Living the good life in Guatemala – part II

As I had a nice and relaxing last day in Semuc Champey, I figured the last night of my stay would be a blast. It wasn’t. I ended up going to bed at 7 o’clock with mas o menos – hey, I’m learning spanish – 40 degrees fever. Knowing I had to sit on a bus for five hours the other day, I crossed my fingers and hoped I wouldn’t die – just kidding – and hoped it would be over in the morning. It wasn’t.

Because I already payed for my bus to Antigua, I just decided to sweat it out on the way and go straight to bed again on arrival. Sitting for 8 hours in a sweaty bus while you feel like you’re slowly boiling inside is not that fun. It’s even less pleasant when every muscle in your hands and feet decide to be against you, as in: start to hurt when you use them. Oh, what a fun busride that was. Anyway, I arrived safely and not so healthy in Antigua. To make a long story short: it could’ve been dengue, it could’ve been chikungunya, it could’ve been another viral infection. After two days of reading books, laying down, drinking water and taking paracetamol, the doctor confirmed option nr. 3. Which ment drinking more water, laying down more and taking more paracetamol. Hurray for being sick while travelling.

My salvation came in the form of J., who dragged me from my sickbed all the way to the tranquil and quiet place called San Marcos, situated at the shore of the beautiful Lake Atitlan. – I didn’t mention I hadn’t seen anything of Antigua yet, but don’t worry, I’ll return after a week – I met J. in Zephyr Lodge where she left the same day as I did, so she knew about my little health problem in Antigua. She figured San Marcos was the best place to recover and I can only completely agree with that.

Let me describe you the environment: hills and volcanoes and one huge lake in the middle. Little fishing boats and a couple of kayaking tourists. The shoreline dotted with colourfull houses and a sky full of stars every night. Spiritual people and less spiritual people – I can’t believe in auras when I can’t see them myself -. Rocks and a ‘trampolin’ to jump off into the lake. An amazing view every single day when you walk across the shoreline. Together with R., P., E. and J., I spent most of my days there. Relax. Kayak. Swim. Eat. Eat some more. Take a boat to San Pedro. Stargaze. Also, after limping for a couple of days – muscle pain, remember –, even that disappeared.

One of the days during my stay around Lake Atitlan, J. and me visited the market at Chichicastenango, known for its handicrafts. Overwhelming is the right word: stall after stall sold beautiful blouses, embroided backpacks, handbags in all forms and dimensions, scarfs, shoes, earrings. All handmade and you could buy them for ‘a very special price’. – Haggling time! – A couple of hours was enough for us, the crowd got bigger and it became tiring to walk around between too much to buy. We were more than relieved afterwards to return to our peacefull San Marcos after the buzzing market of Chichi.

Unfortunately, to all good stories comes an end, some of us five needed to go back home. First E., who already returned from San Marcos, then J. and P., who wanted to go back to Antigua before flying out of the country from Guatemala City. I returned with them, ready to – finally – discover Antigua.

Antigua is great. Period. How can a person not love the cobblestone streets with the colourfull colonial houses? Houses that are closed up at the front, but harbor the most beautiful and impressive gardens, patios and roofterraces? Night views on the glowing volcano Fuego included. Restaurants and spanish language schools at every streetcorner and the central park which forms a great place to hang out – though you’ll have to say ‘no gracias’ a lot to the streetvendors -. Picture perfect views of la Merced church and the Santa Catalina Arch. A panoramic view of the city at Cerro de la cruz, interspersed with views of the bottom of your empty tequila glass. Trivia quizzes, girlsnights and salsa dancing on Bailando / El Taxi. Saying goodbye to R., who was the last one remaining of the San Marcos Gang – besides me of course, and I’m not going home yet -, and met up with me for a last drink in Antigua.

And me who started to learn a bit of Spanish in this vibrant place. Combined with a homestay, 7 days, 5 hours a day, speaking nothing but Spanish during classes and at the dinnertable. Mornings spend in McDo – I know, but they have chocolate milk and free wifi and it’s the most beautiful McDonalds on earth – doing homework and skyping home. Afternoons filled with discussions about Guatemala versus Belgium and why there are manifestations in the street. – they want the president to leave, elections are in two weeks – I’ll regret it, but I’ll have to leave soon. Time for some new adventures in another country.

Next stop: Santa Ana, El Salvador.


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Anke Roosendans

illustrator / travel addict / architecture lover / crazy about mid-century modern design

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