Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Cobbles of Antigua

The journey from San Salvador to Antigua Guatemala was uneventful with the exception of our full police escort from inside the Guatemala border to Antigua. "There have been some robberies of other companies in the past so we do not take any chances" was what we were told. Robberies aside, the fact that Gekko Explorer International, who was my transit provider, pays for these security services. Good job Gekko. You get a thumbs up from me.

They were also 2 hours late in picking me up. The Microbus started at 3am in Leon, went to El Tunco El Salvador for a large pickup then up to San Salvador for me. They sent a car around and picked me and then drove me to a meeting place on the highway for quicker service. That was a nice touch as well. I am used to buses and well everything and everyone being late in Latin America so that did not even phase me. Another breezy border crossing and now it was Quetzels to get me through my days.

The Cobblestone streets of Antigua. Police support extra
I was last in Antigua in September 2010 and I do not remember it being this busy, however I do remember it being this pretty. The central park was lit up when we arrived at 8:30 pm and there were lots of people in the streets around the park, as it goes in Latin America. It helped that it St. Patrick's Day / Night and everyone seemed happy, or hammered. Semana Santa (Easter) is just around the corner and this town of 50,000 turns into a chaotic mess of 500,000 (or so I was told that number). I have no idea where everywhere is going to fit

I met a few good people on the bus, Tom (England) Alissa and Corrie (Australia) and once we settled into our hostels we all met up for a few post trip beer. Long trips knock the crap out of me so it was a really good way to end the day.

Indigenous Market Woman

Antigua has changed since I was last here. It is busier with more people, restaurants, shops, hostels and drunk foreigners complaining how "touristy" the place is. Again this could be because it is high season and I lived here in the fall months of September and October. I am here for one reason and that is to climb Volcano Acatanango. 

She is a beast spiking at 4000 metres (about 13,123feet). The air starts to get thin around 2500 metres meaning slight altitude sickness is a probability. I have been through it before along the Inca Trail and it can be draining. Again, this is not Everest with death and debilitating altitude sickness. Headaches, sluggishness and an upset stomach are all possible. Think of it as a having a hangover while hiking up a volcano carrying a 15 kilo pack. Good times!
Gutemala, home of the best chicken buses in Latin America
I am staying at the OX Expeditions Base Camp. They have a solid reputation for their tours and guides. A quick chat with people working there revealed a standard operating procedure for many adventure companies here in Latin America. American owned and run by a staff of eager western young volunteers in return for free accommodations. There are a few paid local guides and It will be interesting to glean whatever I can from our guide as to how the company operates. They are looking for guides and I might put them on my list if I find them credible. Not being an NGO and working as a for profit private company leads me to believe that may not be the case. A great setup really. Free labor while you reap in the profits.

Central Square
Like El Salvador before it, Guatemala is clean compared to the ecological garbage in the streets disaster that is Nicaragua. It also has a very public "indigenous culture" that is missing in other countries. I like that.

Time for Bed. Next up, the beast that is Acatanango and after that 3 days of agonizing leg pain

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