Yesterday we were up at 4a to catch a 5.30a bus that left at 6a. Grace, Villa del Angel, had left a little breakfast and ordered a taxi. Christian was on time and deposited us in front of the Tica bus station at 5.15a. After checking in we met Dan a British chap who was adding El Salvador to his list of 74 countries. For us it was 88.
It seemed no time at all till we were at the El Salvador border. Just before we stopped for a tortilla and cornbread breakfast. At the border (a river separates the 2 countries) the agent asked one passenger to get off and have his papers checked by authorities. She then checked the rest of the bus. The passenger was not allowed back on the bus and his wife was also taken off.
We waited for a time but eventually crossed the bridge to Guatemala. We were still in mountainous terrain. Occasionally we would see fields of sugarcane. Gord saw sugarcane being cut by hand with machetes. This is a first. We saw fields of corn, neat little villages, tidy sets of farm buildings.
We arrived at 12 noon in Guatemala City. Here we collected our bags and were directed to the shuttle to Antigua. We had a typical meal. Talked to 2 ladies from Holland. One was returning. She had spent several months here last year in Guatemala and Honduras. She fell in love with Honduras. This year she hopes to travel further south. The other lady is visiting Guatemala only.
We chatted as we drove to Antigua through the mountains. Soon we arrived on a plateau surrounded with volcanoes. Only Vulcan Fuego is actively belching smoke. Flames can occasionally be seen at night. Sometimes lava can be seen flowing from the crater. All this we can see here from our room at Hotel Ojala. We were dropped off at our door last. It was after 3p.
We settled in and went for a walk. Antigua is a fairly large city with a colonial center. Bricked and cobblestone streets are here. Most buildings are one story, have red-tiled roofs and highly colored...corals, greens, yellows and some blues. There are many hostels, hotels, restaurants and tourist shops. Ladies in bright indiginous dress sell fruits, scarves, table runners, jewellery etc.
We stopped at Frides just through the arch for a dinner of tostadas and beer. We walked to La Merced, peeked in the church, explored the plaza and walked back. We had had an early start so settled to bed in #10 by 8p. And listened to loud international music till 1a when a rooster took up the chorus. He had been given a voice job so sounded like he had a bad case of laryngitis. Ugh.
In the a.m. Gord complained and when I awakened an hour later I mentioned the rooster. We were upgraded to a room above the office with a king-size bed...and promised quiet. The owner even came to apologize for the noise. Said it was a party hostel and have taken the hostel to court.
We checked out of 1 room at 11a, went for lunch and to explore the first church...San Francisco. It is in ruins....not rebuilt after the earthquake of 1773. Arches still stand as does the occasional wall and column. Of note was the nativity scene in an apse. Beautiful.
Back at Ojala we moved into room 6 on the second floor...a large room with a king-size bed, a large bathroom and not much else.
We went back to sightseeing. We explored 2 museums along the Central Plaza, ran into Dan with his Colombian friend...female, went to a brewpub where we met Gord, a retired teacher visiting from Minesota and a local fellow...a Tennessean who has lived here 20 years. He owns 12 hotels. We samppled a charcuterie with sausage and cheese. Delicious. It was almost 6p when we left to go to dinner.
We stopped at Los Arcos in the Catalina Hotel for an excellent steak dinner. The garden and fountain was beautiful.
After we got pics of the nighttime then went back to watch the volcano perform....shooting flames into the sky every few minutes. Fireworks could be seen to our left over the tourist area.
This a.m. we took it easy volcano watching as puffs of smoke appeared. We then went to Las Capuchins and admired the fountain. Not much remains aside from walls and 2 staircases.
We then had lunch at Black Mambo's.
From here we walked to La Merced and visited the museum here. It consisted mainly of a large fountain occupying an equally large courtyard surrounded by covered arched walkways. One side had survived the earthquake.
Next we went into the government museums....one side filled with art and the other side filled with Mayan relics mostly used in their religious ceremonies and confiscated by the catholic priests, bishops etc as evil. Very few remain. On display were masks, some funerary, some used in religious ceremonies. Some statues, insense burners remain. Only 4 codicies were not destroyed by the catholics.
Back at our room we recharged then went for an early dinner again at Fride's. Tomorrow we are up at 2.30a for a 3.45a bus to Copan.