Hey Antigua… we need to talk
It was really great to see you again and great to see that you hadn’t changed a bit since we were last together. It was great.
I came to you with new eyes, revitalized and cleansed, both physically and spiritually. I came to you ready to experience everything that you have to offer. I came, excited to be reunited with you and nervous about what sort of feelings you would stir in me. Really, it was just great to be reunited with an old friend.
Day one: visit the local market. Always best to do this on the first day so that you can get a feel for a place. And what was my rule of the day whilst at the market? Any food item that I didn’t recognize, I had to buy and eat. Great theory. Great.
OK, so rules are made to be broken and us usual my self imposed rule proved to hard to abide by. There’s no way I could carry all the unusual foods I found and I sure as hell wasn’t going to eat them all. I chose a couple of crazy looking fruits and decided that this was a sufficient compromise.
The verdict? One good, one bad. Like, really bad… Like rotten, dead, insert-alternate-negative-adjectives-here bad. The good one was really good though.
To be fair, the disgusting taste of the fruit was partially my fault. I used my impeccably good spanish to ask “can I eat this strange fruit as it is or do I need to cook it or prepare it in some other manner before consumption?” but apparently it came out more like this “me able eat fruit here or no? *pause* I want fire?”
Yeah.. You’re supposed to cook it. Great!
Despite this, I’m calling my little experiment a success. I tried new things and I learned a little. The old me may have complained and cursed the world for screwing me over, but not the new me. No sir.
The new me uses cultured eyes as my lens through which to view the world. With my clear mind and spiritually cleansed body and soul, my strolls through your colonial streets remind me of the fragility of life and of the mindset required for living on the precipice of danger. In this town, surrounded by active volcanoes, I ponder the intricacies of such a life and marvel at the conundrum presented by the correlation between beauty and danger found in natural environments. The beautiful old buildings and roads remain decrepit and a little run down but not through lack of care or funds. By standing tall in their precarious location, they are the flag of resilience waving defiantly in the warm Guatemalan air. Much like vintage, pre-loved furniture, the town has character; each crumbling wall, out of place, misshapen cobblestone and partially falling down church (of which there are more than 20 in a town with a population of less than 40,000) tells a story. I am eager to hear each and every one of these stories.
Pretty deep stuff, huh? Can it be that I’ve changed my ways? Have I finally done what everybody thought I never would? Have I grown up? Matured? Are my partying days behind me? I can’t help but wonder how long this ‘new me’ is going to last.
Evidently not that long.
I guess the clue was in the name of the hostel where I chose to stay – “Jungle Party”. I could probably argue that I was still cultured though… couldn’t I? I think I owe it to myself to try… I, an Australian traveling in Guatemala, had a Mexican fiesta at the hostel before going to an Irish pub, which played American music, with my mate Nick, three Dutch girls, an English girl and an Irish girl. Now if that ain’t culture then I don’t know what is? It’s like a trashy United Nations party. Like alphabet soup of nations and festivities. It’s like… It’s like….
Ok, fine. It’s like every other night.
Zero culture but plenty of harmless fun.
But then there’s harmless fun and there’s harmless fun. Both are good, but I guess we got involved in the italicized type of harmless fun, in that we nearly got arrested…
About 6 times.
Um… yeah. Sorry about that.
But in my defense it was kind of a snowball effect, the result of bad circumstances rather than actual bad behaviour and intentional law breaking. Firstly, we tried to have an early night and leave the bar before it closed. Good plan, yes? Well, after we purchased a couple of quiet beers to walk home with we found ourselves in need of a bathroom. There was no bathroom in sight. So we did what any horticulturally conscious person would do… we decided to.. ah.. water some plants.
So it turns out that urinating in public is not 100% legal (and I don’t know how to say ‘horticulturally conscious’ in español). Luckily we had met two lovely Guatemalan girls who ushered us into their car before the police could get close enough to slap on the cuffs.
As we sped away we laughed about our close call and proceeded to get a little lost. Soon enough there were a set of blue and red lights flashing behind us (police). So it turns out that we were going the wrong way down a one-way street. And drinking in the car. Whilst driving. And not wearing seatbelts.
Did I mention that the Guatemalan girls are gorgeous?
I’m not sure, but I think this may have had something to do with why we were not hauled off to a Guatemalan prison. Some fast talking, local knowledge and cheeky smiles got us out of that one by the skin of our teeth.
The sensible thing to do after these close calls is to go back to your hostel and go to bed, and that is exactly what we did.
Nicko and I got dropped off at our hostel and decided to have a short discussion about our eventful evening before going inside. I guess our short discussion turned into us attempting to finish our remaining beers and smoke a cigarette and stumble around like a couple of fools, not realizing that our early night had now lasted until a little after 4am. When the police drove by us they were not super impressed. Considering how many times they’d run into us already that night I reckon that maybe they should have been impressed. Considering what time we started drinking maybe they could have been a little bit impressed. But alas no, they were not impressed. In fact I would go so far as to say that they were unimpressed. Apparently we were out after the town curfew (which I had forgotten existed) and we were drinking on the street (which is always illegal).
*insert classic shake down here*
Draw weapons. Hands up. Pat down pockets. Take all our stuff. Take our drinks. Ask questions that we can’t answer. Give us a lecture that we don’t understand.
You know, the usual.
But hold onto your hats because this next bit is a little different. They hand everything back to us (except for the beers which cost all of about $3 between us). Puzzled, I attempt a clumsy bribe, which is promptly refused, and then they bash on the door of our hostel and send us in without incident.
I believe that this is what Charlie Sheen would define as ‘winning’.
I slept well that night.
On day two we discovered that the mighty Pacaya Volcano that I had been telling everyone about was not as mighty as the last time I was here. The rivers of molten lava that rolled in slow motion down the steep incline of Pacaya had not been seen in quite some time and all that we could expect to experience from visiting it was a bit of warmth beneath our feet and few puffs of smoke from the mouth of the beast. I guess my habit of overselling things came back to bite me on this occasion because my traveling companions weren’t all that interested in spending the best part of a day hiking up a smokey hill. And fair enough.
Fancy a drink then? Don’t mind if I do…
I won’t bore you with the details of getting locked out of our hostel, sleeping in a car, getting told off by (the same) police again for doing so, arriving back at our hostel at 6am to catch a 7am bus to Lanquin and deciding it was a great idea to sample Guatemala’s finest rum – Zacapa – before we got onto our bus which wasn’t so much a bus as some guys minivan, but as you can deduce from what I’ve just told you, I’ve already left you Antigua.
You see, I have no schedule to keep, but I cannot say the same for my friend. We’re already a few days behind where we’d like to be and time is running out. When Melbourne and I split up, it seems as though she got custody of our friends and my visitation rights are just about to expire. I guess this just proves something that perhaps I knew all along – it’s really the people that make the place. Despite your impressive history, our history together, our chemistry, the fun we have together and, of course, the beautiful Valerie who I will be sad to say goodbye to, I must choose to continue traveling with my good friend Nicko. I know that I’ll be traveling back in this direction after he heads home and I hope we can cross paths again, but until then, I’m afraid that it’s bros over pueblos (I think that pueblos means towns but if it means something random, like antelope, then please disregard).
It’s been real Antigua. It’s been great. But by the time you read this, I’ll hopefully be in Lanquin.