Antigua Guatemala, we adore you!
It has been an absolute joy to stay in one place ...no, in THIS place for three weeks!
To be able to explore each and every corner of the town,
To find your favourite cafe for goooood coffee, the best “cheapest” glass of wine while we practise our "verbos espanol"
To discover the quietest corner and park to relax in
To (inadvertently) find the best vantage point to view those spectacular volcanoes blowing their tops!
We thought we might be bored after spending so long here, but with mornings filled with school, plus home work and festival after festival in the lead up to Christmas, we often don’t have enough day to fill the activities.
One of the words we have picked up is “suerte” …luck! And have we been lucky!
1) The time of year. As you all know we have no real timeframe or plans so we never planned to be here at this time of year. It has been incredibly fortuitous to be in this ancient city, with so many traditions, at this religious time of year.
There have been religious processions...
parades for Christmas and dancing horses...
"La quema del diablo" - Burning of the devil, where an effigy of the devil complete with firecrackers is set alight at 6:00pm sharp on the 7th December...
fireworks; so many fireworks!!! We have lost count of the times we have spilled a cup of coffee or glass of wine due to the impromptu bangers that go off randomly...
and parties for the sake of a party. In fact Sunday is one big celebration; none of this western “ugh it’s Monday tomorrow” attitude; these guys make the most of every second of their none working/rest day.
2) Our accommodation. When looking for somewhere to stay our first criteria was security for the bikes followed by cost. Antigua is an old town with limited parking and a big tourist draw = expensive.
We found somewhere reasonable and secure online but you never quite know what you are going to get and it was a “good” walk to the centre. So we booked for a week initially.
However as soon as we had been parked up the bikes in the courtyard/garden and seen our simple but perfect room we booked up for an additional 2 weeks. And the “good” walk turned out to be 10,000 steps a day and a good thing for our health!
It’s a small hotel with only 3 rooms run by the most amazing family who also live onsite. They laugh and sing and play music and have parties on the weekend, they have a dog who jumps on you and has as much "joy de vie" as the do.
On the 1st December Christmas decorations went up in the courtyard and their celebrations began.
We have shared the success of their eldest sons graduation as (the Guatemalan equivalent of) Dux, drank sangria and danced salsa at their parties, and been looked after when we were ill. We feel like part of a family …something we miss dearly with our children and grandchildren in NZ.
3) The volcanos. Here naivety comes into play, as while we knew there were volcanos in Central America and even a few around Antigua, we certainly had no idea one was very active!
Seeing a volcano spew lava has very much been on our bucket list for years and years, but we had always imagined that would involve walking to the summit of one and looking into the cone, not seeing it happen a) when you are having dinner, b) when you are riding your motorcycle and c) when you are out for an evening walk! Wow, wow, WOW!!!
And our bikes even got covered in volcanic ash after the eruption.
4) The people …namely our hotel (family!) who we have already mentioned and the Guatemala CB500X motorcycle club.
Oh my! we thought the Canadians were friendly and kind (we still talk about you all guys!) but these guys are incredible!
We reached out to the Bike club a month or so ago to ask where they recommended we get parts etc. when we were in Antigua at Spanish school as our bikes needed work and tyres. They straight away had it all sorted for us, and had invited us to their annual Christmas BBQ, and organised a special day ride to one of the most beautiful places in the country, Lake Atitlan and Panajachel.
We took in some beautiful roads, epic views and lots and lots of fun times and happy memories. We are humbled by their kindness, and feel we have made friends for life. Our door will always be open and the kettle on the stove for them!
School has been amazing too, And while our Spanish is still “found wanting” and every day learning challenges every single brain cell that we still have alive (at our age!!!) we will leave and continue on this journey much more able to communicate than before! The blank stares and wry smiles we were getting when we tried to ask for something three weeks ago have halved! Bonus!
What will we miss?
The familiarity; from the old guy with a plastic whistle who stands on the side of a corner directing traffic as we leave school every day (we are convinced he was a traffic policeman many moons ago), to knowing our way around this maze of cobbled streets to get from A to B the quickest, to the fireworks and bangers that seem to go every waking and sleeping hour, to the cobbled streets that rattle your teeth and challenge your steering skills, to the beautifully decorated "chicken buses ...named because they pack people in like chickens! to the lady who relentlessly tries to sell Bec a table runner every time she sees her (the price has dropped from Q500 to Q150 ...that was some mark up!)
to Susie's homemade panqueques that Nick just loves!
to dropping off a bag of washing and picking it up washed and dried the next day for $4NZD!!
After Tikal and Lake Atitlan and the wonderful Antigua Guatemala we honestly can’t see that another country will be able to top this one.
Guatemala is truely not just a place that you remember, but a place you will never forget.