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Antigua

January 10th, 2012

I thought long about where to go next after Río Dulce. The way was long to Antigua and I wanted to visit some place in-between. But which? The only interesting spot seemed to be Quiringua, where there are some other Maya ruins, but did I really want to see more of them? I ended up listening to myself and I recognized the strong call … the call from the mountains. And so I went to Antigua.

I took a bus (Litegua) at 8am from Río Dulce. The advantage of this company is that there is a connecting bus to Antigua from the same spot where you arrive in Guatemala City (short Guate). Since Guate is known for its crimes you shouldn’t walk around finding your bus. It was around 70Q to Guate and another 40Q to Antigua and after 6h I finally arrived.

Antigua

As suggested by some friends, who I met on my trip, I went to the “Yellow House”, which is in the north west of the town. While walking I immediately loved the atmosphere of the town with its cobble stone streets. At the hostel I took a dorm for 60Q, which included a nice breakfast. Everything was cleaned up every day and the highlight was the roof terrace. A nice place to hang out with wifi everywhere around you.

From the terrace I was able to see the Volcán de  Agua, which I wanted to climb, since you do not really need a guide for doing so. I hoped to meet up with some nice people to do it together, but in the end I did it on my own, as soon as the clouds were gone. But later more on that.

Antigua offers a lot of nice restaurants and cafes, like I imagined it. The “El retiro” became my favorite place for getting a coffee and “The bagel barn” for getting … bagels. I know that it’s not really traditional, but sometimes I just need those places. The cafe “La condesa” also can be recommended, which offers really nice food in a nature like atmosphere.

When I headed to the main market I immediately got lost. How is it possible to create such a maze like system? Especially when you’re hungry you get desperate to find the exit, since most things at the market were offered raw.

Every day I met someone in the dorm I could do something together with. With one I had an interesting dinner at a place suggested by the Lonely Planet I think. It was just two blocks from the hostel, right next to a park, which looks like a normal tiny shop. First we weren’t sure if there’s actually anything to get, but after we heard the magic word “comida”, we entered this little place and went to the back room. The tiny cute old women brought us the dish of the day how I would call it, which was very good and cheap.

Another night I went with someone else (a hippie person from Canada) to the Cafe Rainbow. There was live music with “Kenny and friends”. The place was not at all crowded and after some good food the music started. The music was nice and at some time my companion even joined to play the “drum box”. During the break Kenny came to our table and we chatted a bit. At the end of the show they (including my companion) went to a night club, but I had enough and was happy of this nice evening … somehow feeling that I did my part. The next day was planned for the volcano.

Volcán de Agua

Shortly before 9am I went to the bus terminal and looked for the bus to Santa Maria de Jesus, which lies before the volcano that I wanted to climb. For 3.50Q I reached my destination half an hour later and I made my way up. Before I bought a bit more water, so that I had about 2.5l and a piece of cake that I would keep for when I would reach the top.

The start was difficult and I had to get used to the incline. I quickly started to sweat in the hot sun, although my path was mostly in the shadow of trees and bushes.

When I reached the middle of the hike (after only 90 minutes), where there also was a little shop, I saw other people climbing the volcano. Everyone I met was a local and almost all planned to stay over night. I had several small talks but went up on my own in my own pace.

With the increasing altitude and the diminishing oxygen it became more difficult to go up. Step-by-step I moved on slowly, making little pauses more often. The difficult thing about volcanoes is that it’s permanently going up with normally no part where to rest on a flat level.

I passed a security guy who protects the antennas from theft. I talked a bit with him and felt safe, because if there’s security staff then it also should be a safe hike … so I thought.

When I finally reached the top exhausted after 4h, thick clouds moved into appearance and prevented me from seeing anything. These clouds didn’t move until two days later, but I didn’t stay that long of course. It was becoming cold and dark, so that I just had a little chat with two guys working at the station on the very top. I also ate my little cake that I bought before the hike. From one of the guys I heard the familiar word “ladrones” and I wondered: “Not again, please!”. He told me that he also was being robbed when he went up for his work, and since I was on my own it probably could happen to me. I told him that there are many other groups coming up so that it should be fine. I started to feel insecure nevertheless from that moment on.

Getting cold and no chance of seeing anything from the unimpressive top I made my way back. I progressed very fast and even came into a run. I met even more people on my way down. My first thought was that it might be thieves, since some wore machetes, but soon it was clear that they just want to climb the volcano. I got in talk with almost everyone, except a huge group that appeared quite late. That night there were supposed to be more than 100 people staying.

Eventually I left the big cloud and it got brighter. At around 5:30pm I arrived, without any problems, at the bus stop, where I soon entered the bus back to Antigua.

When I read later about the volcano in my guide book, it was highly discouraged to do this trip alone. Even tour guides sometimes deny taking you up to the top. I wonder if I would have done this hike when I would have read this before …

Cerro de la cruz

A nice and easy walk is up to the cross on the north border of Antigua. When reading the guide book it was recommended to go with a bigger group or guided by the police. I always wonder if it’s really that bad here!

Anyway … I went alone and saw that many people were doing the same, so that it was okay. Moreover I saw a lot of police sometimes hidden behind or next to trees, so that I didn’t have to worry at all. With so much police force there really must have happened a lot of robbery.

From the site where the cross stands you have a great view onto Antigua and the volcano. It’s definitely worth the 30-45min. hike!


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