(March 1 – written by Dave)
We’ve made it to Antigua – we were really excited to get here to have a look around. Unfortunately we found that the hotel we booked via booking.com turned out to be a little rough. Kind of hard to take after a long day in the bus and saddle but that’s how it goes, we’ll survive.
But before that, to the day itself. We met that Panajachel guesthouse owner in the morning over an early brekkie. Richard moved here in 1999 and is retired military from New Jersey. Nice guy with lots of stories. Sorry that we did not meet him earlier.
Our ride up the hill was right on time at 7AM. Everything fit in the bus easy as we were the only two passengers. Our bikes had to go on top, which didn’t thrill me but they survived. The ride up the hill was pretty crazy actually. Our driver was nice but a bit of a boy racer. We overtook a couple slower moving cars, which had tp be passed regardless of it being safe or not. It’s probably also that we are just not used to moving that fast. Anyway, we survived and in spite of the curves and fast driving, neither of us got car sick.
We unloaded the van, reloaded the bikes and hit the road by 8AM. We had a climb right away but it was much cooler up on the mountain. We were happy for the uphill for the warm up. We were even happier for the morning sun. After about 5k of uphill we had the first of a series of ups and downs for the rest of the day. Overall the downs were longer as we dropped elevation overall. We made pretty good time throughout the day.
At the top of the second and longest climb we came across a Swiss restaurant. We couldn’t not stop for a coffee and apple pie. Call it morning tea. There was not a Swiss to be seen in the entire place – it was all Guatemalans. But the Swiss had clearly influenced the pie – it was delicious. And all the decorations were Swiss – many old photos from the homeland. It would have been interesting to know more of the story.
After a few more up and down stretches we came to the town of Chimaltenango and a massive traffic jam. The road until now had been 4 lanes with a shoulder. Here it became 2 lanes but the shoulder stayed intact. We slowly along the shoulder passing tons of cars and trucks. And even passed chicken buses. It was hard not to feel a bit smug. None of the trucks or chicken buses were really moving and thus not gunning their engines. All our passing included probably some of the cleanest air in spite of the traffic jam.
We eventually made it to our turn at Highway 14 and the traffic died off to almost nothing. At this point my google maps said one thing and Nancy’s mapsme said another. We didn’t know which app to believe so we rolled the dice. It worked out and the last 14k were not too hard, except the last 2k where we hit the actual streets of town – this is another one of the those cute colonial towns with barely rideable rocks (I’m not even willing to call them cobblestones).
We stopped for a cafe on the way through town. While sitting there a couple folks saw the bikes and came up to us to talk. This included a couple that saw us last week at the Mexico-Guatemala border – they are headed to Colombia – we won’t see them again for sure.
Eventually we made it to our hotel/guesthouse. It is ok but not great. There is shared bathroom for 5 rooms and probably 12 people. The room is tiny and a bit stuffy. We may look for another place but we’ll see. We did manage to salvage the room issue with a nice dinner at a nice restaurant up the street. I managed to find yet another Rouge IPA – these must be gringo towns.
We’ll have more of a look around town tomorrow. We’ve paid for two nights in the hotel so we’ll see how that goes. At least we get CNN on TV so we can catch up on what’s happening in the world.
My senior editor is sleeping so edits may be needed to this post.