11.02.2011 - 17.02.2011 21 °C
After not seeing any tourist for days in El Salvador, it was a bit of a chock to come to Antigua, Guatemala. However, there is a reason why this is one of the top tourist destinations in Central America. The city is really, really colonial. Pretty much every building has some interesting feature, and there are tons of old churches, cathedrals and so on. We stayed in a little place a bit out of town, that really made you feel like home. As a result we got very comfortable there and spent quite a lot of time in the “hostel”. We got to know a friendly French gay guy that more a more resembled Jose, the more we got to know him.
We did not really do too much in Antigua, actually there´s not really that much to do, but wonder around the streets looking at old buildings. Oh they actually got a pretty cool market as well, but that’s about it. We went out one night, or tried to go out, but all bars and clubs close before 1 am, so we only managed to have one beer out before getting kicked out.
We have been wanting to visit a active volcano during the whole trip and we heard that there were a few ones active in the area. It was pretty difficult to find any reliable information as all the agencies just want to sell their tours. However, we decided to take a risk and go on a more expensive overnight tour that sounded like the most likely to see lava action. We managed to get a last minute discount as we joined a full group, but it was still 70 dollars, which for us is a lot. They told us that lava cannot be guaranteed, so we were trying to keep our expectations very low.
The group we went with was pretty good. Everyone was very nice, though most were backpacking for a shorter time and didn’t have much trekking experience. Actually this suited us perfectly as it meant that we could go a bit before everyone else and enjoy the scenery fully.
The trek up was actually really nice too. It was a bit boring and hard in the beginning, just going up and up. However, after that the trek treversed around one of the volcanos. After that we walked down and set up basecamp in between two volcanos (one active and one inactive). The only worrying thing was that it was so cloudy, would we be able to see anything from the top.
After a bit of rest we set off to climb a hill that would put us right in front of the active volcano. During the one hour climb it actually started to snow, then hale and then suddently the sun came out. I made a dash for the top just to make sure that I would get at least one photo of the volcano before the clouds came back in. I arrived exhausted to the top and right away an explosing happened. I as really chocked to see how close we were, I mean it was still 500 meters or so left, but flaming rocks were thrown pretty far away. Our guide later told us that this was as far as you can go, and that he had once tried to go closer with a group only to having to run for their lives. No we were quite happy with the distance.
Amazingly the clouds stayed away and we had an amazing view of active volcano, the inactive one and the whole valley below. Off course everyones eyes were focused on the active volcano. We knew we would get some wine, but we were surprise to see that we almost got a bottle of wine each (some didn’t drink). There we all were sipping red wine, watching the sun set, in front of a active volcano. Don’t think things could have been much better. However, after dark the volcano action got even better. The rocks that we had barely seen coming out of the volcano were now lighting up the sky with their bright red color. Simply amazing!
I don’t think it was the safest thing to drink red wine up on a rocky ridge, two meters wide with 75 degrees walls on both sides. We managed to make it across the ridge in the dark safe some how. Everyone kept falling over on the way down, but I think it was probably good that we were all a bit drunk, because we were so relaxed when we fell. I suppose everyone having at least three jackets on and double trousers helped to cushening the fall too.
After a decent night sleep we set off walking down. It was easier the way back, but we ended up starving as we only got a bagel for breakfast and lunch was not included. So we had to wait until we got to Antigua before we could eat something. We ended up eating at Mc Donald´s, but this MC must be one of the nicest ones in the world. They have this great big courtyard with one of the best views of the volcanos in whole Antigua.
Tired and filthy as we were, we set off directly to Chichistenango, a town solely famous for its market. We had the craziest busride we have had in the trip there. Some people had warned us, but nothing can prepare you for how they drive on this route. The bus is first of all a old chicken bus (Old American school bus) that is made to go max 50kmh. However, the driver was overtaken brand new Mercedes and other cars. Not only that but he was overtaking cars in the craziest places, like curves with cliffs on the sides or road work (with speedlimits of 25km hand our driver going 80kmh). Most other local passengers were shaking their heads too, but laughing as they were trying to hold on to something not to be thrown on the floor. We were pretty upset with the driver, but what are you going to do about it. Forget roller coasters take a chicken bus on this route instead!
We got up early in the morning to beat all the tourist buses coming from other towns later in the day. The market was really living up to its fame. We found so many great souvenirs at great prices…or we got great prices after bargaining. In the beginning we were pretty shy about bargaining, but we got the hang of it and by the end we were down to prices so low that we had a few walk offs (i.e. they did not want to sell it to us at the price). In retrospect we wish we would have bought more, but you get a bit blind from travelling in a cheap country, thinking that some beautiful handmade woodcraft costing 2 Euro´s is way too expensive. Any way, we managed to get quite a few souvenirs as well as see loads of traditional cultural stuff.