and a sudden rerouting..
16.07.2016 - 24.07.2016
The shuttle from Copan Ruinas, Honduras, to Antigua Guatemala was pretty painful - traffic, bus crashes (not ours obviously) and endless roadwork made what should have been a 6 hour journey into an 8.5 hour marathon.
Eventually we arrived in Antigua, after dark, in the central park. My first impression of Antigua was hilarious - the fountain in the middle of the park has topless women with water shooting out of their nipples! Of course!
As a rule we try to never arrive in a new country on a Sunday, or after dark, as usually it makes everything harder. We broke both our rules in one go here. Luckily it didn't come back to bite us and we found our way to our hostel (which had been a nightmare to find anything available!) We were pleasantly surprised with our hostel - it seemed clean and had incredible hot showers - the first we had had since Costa Rica!
That night we wandered around town looking for something small to eat (we were both a bit sick), and stumbled upon a crepe restaurant where people were lining up to go into! A girl sold it to us as; "if you are thinking about crepes, stop thinking and just line up, they are awesome." It was jolly good advice - that night we each got a dessert crepe - mine was blackberry, chocolate and icecream, where Richard got apples, cinammon, walnuts and icecream. The were so good we ate way more than our stomachs had been allowing for, so poor Richard suffered all night long.
But not put off, we ate there every day that we were in Antigua. We did decide though that our original order was for the win.
Our first complete day in Antigua we spent wandering around the colonial town, marvelling at how it was cool enough in the evenings that I wanted to wear a cardigan! We decided that we'd quite like to go and climb the nearby volcano of Acatenango, and so set about finding the cheapest company - prices ranged from $18USD to $180USD for exactly the same tour!
Once that was sorted, we set about emptying our packs, so they could be used for our tramp. This was pretty painful, as all our tramping gear was well stashed in the bottom of our packs, and was last removed when we were in Peru
But next morning we were off! First in a shuttle - where there were more people than seats, and it was so jammed up that neither Richard or I could put our feet on the floor - maybe this is where people who pay more win? Soon enough we arrived at the bottom of the mountain - a cool 2400m, to begin our ascent.
It had been described to us as "the first hour or two is hard", then "its not so bad after that" followed by "the next morning is REALLY hard". We figured it probably wouldn't be too bad - lucky too as we got saddled with carrying a 5 man tent up the mountain (luckily we gave it away for coming down) PLUS 4L of "essential" water each. For the first time we had done any serious exercise in 2 months, it wasn't quite the walk in the park we expected.
It was pretty much straight uphill for the first hour and a half, then got a bit less steep. By the time we stopped for lunch, my stamina had finally caught up and I was doing fine. Richard had continued his usual tactics and was being given a hard time by the Aussies in our group for "having not even broken a sweat yet"
Arriving at the lunch spot
From there we hit the cloud level, and started the sidle around to base camp. After another 2 hours we arrived at the base camp and proceeded to set up the tents. We were surprised - it was COLD here. Like NZ cold! Lucky for us we had polypro top/bottom plus over trouser, puffer jacket and rain coat, gloves and beanies, so we were ok (inside the tent). Others in our group looked frozen.
The guides got a fire going to cook up our 2 minute noodle dinner, and after it got dark we were rewarded with the clouds occasionally lifting, so we could get an excellent view of Volcan Fuego erupting nearby. (prior to this we had been able to hear the explosions, but see nothing)
We hit our beds early, as we were getting up at 3:30am to ascend the rest of the volcano for sunrise. At this point Richard realised his torch batteries were dead, and mine were so close to dead a smart phone light was significantly better than mine. Dulp!
3:30am rolled around all too soon and time to get up, and stumble our way up the mountain. It was like walking up fine scree - 2 steps up, slide one back, for about an hour or so. We were on the top (3967m ish) shortly after 5am, and it was FREEZING up there. So so pleased for windproof layers. But it was amazing - the best sunrise I have every seen.
Richard took a million photos, so here is a selection
All too soon it was time to descend (although probably to the relief of much of our frozen group), pack the tents (which apparently us Kiwi's cannot pronounce properly), and wander back down the hill.
We thought the walk down went fine, but man oh man were our legs sore the next day! Richard was hobbling around town like a cripple!
On returning to Antigua we decided to stick around for 24 hours to get washing down (and eat more crepes!) before heading to Lago Atitlan.
When we did arrive in San Pedro La Laguna, we were happy to find that in the rooms either side of us were the Austrian girls from our tent, and the dutch couple who were in the tent beside us!
While here we had all kinds of grand plans as to what we would do - go swimming, go kayaking, get up to see sunrise from the Indian Nose view point and maybe have a bath in the hot pools on the lake edge.
In the end we slept a lot, read some terrible books, and did this morning get up for another sunrise (though much less impressive, but also only a 20min walk involved)
Richard is in desperate need of a haircut! We got up waay too early today
This afternoon we are off to the baths before catching a shuttle back to Antigua. From there we hope to go to Belize tomorrow. Our plans to go to the north of Guatemala have been foiled by security threats, men with guns and road blocks, so instead we are doing some stupid circling. But we figure this late in our trip why risk it?
Looking forward to some snorkelling in Belize!