25 hours after I left Caye Caulker I arrived to see the carpets of Semana Santa in Antigua. Whereas Easter is the big day of celebration Guatemalans celebrate the entire week leading up to Easter. It’s very Guatemala to me to be so dramatic through the Saturday but come Easter morning everything is very calm and quiet. On Friday I wandered around the streets of Antigua stumbling upon carpets, processions and the cobblestones themselves. The bands that follow the floats are way out of tune and too loud to be musical but it seems to fit the scene. Huge floats featuring different scenes from Good Friday are carried upon the shoulders of the people while incense covers up any smells that may be unpleasant (cue in public urination…gross).
On Saturday I had another shuttle dilemma. I woke up at 5 and was out on the street waiting to go to Pacaya Volcano at 6. 30 minutes later I got a hold of someone before my minutes ran up. A very old and full shuttle showed up and took us to the outskirts of town where it dropped us off and told us that there would be a bigger bus coming. After finding coffee and waiting another 40 minutes a school bus showed up and more people than were initially in the shuttle boarded the bus. As we’re leaving town the bus pulls over to wait for more people. What was initially two turned into another shuttle full. We were finally on our way 1 1/2 hours after I was supposed to be picked up. One later after lurching and swerving our way to the national park we arrived at the base of the active volcano. There were horse taxiis and walking stick sellers run by a pack of young kids. By 9 the 30+ people in the group began hiking with just the one guide. The hike up took about an hour and a half up and even though it was steep we had lots of stops to wait for people.
At the end of the trail there was a lava store that sold pieces jewelry made from pieces of lava. The profits going to support the people who live near the volcano. It was very windy and crowded because of the holiday but I still managed to roast a marshmallow over some lava and scramble around on the beds of dried, hardened lava while at the top the volcano was throwing out puffs of smoke the entire time. Last year it did erupt preventing tourists from visiting but on this day someone thought it was ok (I don’t think there’s a scientific monitoring system in place). The way down was a bit interesting as we slid through deep dark sand down a very steep hill. My poor knees just hate the descent and I’m convinced that one day they’ll give out and I’ll just roll to the bottom. Maybe I should have taken a horse down. 🙂 By 1:30 I was back in Antigua and went to wander again.
On Easter Sunday I found some hot cross buns and coffee and enjoyed a peaceful morning in the park by the fountain. I didn’t have a problem shopping or visiting restaurants as the majority were opened which surprised me. At night I spent time with some new friends drinking Cuba Libres made from Flor de Caña (I would highly recommend trying it!). Monday morning arrived and I went out to wander again. It’s easy to get lost in Antigua but I use the different architecture to orient myself. It’s a very touristy city so you can find any food and necessities that you might need which is a nice break from Pana. When 4pm rolled around I was dreading the shuttle ride back to Pana but was pleasantly surprised when it showed up on time and said that I was the only one going to Pana. It was pure traveler’s bliss.
I’m back in Pana working away and enjoying the lovely weather and my tan thanks to a few days in Belize. Enjoy the pics!