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Antigua-Pacaya

02 Feb
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Antigua

Today was a tough day. It is possible to see Antigua in one day but how about in half a day. Los Nazarenos was nice but in the evening the water did not run. I don’t know why because in the morning was working with no problems. So I started to walk in the city at 7 30 and tried to see what can I do to visit Pacaya Volcano in the night. The owner of the hotel said that he preferred to go during the day because is clear and no clouds but in the night you can see the lava flow and is spectacular. So I preferred the night and I went into the centro and started to visit the market because it was the market day for Antigua. Interesting for the first market in Guatemala but if you were in other markets. Lots of people coming to sell mainly vegetables and some other house wares. After I gave it a tour I ended in the bus terminal that was right behind it. What a view to see all the chicken buses colored like is no tomorrow, a treat on the streets of the town. It is not a treat when you travel with them but about this latter. So I took lots of pictures of them, no chickens however. From there I went to have breakfast and latter to visit the churches from the Northern part of the town. Convento and Iglesia de St Geronimo and La Recolection, both ruined like all the old churches of Antigua. The city was the glamorous capital of the Spanish territory of Guatemala and the Spaniards built lots of churches here. It is impressive to see these monuments completely ruined some of them being in existence for less than 50 years. In 1773 a strong earthquake destroyed the town and its buildings to such an extent that the Spanish kings decided to move the capital further away from the three volcanoes that surround Antigua, and they used an old Maya settlement on the current Guatemala City, unfortunately not too far away from the earthquake area. When you look at the impressive churches ruined and you see the huge walls looking towards the sky, you may have a glimpse of the power this extremely powerful corporation, the Catholic Church had in those days. And it last extremely influential even today, Quite a result of longevity for such an enterprise. I could not enter the second church because I did not have quezales, and he did not want to get US$, so I went to the centro and after going and asking in different banks who had still long lines in front because of the payment day, I found one bank, suggested by a guy from the States who was living in Guatemala, where after a short wait I was able to exchange money. This problem solved I went to the agency and I bought a ticket for $8 for Pacaya in the afternoon leaving at 2:00pm and returning in the night. With this problem in my pocket and three more hours to go , I started to visit the center that I pounded the previous night, with its two palaces and the cathedral, and the remaining ruined churches: St Francisco, with its tomb of Hermano Pedro, the only saint recognized by the church from Guatemala, I stopped in Sky Cafe that I bumped into, the friendly owner brought me on the roof for pictures, to Santa Clara where Maya women wash laundry in some basins in front of the Church to Santo Domingo, converted in a 5 starts hotel and quickly I run to the hotel, to leave some stuff and to get warm clothes for the night on the volcano. I arrived at 1:50pm at the agency just to notice that they were closed and was no bus in site. After trying to ask what is going on, at 2:00pm I went to a nearby agency to ask and I was able to book quickly with them for only $5 and they brought me to the minibuses that were in front of the cathedral. Here everything that travels is full and the three minis were to the capacity, like in Vietnam or Laos. On the way to the volcano I chatted with a woman from Wisconsin who came here with Rotary club in a health mission similar with the one Peter from the plane mentioned. Apparently there are physicians and dentist coming here to help in a lot of humanitarian missions.

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Pacaya

The hike to the volcano is not so bad but tiring. You can get a horse that are parked in the same place where the buses stop and where you pay Q40 for the park entrance. The groups are very large, from 3 buses, and this is an advantage, because in the past there were robberies on the volcano but now apparently is tranquilo. It is heavy traffic on the volcano this being also a holy place for the Maya. A lot of people come in the night to see the lava flow, and we came down we met a lot who were just started to go up at 7:30pm. The bus ride took somewhere around 1 hour and the walk took about 90 minutes with such a large and diverse group and we arrived to see the volcano and its petrified lava field. Seen from above it is spectacular but it looks like any other volcano, that has an unexploded cone. Is sending smoke every 20 minutes. We started to climb down to the lava field and we did not expect too much because from above you see some smoke but nothing else during the day and it was before sunset. But when we arrived deep on the lava field, we were up for a surprise because the viewing point is just several meters away from the lava flow that burns, cracks, smokes like a gigantic BBQ. As a result some Israeli guys brought some marshmallows to cook them in the volcano and they hooked them on the top of a walking stick, there were rented by kids at the base of the hike. Volcano marshmallows! I walked in various spots and the closest I got at around one meter away where it was, obviously, very hot. I took lots of photos and footage with the flowing and crackling lava, and it was very difficult for the guides to take us back. Eventually, we left and we stayed more on a point from where you could see, take picture and shoot , the origination of the lava flow that was coming down like a river. If you had enough time you have gone there, but walking on cinders from the volcano is not exactly a walk in the park and you have to be very attentive not to fall because the lava cuts you in no time. We left and started to go down after the sunset and in the woods down became very dark and luckily some of the guys had flashlights. We took back the minibuses and during a ride I had a chat with Joe from Chicago, a student in medicine for Physician assistant, who was here with the same helping mission. I arrived at 8:40pm and the surprise was waiting in the agency where I went to buy the bus ticket for to go next morning at 7 at Chichicastenago. The bus was full and at 9;00 all the agencies were closing and being Saturday everything was in party mood. I was at a loss because I had to leave to Chichi the next day to see the market and the cofradias so I went to the hotel to ask the girl for help. She was very nice and called several people and eventually, she told me what to do to take another bus, Pullman, at 7:00 that was going regular to Los Encuentros and changing from there with a chicken bus (local bus). She was so nice that I did not complain about the lack of water in the evening. I was not extremely happy but apparently I could go, so I went to have dinner in Sangre, a place that looks like the trendiest places in Soho or Las Vegas, with a very simple a very cool design, that I saw the previous day entering to see something else. The tuna was great but I was extremely tired after a very hectic day especially with all the problems with the agency that did not provide and the lack of ticket for the next day. Can I make it to Chichi the next morning? I went to the internet place from the previous night, that I found to be closed on Saturday night, and I went to another one but I was so tired that I gave up and went to bed. This was a very tiring day with just a little food and a little water and running continuously. Not anymore!

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Posted by on February 2, 2008 in Blog, Guatemala

 

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