May 29, 2006

Antigua Arrival
Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua is a popular town for travelers. I'm of the opinion that nearly every gringo that passes through Guatemala spends at least a day or two here. It may be the low (rainy) season, there's still plenty of tourists scurrying about the cobblestone streets.

The weather in this town was a bit of a surprise, and my first night here found me pulling everything out of my pack so that I could get to the fleece stored at the bottom. …That reminds me, if you're going to invest in a backpack, spare yourself the pain of a top-loading pack and go for a side-loading model instead—trust me on this one.

The mornings and early afternoons here are warm enough for shorts and sandals, but by 3:00 in the afternoon the clouds come flying off the nearby volcanoes—rapidly dropping both the temperature and heavy amounts of rain. It's almost like I'm waking up in Phoenix, and falling asleep in Seattle.

I've been noticing a correlation between how much I spend on a place to sleep and how much money I spend during the day. When I'm in an affordable country/town (and making a solid attempt to keep costs in check) 50% of my expenses for the day are for my room, 25% for food, and the last 25% go towards transportation, entertainment, or Internet. Antigua is a fairly good example of this in action.

I'm staying at a comfortable spot called the Hotel San Jeronimo for about US$4 a night. I've got a private room with two double-beds; a shared bathroom with an electric heater in the showerhead (that actually works); free access to the washing machine; movie channels on the television; a kitchen with everything I need; and a cute, friendly 22 year-old Guatemalan girl (the girlfriend of an Englishman studying Spanish in town) who speaks great English. I can live here for less than US$10 a day—probably around $8 when I figure out the best places to shop for food. The only problem is with some sort of flying insect that descends into my room by the droves from the wooden ceiling each night (attracted by the light).

First Impressions

Founded in 1543 and flanked by three large volcanoes, Antigua was the capital of Guatemala for 233 years (until an earthquake in 1773 ended up flattening much of the town). Declared a national monument by the Guatemalan government and a World Heritage Site by Unesco, Antigua is full of buildings and ruins that scream out to be photographed. At least half a dozen collapsed colonial cathedrals are scattered throughout the city.

There's definitely way too many vehicles vibrating up and down the cobbled streets—the amount of pollution (both auditory and respiratory) can be distracting from the beauty of the town and its inhabitants.

I hear violent crime in Antigua has been reduced quite a bit in the past few years, but (like every other town with tourists on the planet) pickpockets can still be a nuisance. I'm in the habit of keeping a bandana stuffed above the bills in my front pocket to keep wandering fingers at bay.

I haven't walked about after sunset yet, but I'm curious to check out the floodlit cathedral ruins (weather permitting), and perhaps sample a regional beer while I gather titbits of information from other travelers at the bar.

This has been a good spot slow my days down while I catch up on things. I really don't have any desire to go into Guatemala City any time soon, but to get this camera situation resolved I might be forced to do so. Anyone know if Canon needs another good field tester for their cameras?

Comments:

Guatemala

Craig | travelvice.com

May 29th, 2006

(sigh)

It would appear a technical flub has resulted in any e-mail sent to me from the 20th of May until today to be undelivered — it never reached my inbox. If you dropped me an e-mail at all this past week please resend the message (as I didn't receive it).

Sorry 'bout that.

Guatemala

Craig | travelvice.com

May 31st, 2006

Christian from Germany wrote me and says that I've got wood worms (called "Cupins" in Brazil) in my room. The girl at the hotel says they're called "Palomia" in Spanish.

I can't seem to find any good pictures to verify — I'm trying to take a picture of them with my (busted) camera, but it's not turning out so well… (laughing)

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