|Antigua sure knew what to do with their churches at night -|
most of them were beautifully lit up like this.
|You can barely see the moon in this shot.|
|Some of the detail in the original stone carvings.|
La Merced Church is easily one of the more stunning cathedrals in Antigua because of its bright color. The details on the building facade blew me away – you can see the intricacies in the photo below. At night, the courtyards of the churches became a festival ground of sorts with plenty of food carts catering to hungry tourists and locals in town for Semana Santa.
This was one of the first churches we came upon on our inaugural exploration of Antigua. Since Antigua used to be the Spanish capital of Central America, you can’t walk a block without encountering a cathedral like this in some sort of state of ruin or repair. Most churches have been destroyed by earthquakes at some point since their original construction in the 1500s or somewhere thereabout. You can see on the right side how the church has been damaged.
After two days in Flores, we took an eight-hour overnight bus to Antigua, Guatemala. These kinds of buses should be treated the same as airplanes – bring a jacket because it’s going to get COLD. At first this was a blessing: AC in the jungle? I’ll take it! But after a while, my knees turned to ice cubes. And then when I wasn’t freezing, I woke up sweating during rest/pit stops when the bus was turned off and the temperature rose to match outside. My body couldn't figure out how to regulate itself!
When we did get to Antigua around 8 in the morning, we were dropped off at a park in the middle of town. This also became a familiar routine: arrive at your destination, pull out the guidebook and figure out where you'll find a hotel (or just walk a block - hotels are literally on every corner).
|The upstairs courtyard in the hotel where we stayed, Hotel Dionisio.|
I wanted to put in a travel line, Indiana Jones style, but I would be completely guessing at the route (Google wasn’t any help).
So we flew into Belize and then bused 5+ hours across the country and into Guatemala, ending in Flores. We shared the 18+ person shuttle with only one person: a traveler from Japan named Taka who showed us some incredible underwater photos of his diving excursions in Belize. He was also the tannest Asian I’d ever seen – we ran into a group of Japanese tourists in the Belize water taxi and bus station who didn’t even recognize him as Japanese and asked him how he spoke Japanese so well (“Um… I AM Japanese.”)
We parted ways with Taka upon arrival at Flores and encountered the first test of my Spanish: finding our first hotel. We’d made absolutely no reservations in advance: we didn’t want to be tied to a set schedule and figured we wouldn’t have a problem. Then the first two places we tried happened to be full. I asked one of the workers if she had any hotel/hostel recommendations and thus commenced what would soon become familiar: an explanation in Spanish that I was unable to translate, sparking a confused exchange of hand gestures and broken Spanish and/or English.
We ended up in a small but clean hostel with a bonus: a couple from Vancouver, BC across the hall. Friends!
More pictures after the jump:
|He looks innocent, but don't let that fool you.|
We landed in Belize City and took a bus a couple hours later to Flores, Guatemala. The above is a view from our hostel, Dona Goya. Flores is an island in the middle of a lake and the surrounding views were beautiful - water and jungle! Since it was the jungle, it was flippin' H-O-T. I think my body went into shock from coming from such a cool climate to a stifling hot jungle. My fingers swelled up like sausages! Gross. The best part about our hostel was the rooftop deck, which housed a few hammocks.
|The construction zone outside our hostel.|
In no way did we cover all the ground we wanted to (our preliminary itinerary before we booked the tickets took us through all seven countries in three weeks – what were we thinking?) but I can partially cross this goal off my list! We trekked through the jungles, mountains and beaches (though briefly) of Guatemala and Honduras; we originally intended to hit up northern El Salvador as well but decided to partake in the world celebrations of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua, Guatemala, instead. Everyone else seemed to be heading to Antigua for those crucial days leading up to Easter so we decided that maybe we should, too. I’ll be posting some pictures and anecdotes over the next couple weeks as I try to get back into a routine.
Sorry for the dearth of posts, but I didn’t want to post anything without also including pictures – we’ve finally sorted through them all (800+ AFTER sorting) so I’ll be putting together plenty of posts with corresponding pictures as soon as everything is more organized. But to tide you over, here are some short highlights from our excursion through Guatemala and Honduras.
- Meeting fellow travelers from all over the world: England, Germany, Ireland, Holland, Canada, Scotland, Wales, etc.
- Climbing over the bars of the jaguar pen to peek at the sleeping jaguar 25 feet below.
- Snorkeling at Utila, one of the Bay Islands north of Honduras.
- Experiencing the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala, some of the largest Holy Week celebrations in the world. Lots of Catholic parades!
- Kayaking a mountain lake in Guatemala.
- Visiting Chichicastenango, a world-famous market in the mountains of Guatemala.
The trip was such a whirlwind that I can’t believe I’m back at work, wandering around in a daze trying to remember what I was doing three weeks ago.