and helped us find a place to buy a SIM card with a Tigo dataplan. Unfortunately, the man who sold the micro SIM cards was taking a morning siesta. But, Juan said, “no problem, I find you a tuk-tuk and you go see Cuidad Vieja (Old City), San Antonio aguas caliente (hot springs) and Vahalla, then you come back and the man will be here.” Juan introduced us to Marco and a few minutes later and Q150 lighter we were climbing into a tuk-tuk number 13 driven by Marco’s grandson, Midol.
A tuk-tuk is a little three wheeled thing with a motorcycle engine that has room for the driver and two or three (smooshed) passengers with canvas sides and top.
Midol (who was a fantastic driver and guide) took us first to Vahalla, an organic macadamia nut farm with a small cafe that serves macadamia nut pancakes with macadamia nut butter and fresh blueberries. it was pouring raining so we only did the inside parts of the tour (free). It’s owned by Lorenzo, a charming 70-something ex-pat from California, who sat with us and talked about penises and balls while we ate our pancakes. “A penis has it rough,” declared Lorenzo. “It’s nearest neighbor is an anus and it’s surrounded by nuts.”
Next, Midol took us to Ciudada Vieja, the second capital of Guatemala. There is a church in the center of the city that has survived numerous volcanic eruptions including one in 1541 that destroyed the city forcing the relocation of the capitol to Antigua. Midol walked us to a building that housed several small one room museums with pictures and information on the eruption history (all in Spanish) of the many volcanoes in Guatemala.
Our last stop was San Antonio Aguas Caliente, a small town wih a market dedicated to booths selling hand woven (“a mano”) tapestries and such. On the second floor was a museum with manicans dressed in the clothing “tipical” of the different regions in Guatemala.
The whole tuk-tuk tour lasted about 3 hours. Midol dropped us off at our hotel around 1:40 and we rushed in to grab a few things before the 2:00 shuttle to Volcano Pacaya. Jose tred to stop us at the front desk saying something in Spanish. All we caught was something about a volcano, shuttle, agencia, and lleviendo. I thought he had overheard Carrie yesterday saying we wanted to book a shuttle to Pacaya and was offering to book one for us. I scooted past him saying, “No necessito, senior. Vamos en veinte minutos.” He followed me saying those same words he said before, but more emphaticallly this time. Gee, he is annoyingly insistent, I thought, and repeated “No necissito. No necessito!” as I dashed up the steps. Carrie and I threw a few things in our bag and ran back down to wait for the shuttle. There was Jose again still talking about a shuttle, Ugh! We had just come from the tapestries market fending off every vendor calling us into their shop, “you look, no problem, you see, es a mano, you look” I was annoyed that we now had to deal with a sales pitch from our hotel staff. I appreciate sales efforts,but it is exhausting to keep saying no. A moment later Marcos came to the hotel door and told us the agency that regulates the Volcano Pacaya tourism had closed the path up to the rim due to the heavy rainfall. The shuttle wasn’t coming. That’s what Jose had been trying so hard to tell us! I sheepishly turned to him… “Lo siento, senior. Yo no entiendo.” (which I think is more or less, “I am sorry, sir. I did not understand you.”)
Tomorrow we are headed to the coast to visit Monterrico Beach. More photos to come. Technical difficulties trapped most of the best pics on my camera. 😦
Audrey and Carrie – dos gringas in Guatemala who better work on their Spanish!