Jim and I checked into The Terrace hostel which turned out to be a great choice. The staff were really friendly and certainly made me feel at home and welcome. The hostel was hosting a pub crawl in the evening and seeing as we had nothing much else to do we thought we would join. Plus its a great way to find all the good drinking holes. Possibly one of the coolest spots I've had a drink at was a pub called Cafe No Se. Its adjoining a Dyslexic Library which is unusual in itself especially in the middle of Central America! The best way to describe Cafe No Se is dark and dingy with loads of atmosphere. There's old wood everywhere, some of the walls have written graffiti on, a midgets door connects to another section of the bar where the door used to be a fridge door. Unfortunately because it was so dark I was unable to get any photos of the place that really capture the atmosphere. The pub crawl was a good laugh and we ended it back at our hostel to watch fireworks go off all over the city at midnight.
Christmas Day I was a little hung over so didn't really get up that early. I finally opened the present my mum had packed and had being resisting to open for ages. It was a pair of shark boxer shorts with the words "bite me" round the top! :-) Another pair to add my growing selection of silly/ stupid boxer shorts. hehe. I watched a movie with a friend and went for a walk up to the cross that over looks the city.
In the evening the hostel served a "Christmas" dinner. It was really more like a Thanksgiving dinner but it was still pretty nice. After dinner all the people who had contributed gifts to the White Elephant game went to the bar. White Elephant for those who don't know what it is, (I certainly hadn't heard of it before) is a game a little like secret santa. However instead of picking a name you pick a number. Whoever has the number one goes first and picks a present and unwraps it. The person with the number 2 can then choose to either steal the present from number one or unwrap another present. This goes on until everyone has had a go. If your present gets stolen you are allowed to unwrap another present, if there are any left, or steal from someone else. A present can only be stolen 3 times. I ended up getting gifts stolen from me two times but I did end up with 12 beers at the end of it so I was pleased :-) We finished the evening off with a round of Yanev.
Box day morning was spent at a Chocolate shop where they do chocolate making and explain how the Mayans used the cocoa bean.
The Mayans never ate chocolate, they only drank it and it was only a special privilege given to royalty. One of the reason of this was because the cocoa bean was a fairly rare and expensive commodity. So much so that the bean was actually used as currency. Mayan numbers can be seen on Quetzales. The 100Q note is represented with a 1 and the symbol of a cocoa bean. This really confused me to begin with because a 100Q note on its side in my wallet looked like it was 10Q. haha.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing. In the evening a few of us went to dinner. Jim and I met up with some American guys who were with us in San Pedro and we went to set fireworks off in the street. Everyone else had been doing it so we thought why not join them. This was followed by a drink at Cafe No Se.
Another reason I like Guatemala is their use of colour in everything from clothing to buses, in particular chicken buses. They are just amazing. If buses in England were this colourful and vibrant im sure a lot more people would want to travel on them, I know I certainly would!
On the 27th I spent the day sorting out my travel plans for Semuc Champey and buying a few things. I purchased a really cool photo from a local photographer of some Guatemalan children and nicely painted Mayan calendar on cow skin that was produced in a Mayan village.
Antigua is a lovely city. Cobbled streets everywhere and a lot of churches. Some of which are in ruins, but Antigua is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site so they can't destroy them or let them go into any more disrepute than they already are.
There is also a really nice square at the centre of the city. At night all the trees surrounding it were lit up. In the middle there is a fountain that has bare chested ladies with water coming out of their nipples. This made me chuckle and Letitia suggested it would be cool to appear to pinch one of the nipples. So I did :-)
I departed Antigua on the morning of the 28th for a 8 hour journey to Lanquin.
One of the reasons why I really like Guatemala is that everyone is really happy despite it being a 3rd world country. It makes you realise that money does not buy you happiness. A prime example of this was on our journey from Lake Atitlan to Antigua. We had to drive up through the mountains and we were greeted my loads of families sat at the side of the road, in what looked like fairly dirty clothes, smiling so happily and waving madly at us. Was a strange but sombre moment and one I shall not forget. I wished I had my slr camera with me though.