First impressions of Guatemala

Guatemala is a gorgeous place and it was quite a ride to reach. After leaving Leon, Nicaragua at 10am on the 21st and driving through Honduras and El Salvador before arriving to Guatemala City at 2am I was completely exhausted. I ended up having to pay about $15 at the border because I had overstayed my visa by 5 days while waiting for my new camera. They charge $2 per day. I also was told I need to leave Central America within 5 days so I’ll have to pay for a few extra days once I leave Guatemala later this week as well.

My time here started out a bit rough and I’m hoping this will be the end of my series of unfortunate events that started this year. While I was in the hostel one girl had told me how she had her stuff stolen on a bus when she had fallen asleep and as fate would have it, I had the same thing happen to me. After traveling for 20 hours I could barely keep my eyes open and I figured I could sleep 3 hours before going to the bus station to head up to Flores/Santa Elena to see Tikal. It took me about an hour to fall asleep and when I woke up at 6:30am I found my camera bag which had been right in front of my face was empty and my Nook Ebook reader which I had been reading on for most of the trip was also missing out of the main bag which I had been sleeping on.

I have no idea how they were able to get that out without waking me!  So instead of going to Tikal I went to the police station to report the robbery and from there the police were nice enough to drive me to the bus that would take me to Antigua.

It was quite a rough way to say good bye to Nicaragua and start my time in Guatemala. However, I wasn’t going to let that ruin my time.  It sucks, sure. But there is nothing I can do about it but continue to be vigilant and never put my guard down when I’m traveling.  So staying positive and enjoying the rest of my trip is the top priority.

Riding in a bus in Guatemala is an adventure on it’s own. I stuffed my two backpacks, the small one that I had just bought was already falling apart so I have to just carry it rather than use any handles, and my big pack that I’ve been using since 2011, old faithful, next to me in the seat where I hugged them for dear life. The adventurous part of going from one place to the next place in Guatemala is that you can’t just sit in the seat and enjoy the view, they have bars in front of the seats and above you…they are the rollercoaster bars! As the chicken bus winds and curves up and down through the canyons you literally have to hold onto the bars with two hands so you aren’t falling out of your seat while your ears are popping from changing elevations. It’s a wild ride!

 

My first impression of Antigua is that it’s a touristic, old town that has become a tourist trap. The Mayan culture still thrives with women and girls walk or sit with everything imagined balanced upon their heads while dressed in brightly colored woven fabrics who mix with the tourists in shorts and tennis shoes or traveling school groups for summer trips. At the same time, everywhere you look you will see Taco Bell,  Wendys, Burger King and all of the other big US restaurant chains. That part was a bit unnerving and so I’m really looking forward to getting to the lake and enjoying my time relaxing in the different towns bording the lake. The one thing that dominates the experience of visiting Antigua is all of the old colonial architecture and the massive volcano that fills the horizon in the north. Antigua is actually surrounded by volcanos on all sides and it’s quite gorgeous although I’m not sure why anyone in their right mind would have wanted to make a city cratered between so many volcanos…

Another shock, aside from seeing armed guards which I am used to, was seeing a group of 3 motorbikes passing by the city with two people to each bike. They were all dressed in black, black masks, black kevlar, and most noticeably the black uzi they had aimed upwards.  My eyes kind of went wide when I saw this and when a Mayan woman sitting on the sidewalk saw my reaction she just smiled sweetly at me as if she’d seen the reaction many times before to what is a normal occurence here.  haha   It was a stark reminder that underneath all of the big restaurants and vibrant plaza built into the old architecture, there are still a lot of social issues that are going on behind the scenes.

I decided to stay at a party hostel,  La Terreza or ‘The Terrace’, which had a bar crawl scheduled for that evening. I spent my money and day like a tourist, eating in the central square (an omelet and natural juice ended up costing me $9 which I had thought was a bit less at the time) plus devouring a delicious Bacon Cheeseburger at the hostel that cost me around $5 before having a crazy night with other travelers. I’m still not very good at beer pong but am great at teaching girls how to move their hips on the dance floor.

All in all, my first day was not a budget day as I spent about $50 by the end of the night. Woo!   Definitely not my planned $19/day budget. From now on I’ll be eating traditional Guatemalan food at the market and will be staying with couchsurfers. (okay, I ended up finding a traditional Korean restaurant and became a slavoring nostalgic).

We’ll see if I can get some photos of the town with my GoPro once I’ve got it charged up. I really want to show you all some great photos.

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