Guatemala City to Antigua

Trip Start Jul 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 23, 2010

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Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Monday, September 13, 2010

Getting off the remote back roads and onto the highways, we made our way towards the volcanic highlands of Guatemala. We were very happy to be welcomed into the home of Raśl and Florence in Guatemala City, the parents of Sarah's work colleague, Estuardo. We were treated like kings and enjoyed a relaxing break from the backpacker trail. Some highlights of the city were our visit to the central market (where we bought a hammock), the scaled relief map of Guatemala (built in 1904), and a visit to the zoo to get to know some of the Central American wildlife.

We caught one of the flashy, colourful chicken buses running the Guate-Antigua route, and arrived in the very pretty colonial town of Antigua Guatemala, which is set in a valley bordered by several volcanoes rising up into the clouds. There is a first time for everything, and this was our first time to hike up a volcano. To make things more exciting we picked an active one - Pacaya - which had erupted only 5 months ago, spreading black ash over a big chunk of the country. At the top we peered into a hole which revealed a small river of boiling hot magma. The incendiary temperatures made it easy to stick-toast some marshmallows and bananas we carried to the top. 

Antigua is different to the rest of Guatemala. This is a place of affluence in a country that is among the poorest of Latin America. Buildings are well maintained, the town is very clean, many expats choose this as a base, and there is a large variety of good restaurants catering mostly to tourists - such as Italian offering homemade pasta, and delis offering great croissants and cappuccinos for breakfast. We also enjoyed a sensational dinner at a French restaurant (courtesy of the generous Debjani to celebrate Sarah's birthday), where we enjoyed french onion soup, a salad of baby beets with goats cheese, fillet mignon with broad beans and rosemary roast potatoes and creme brulee, all washed down with an excellent bottle of Argentinean Malbec reserve vino. The coffee in Antigua was also phenomenally good, the beans all being local Guatemalan varieties grown on local fincas, and roasted daily. There were also some cool bars, some with great vantage points from which we watched the sunset behind the volcanoes while enjoying happy hour drinks.
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