Day 8-10 Chichi market and Antigua

Trip Start Jun 26, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 8-10 Chichi market and Antigua

Another early start today, leaving at 6am to get to Chichi by 7am and a parking place. The markets are very colourful and you can almost find anything dating back from the 1980's. Being of pale skin and over 5 ft 6", you are automatically classed as a tourist with the locals automatically doubling their prices. So unless you want to get ripped off you have to willing to haggle. Not easy when you don't speak Spanish, but you learn quickly if you don't get your desired price walk away. 8/10 times they will chase after you and agree to your stated price. Must have spent 160 Guatemalan Quetzales on 2 kids T-Shirts, 4 thin scarves and a hat (translate back into English prices and I must have spent less than 8). Although in hindsight there is better quality merchandise in other Guatemalan markets especially those villages around Lake Atitlan.

Chichi market 01, Antigua, Guatemala
Chichi market

From Chichi we had a 3-4 hour drive to the picturesque town of Antigua, with its cobbled streets and colourful buildings (of which a few are in a desperate need of repair) all surrounded by lush green mountains and volcanoes. We stayed in the Hotel 'Las Camelias Inn' which very pleasant, spacious rooms, cable T.V (where I am not ashamed to admit I stayed in to watch the British film 'Love Actually' on the first evening), free internet and they serve a great breakfast with abundant fresh fruit for breakfast. Not bad for $25 US Dollars a night.

The next day (day 9) I had signed up to do a 3 hour guided mountain bike tour (with 4 others to do) of the surrounding villages where we a large queue outside the church for aid and the local women washing their laundry in the public baths. We also stopped at a 'Macadamia Farm' where we got to see how the nuts are cultivated and processed. This is also a great place to relax, do some reading and try their pancakes with blueberry jam and macadamia sauce. Delicious!!! Otherwise we passed through a coffee plantation and many pot holes as we made our way back into Antigua.
In the afternoon 5 of us did the volcano hike up Mount Pacaya. Initial we were told by our guide Jenny that it was a 6 hour hike so we all stocked up on food and drink only to discover that it was only a 3 hour hike as it took an hour and a half to get there. However I would definitely recommend this trip. The walk up was tiring although it was nice to chat to new faces on the trail up through the jungle but when you get to the top and see the barren landscape and the viscous 'aa' lava slowly flowing down the slope you know it was worth it. We stayed on the top for 30-45 minutes watching the beautiful sunset, sitting on very warm rocks just metres away from burning hot lava flowing ever so slowly. Unfortunately it gets dark very quick and getting across the loose sharp volcanic rock is easier said than done. But the darker it gets the more impressive the lava flow looks and before we descending back down the mountain you can clearly see a glowing red river of rock. By the time you start descending back down the mountain it is already pitch black and when your torch has decided to give up it makes the journey down even more fun, sliding down the mud while trying not to trip over the tree roots. Let's say I slept well that night.

Foot of the Lava Flow, Antigua, Guatemala
The toe of a lava flow, and we are only metres away 

Glowing Hot!, Antigua, Guatemala
Glowing hot, the lava hidden below the recently solidified surface.
The Red River of hot rocks, Antigua, Guatemala
The mighty hot river of rock flows slowly down the volcano's slope.

(Day 10), A relaxing day where I got a chance to explore Antigua without the group. On my individual expedition I somehow stumbled across a Guatemalan wedding ceremony, a film crew filming a school big brass band in a random building as well as giving me time to buy and write my Christmas postcards. Got a feeling I have fallen out with two of the girls so far (Lina who continually blank me while Bobbie had taken the annoying role my sister once held with constant sarcastic and unfriendly comments) otherwise I am getting on well with the other 5. Lets hope it continues for another 11 days!
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