August 30, 2006 GMT
Final thoughts on Antigua

Final thoughts on Antigua

Antigua is really unlike any other place in Guatemala, whether that is good or bad depends on your point of view. It is touristy, the high end restaraunts have menus in English and prices in dollars. Of course that means you can get a decent cup of coffee and a slice of New York cheesecake anytime you want it, not to mention being able to see the Packers on Monday Night Football at a sports bar, even though the Bengals handed them their asses, but it also means that you aren't seeing what most of Guatemala is like if this is the only place you go. There is a big expat community here, from what I've seen, mostly British and American. A fair number of people are here taking language courses, as well. There are some really nice places here, I walked around in the Hotel Santo Domingo, which was built as a convent in the 1700's. Bill Clinton stayed there once when he was president, and is is quite posh. The town is also a weekend getaway for Guatemalans fron Guatemala City. I have seen all kinds of high end vehicles here with GT plates on them, from Range Rovers to BMW motorcycles. I'm told that on Sunday mornings as many as 100 motorcycles from the city show up on the town plaza. I was on a volcano hike at the time, so I can't verify that.

Speaking of volcanoes, the volcan Pacaya is very active now and this is a great time to see it. With Sunday off from Spanish school, I took a guided hike up the volcano to the crater and got to see some flowing lava, up close and personal. The guide was a guy Who was born in GT, but grew up in California, then moved back to GT as an adult. He had hiked up the vaolcano more than a hundred times and was able to tell us when the different lava flows had been made. I had seen the volcan Arenal in Costa Rica spit out lava from a distance before, but this was a whole different thing. I got to within 30 feet or so of this moving river of molten rock, before the heat got too fierce. Just like on National Geographic, it was truly an awesome thing to see. Makes you think that the earth is 5 billion years old, and still it's core is hot enough that it boils up to the surface like that. No matter how powerful we think we are, Ma Nature can still kick our asses anytime she wants.

Ok, all you married guys who want to do some Latin American riding, but don't want to go on vacation without your wife, listen up. The two of you get on a plane to Guatemala City, and take a shuttle 35 miles to Antigua. Get set up in one the the many hotels, and spend a couple days walking around, checking out the bars, restaurants, jewelry shops and art galleries. Then the fiendishly sneaky part of the plan kicks in. You go see Dave, a bloody British bloke, at the Moto Cafe (, and he will rent you a motorcycle ranging from a 175 Yamaha 2 stroke to a KLR650, and you can go riding. "Honey, look. I didn't know they rented motorcycles here." Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. If your wife rides, great, if not take a KLR two up, maybe up to Lake Atitlan, or get some other pointers from Dave. You get to ride, and at the same time get major bonus points with the ol' lady, and Dave gets to eat and buy beer. Everyone is happy, and you can thank me for your marriage being stronger.

I bought a few t shirts, and wanted to send them home, along with a CD copy of the pictures I have taken so far, and some other stuff. I had seen a DHL office in town, and figured it would be no big deal. Turns out they only offer express service and wanted $137 to ship 4 kilos to the US. I think I'll wait till I find some ground service somewhere.

I'm leaving in the morning, and the next post should be from Honduras.

Posted by Andy Tiegs at August 30, 2006 03:37 AM GMT

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