So I’ve finally made it to Central America – I’m currently sat in my hotel in the lovely town of Antigua Guatemala after what has been a long few days.
Today was another day of mostly travelling just like yesterday. After a 6am checkout of the hotel in Atlanta I made my way to the airport where I printed my boarding passes (I had already checked in online), checked my bags and then proceeded through security where I used the free wi-fi to save a couple of key phrases from Google Translate onto my phone. The flight to Guatemala was a little delayed but we managed to pick up most of the time in the air – we flew down over Florida, Mexico and then finally down into Guatemala City.
Immigration in Guatemala City was fast but there were no signs for which baggage carousel we should use and after a long delay, and after asking a few people, I finally found my baggage and waited for the long line at customs that had formed by this point due to several flights from the USA all arriving at once. After customs there’s a tourist information desk with bi-lingual assistants who can help you with whatever you require. All I needed to know was how to get to Antigua and they directed me to the place outside where the shared minibus taxis wait.
The shared minibus system is pretty efficient and probably the best way to make it to Antigua if you’re going straight there from Guatemala City Airport. They wait until they are full, which is never usually long, and then take you straight to your hotel in Antigua for only $10 compared to the $70 my travel agent wanted for a transfer. The journey seemed to progress slowly due to the mountain roads but the scenery was nice. It also gave me a chance to chat to my fellow passengers – a Canadian who had just left the Northwest Territories where it was a chilly -20, an American who visits Central America every 6 months, an Australian and a few Americans including this one guy who needed a fresh start so had arrived in Guatemala with no plan carrying a bag containing everything he owned. I have a lot of respect for him for taking that risk.
I was due to stay at the “Casa en Familia”, which is the starting place for all Intrepid trips in Central America that depart from Antigua, but when I arrived they explained they were overbooked so had checked me into another small family run place just around the corner which they lead me straight to before telling me what time to be back at Casa en Familia for the group welcome meeting. For those of you that are having a hard time finding Casa en Familia or anything about it – it’s a small family run place on Calle Camposeco, to the west of 7a Avenida Norte (walking from the centre of town when you get to the intersection of the two roads turn left and the hotel is a 20 second walk on the left hand side). The shared minibus should know how to get you there – but there’s a big barn door with a doorbell and a small sign with the hotel name next to it.
After relaxing in my hotel room for a bit I went into town to grab some snacks and a coffee before relaxing in the park to read for a bit. It looked like rain was going to come so I wandered to Frida’s bar for some Mojitos and to use their free wi-fi connection. After relaxing with my Mojito for a while the sky cleared and the rain never came so I made my way back to the hotel ready for the welcome meeting. After the welcome meeting, which was fairly brief, we all went out for dinner (we ended up at Frida’s again) before making our way around the corner to a rock / metal bar. We also made time for group photos under the arch before making our way back to the hotel ready for an early start tomorrow.
Antigua seems like a nice place it’s a shame I didn’t book an extra day and spend more time here but we’re off to Honduras in the morning. One thing I like about the town is it has kept its traditional charm with the old cobbled streets and traditional courtyard houses. There are branches of subway and other western outlets like that but they’re not allowed to put up huge signs they have to just have small ones hanging in their window so as not to change the character of the town.
The others on our trip seem nice too. There are a few who are starting in Antigua like me but the majority have come down from Mexico and are continuing down to Costa Rica. I also met a really nice guy who finished his trip in Antigua today called Andy – apparently he played Mundungus Fletcher in the Harry Potter movies among other things. Our guide, Mena, seems nice too – we seemed to make friends when we found out we had similar music tastes and when she found out I had been to North Korea.