Guatemala. I am quite a fan of this little Central American nation.
This lush tropical country shares borders with Mexico to the North, Belize to the North East, Honduras to the East and El Salvador to the South. The currency is the quetzal, the food is Central American (plenty of rice and beans and cheese to be had!) and the people are diverse and interesting. Over a dozen indigenous tribes, and a thriving Mayan population call Guatemala their homeland. There are many different dialects, and in some of the more remote areas, the native tongue is the only language most people speak, even Spanish wouldn’t get you very far in these parts.
This is only the second time I have been to Guatemala, and the first time was on another cruise through the Panama Canal a few years ago, where we dropped anchor in the same port, and took the same trip into Antigua. So I don’t have a vast knowledge of the country, but what I have seen I have liked, and I want to experience MORE! Maybe one day.
So the Happy Hobbits decided not to take a tour this time, seeing as we fancied ourselves rather dab hands at the whole thing things being our second visit and all. We met up with an Australian woman named C and her DARLING daughter X (who watched Adam up in Kids Club for us so we can have a break from time to time) and her four-year-old C and her two lovely and cheerful parents. Off the boat we got bright and early, and into the waiting jaws of some independent tour bus sharks… That’s a whole other story, and I won’t bore you with it today, but come round for dinner some time and I’ll tell you all about it in person!
About an hour and a half later we arrived in Antigua.
I love this city.
It is a World Heritage Site (like the whole freakin place, not just one or two buildings) and has narrow cobbled streets, eerily similar walled courtyard buildings, all of which envelope lush and magical gardens and nooks and hidey holes where you can have a cup of fresh brewed Guatemalan coffee, or barter with the locals for some touristic treasures in one of the shops or markets. The local Indian tribes people come down to pedal their wares to us gringos, and do a rip roaring trade for the brief moments the cruise ships’ cargo are on shore to spend up in American dollars for the hour or two they are there.
One of my favourite places on earth is the old monastery (Santo Domingo), which they have converted into a five star resort and hotel. The place is off the hook. It is hundreds of years old, has a heart and a soul and a history that would turn your blue eyes brown, and there is even an old mausoleum where you can see real bones! REAL BONES! Countless earthquakes have hit the city, and the reality of this is apparent in the many tumbled down buildings, but it is a charming and beautiful city. If it weren’t so far from our NZ home, I would vacation here as often as possible. The place is off the hook and I love it.
The children were for the most part well behaved, and we all sat down to a big lunch in the walls of Santo Domingo Monastery.
The ride home was not so cut and dry, as an Argentinian couple who we quite literally crammed into the bus for the trip into town, decided they would rather take a less crowded bus back to the port, and hence we were sent on a wild goose chase through the narrow streets of Antiqua. Meh. It was fun. And the busses all have names and are brightly coloured and we got to see lots of locals going about their business as we raced around with our driver shouting Spanish obscenities through his cell regarding the wayward Argentinians and his desire to collect the $35USD he was entitled to.
That was Guatemala.
We may not be there any more Dr. Ropata. But a couple of days ago we certainly were in Guatemala. And it was ace.
Next installment = Nicaragua