A Long Haul and Guatemala Begins
Trip Start Jan 11, 2012
38Trip End Aug 09, 2012
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After watching the Fed Express break Britain's heart at Wimbledon (David Rafa Lynch, you are still 1 rumbler in the red), it was time to begin our epic journey through 4 countries to Antigua, Guatemala. First up was a brief bus trip into Managua, Nicaragua's capital.
Antigua is a beautifully restored colonial town about one hour away from Guatemala City. The cobblestone streets are filled with colourful buildings, grand cathedrals and to top it all off, it is located at the base of a beast of a volcano. All in, Antigua is definitely one of the more livable places that we have visited on our travels. It seems that a whole lot of tourists agree, the town contained much more gringos than what we had seen on our travels in the rest of Central America. This can sometimes be a hinderence, but Antigua has somehow managed to retain an authentic atmosphere whilst still providing an array of professional tourist activities and incredible restaurants.
My dad has been giving me a hard time for making Don climb volcanoes, cycle through deserts, white water raft etc. without us ever indulging in some of the more feminine activities on offer. My answer is usually that it would be sexist of me to assume that Don doesn't want to wear a green jumpsuit and slide down a volcano on her bum, but Antigua fortunately provided the perfect opportunity to redeem myself with more than just words. First up, a chocolate making course.
The chocolate course started with a brief history of chocolate in which we learnt about how the Mayans were the first humans to take a fancy to the sweet stuff, then the Europeans saw the light and these days the majority of the stuff is grown in Africa, but the western world is still the main gobbler. After our history lesson we were shown how the cacao bean is converted into a delicious slab of chocolate
Before commencing, again please note the gender of our cooking team. I think I've redeemed myself sufficiently, Don better get ready for some bungee jumping and skydiving. The cooking course was a bit disappointing in that we basically learnt how to prepare some Guatemalan dishes without actually doing much of the cooking ourselves, but we still really enjoyed the afternoon with our German cooking partners and the Guatemalan food was delicious.
We spent a great few days in Antigua, but with our return date now set for 9 August, it was time to get a move on. Next stop was the picturesque Lago Atitlan, 2 hours west of Antigua. The lake, surrounded by three volcanoes, is probably one of the most beautiful that we had ever seen
We were fortunate to be at Lake Atitlan on a weekend as a nearby town with an awesome name, Chichicastenango, hosts Central America's largest market every Sunday. It might not have been as big as we had expected but it was certainly more crazy than expected. We spent a few hours in the hustle and bustle of the vendors selling anything and everything, from pieces of cement to Crocs. The most bizarre sale was probably the 2-for-1 combo of a chicken and a kitten, both attached to a lead. This probably gives you the option of having them as pets or having the convenience of being able to drop them into a frying pan simultaneously. We unfortunately missed out on this excellent offer as the seller wouldn't budge on his asking price. We did, however, win a bidding war over a colourful beach towel. Good purchase, but damn, we should have closed on those kittens. Missed opportunities aside, the market provided an interesting glimpse of some genuine Guatemalan culture.
Once the vendors had packed up, it was time for us to head back to Panajachel and the following day we made our way back to Antigua. Nicaragua blew us away, but Guatemala had started strongly. The next leg of our Guatemalan adventure would show us some of the country's incredible natural wonders, including one of the most unique places that we have ever seen...