30.09.2011 - 09.10.2011 29 °F
Back to early mornings. Our ride to Antigua was cool, again in an 11seater with the locals we later had to switch vehicles. All roads leading to Antigua were blessed with stunning views of nature juxtaposing with the true living conditions of the locals – very distressing to look at but inspiring to see the happiness that they projected when doing daily chores. My 1st honest response when arriving Guatemala City was like ‘ewww’ and glad that I was going through it. I was surrounded by millions of billboards (1 was promoting a clothes store called ‘Bollocks’ lol), vehicles, chicken buses where the fumes were gushing out, no sense of queue, noisy and chaotic! All of a sudden I felt that I was in Europe. Cobbled streets, small dinky shops, the facades of some of the restaurants had a very French feel to them I saw horse and carriages taking people to their destinations, you could hear a live band playing classical music, – it had a very romantic feel to it. Many couples were walking hand in hand from ages as young as 13yr old to 80 yr olds it was really nice to see. In the distant you were surrounded by 3 of the most amazing, enormous, gigantic volcanoes – the main one was Volcan de Agua! I had arrived in Antigua.
We stayed at The Jungle Party. This hostel was for serious party goer’s lol. They would play tracks like Peter Andre, UB40, Big Mountain, even KRS one thru to salsa. The only annoying thing was my bunk was right next to the bar so my bedtime was more and less like 1am. Didn’t stay there for long as I signed up for a weeks lessons of Spanish classes and a home stay with a Spanish family….how exciting!
So Antigua and other surrounding towns in Guatemala are renowned for learning Spanish lessons. So we signed up as we seriously needed to learn the basics. The classes were really intensive – we would start our lessons at 8am, have a break at 10.30am then through to 1pm. So 5 hours a day for 5 days took it out of us. At 1pm we would go to the Gracia’s to have lunch till 2pm then we would go to our afternoon activities. One of the activities that we took part was to visit local important sites. One of them was Cerro de la Cruz. Antigua has only 3 crucifixes and the main one is on a steep hill that over looks Antigua and you also get to see the size of Volcan de la Agua. One of the mornings I decided to run up to the hill which more and less killed me lol but the view at 7.30am was breathtaking! You could see smoke escaping from the crater you could see the brightly painted facades of some of the buildings in the town, the domes of the churches all set against blue skies!
So the family…Francisco was the padre he looked like Robert De Niro but De Niro is so much better looking lol, the madre was Maria, the hija Anna was married to Carlos and they had a little chica, Lalita was a 3yr old so adorable and the sobrino also Francisco aka Panchetta who was 17yr old. Living with the family was really weird but I was so looking forward to see and experience their way of living. I hate to say this but I was quite disappointed. Our daily intake of food was Frijoles (refried beans), Pan (bread), some form of fruit (2 slices of Papaya/pineapple) and water for breakfast! Lunch was Frijoles, Pan, with 2 vegetables or soup and boiled fruit/jelly and for dinner we would have FRIJOLES, rice and a vegetable with pan/tortilla. Now tell me how on earth am I supposed to get through on this diet???? Christina actually had gone to Pollo Campino (there version of KFC) after dinner a few times! The family would eat with us with the same food but even smaller portions but what we couldn’t understand was that they weren’t the slimmest of people. Were they trying to save money? It was more annoying to know that the other host families were cooking up proper filling meals. So we complained and it was kinda scary to go back to the family knowing that the school had words with them…did it change? Well slightly as in the portions grew slightly and we finally had some of protein yay! As for being able to converse with the family…yeah I did have the odd convo but we still felt like outsiders. There was one time where the mum had brewed fresh coffee and when I asked the son-in-law if I can have some he went to ask the mum. The next day they gave me the freeze dry Nescafe crap! Also for breakfast the mum would give the nephew this oaty hot drink (called Aveno) and not to us…we get to have this once complained and it was really nice! Glad to be out though.
Anyways during our stay in Antigua we saw an armed officer who was looking after a Steak house lol in fact armed officers were like everywhere even for maccy d’s. I really wanted to take a picture but they all refure! I did go in to MacDonalds (no to buy anything) but just to see the interior. I was in shock it was the most stunning MacDonalds I have seen in my travels even the Maccy D’s in Dubai could not top this one. It had the most amazing garden, mini water features inside the restaurant and there was table service!
The queue’s for the banks were a joke…they were so long. I found out that everyone in Antigua get paid by cheques as they don’t have a direct debit policy from work so every Fri the locals would queue up to deposit their cheques. We had learnt how to tell if a mayan girl was single or married by the type of skirt she was wearing…refer to pictures for this. The main area that the locals would hang out was ‘Parque Central’. A very cool square that was surrounded by cafes, restaurants, churches etc it reminded me of a mixture of Leicester square and Covent gardens. There was only 1 supermarket in Antigua but had many Tiendra (newsagents). We went to the local market, which was crazy it was what you would imagine a market to be like in Central America. Full of colour, a variety of everything ie chilly, pulses, fruits, smell of Bar-B-Q food, locals shouting out daily deals I also realised that the main craze at the moment here is the Smurfs.
During our stay in Antigua we visited Lago de Aititan a lake that is surrounded by remote vilages. We had to get to a place called Panajachel where we had to get a speed boat to the island. Our 1st stop was a place called San Marcos you could hear prayers through speakers throughout the village. It had a really nice relaxed feel to it a no wonder it is best known for its mediation retreats. An extremely small population, they basically had one store for all conveniences. We chilled here for an hour and moved on to San Juan. This for me was an artist hub the minute we walked towards the town we were bombarded with loads of very cool art stores that were selling local paintings. These painting were full of bright colours depicting the culture of everyday chores to dream-like imagery. We also came across very cool stores that looked like they came out from Lord of the Rings where the goblets lived in hahah. Next stop was San Pedro. This village was the biggest out of all of them and the cheapest. There was plenty of traditional dress and the daily agriculture of coffee to be seen. This was out last stop before we headed back to Antigua.