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Huehuetenango to Antigua, Friday, 2 November 2012, Day 122

Lago de Atitlan

For some reason I am always getting lost on exciting towns this time the cause of the problem was my GPS. Last night I had swopped my North Americas maps for South America maps what I had forgotten was that for some reason Garmin have no maps available for Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua and the South America maps only start at Costa Rica so it looks like I will be flying blind for the next 3 countries. I knew this but and I was going to do some research closer to the time well it looks like I have left it to late as usual however not to many roads here and if I keep heading south I should be fine 🙂

So my GPS only has the odd main road on it for the moment and when you type in a town in this instance Antigua it comes with the message go to CA01. Which is fine but where the hell is the CA01 as road signs here are non-existent. So the plan is to try and find a sign for the road to Guatemala City, which I finally find, and as a celebration I pull over into a nice roadside café and order breakfast fried eggs beans and some other unrecognisable vegetable to me (was never any good at veg) cup of coffee and a newspaper. Excellent service probably because I am the only one in the place.

Excellent Breakfast

So after a relaxing breakfast and with a vague idea where I was going I hit the road again. Scenery still very pleasant not to hot and when I hit the CA01 this turns out to be a quite well maintained duel carriageway that twist and turns through the mountains. Turning out to be a good day and the good news is that the speed bumps are still around however there are not as many of them as in Mexico on this stretch.

Roads are empty and twist and turn through the mountain I am enjoying watching and following the colourful chicken buses. Old American School buses painted all sorts of colours. They never seem to stop I was watching a couple and one slowed down to pick up a family it never really stopped a bloke jumped out picked up the kid and practically threw him on the bus and returned for grandma. So that was a family of 3 was loaded in a blink of the eye and I am certain the bus never came to standstill. Another bus I was following through the mountains I spotted a chap on the roof tying down the luggage and after he had done that he climbed down the ladder at the back of the bus opened the door waved at me and entered the bus. So what so amazing about that you all ask Well this was this was all done at 90km an hour plus on a seriously bendy bit of road with the occasional speed hump thrown in for good measure. For all this I had ringside seat and I was loving it.

I finally pulled into Antigua at about 4pm purely by luck not judgement and after having to stop a couple of times to make sure I was on the right road as mentioned very few signs here. I headed for a language school I had found on the Internet and before I knew it I had signed up for 5 mornings of 4 hours of Spanish lesson and 7 nights staying with a local host family.

So with that sorted I then followed one of their staff Marta on her Motorbike to the host family house through the streets of Antigua. The roads in the town are atrocious cobbled and not very well cobbled so it was difficult to keep up with her then she disappeared up the a hill and into a very narrow alley which my bike with all my luggage on could just about fit through I did take a large chunk out of the wall though oops.

We made it to the house and waited for the son of the host to turn up and the next fun and games started as he suggested I put the bike in the back yard as it would be safer there the problem was that the backyard 60cm plus higher than the road there was a ramp but this was at a weird angle and then a tight gate. Somehow he persuaded me to do this so after unloading the bike I went for it crawling up the ramp trying to keep one foot on the ground on the road then jump with the other foot on to the pavement and negotiate the gate well there’s is another set of undies ruined. Fortunately Sergio was also helping on the balance front and we got her parked safely in the back yard. I have no idea how I am going to get my bike out when I leave!

So I have a nice room in a nice house overlooking Antigua and the volcanoes surrounding Antigua and I will be here for a while and I am looking forward to it.

The house is owned by Cornelia an elderly Guatemalan lady and is run by her housemaid Irma. Not quite the homestay I was expecting, as there are 2 other girls a Canadian called Hayley and Dutch girl called Wendy as well as an American couple called John and Jerry. And I nearly forgot a mad little puppy called Duar. So quite a full house but very pleasant. Dinner was served at 7pm and it was us 5 eating which was quite a shock for me as I have not really talked to anyone for a couple of weeks and here I was surrounded by people and a lot of talking. After dinner we all headed into town to a bar where we met up with some more people so I guess I am in the right place for meeting and talking with folk but it is strange as I had got out of the habit. A very enjoyable evening I got in quite late and have to be up at 6.30 am as breakfast is at 7 am and I have my first Spanish lesson at 8 am which I am also looking forward donde es la baños and all that bring it on.

The Ramp! and Marta

Not sure how I will get my bike out !

Antigua, Saturday, 3 November 2012 to Sunday, 11 November, Day 123 to Day 131

Antigua Guatemala

Studying Spanish at Antiguena Spanish Academy back on Monday 🙂

Hi for those of you that where worried that there was an earthquake in the region measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale. Here in Antigua we only had the earth shaking for about 5 minutes. My first experience of an Earthquake which I thought was cool at the time, however what was a cool experience for me was not the same for the 40 plus people who died and many more that are suffering due to this earthquake it makes me feel guilty at the pleasure and excitement I had when it was happening as you do not realise how serious these things are till later my condolences and thoughts go out to those effected by the quake. I am safe and well.

So have not touched this for more than a week so I guess an update is required 😦

So what have I been up in the last 9 days in Antigua well here is a short brain dump in no particular order

  • The plan was to try learn Spanish so I have spent the last 9 days getting up at 6.30am in the morning doing 4 hours of Spanish a day and I can tell you it is exhausting. Can I speak Spanish well considering I cannot speak English that well and my Dutch ain’t so hot one could say I have a vague understanding of the lingo but I plan to do some more even though it was knackering I thoroughly enjoyed my self. I had two teacher Iliana for the 1st two days at the school then Mary for the next 7 days which we spent outside in a gorgeous garden which was a very pleasant environment for learning. Both teachers wonderful folks with the patients of a saint as I stutter and stumbled through my first lessons in Spanish.

Mary y Iliana gracias por sus pacientes en ayudarme a aprender a español muy apreciados 🙂 For those thinking my Spanish is that good its not I just used a translator on me computer.

Philly learning spanish in the garden with Mary

  • Do you recall I mentioned that my fitness levels where not as they used to be and something needed to be done about it so not being one to do anything half-heartedly I spent and afternoon doing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_(sport) Ultimate Frisbee. Great fun but bloody knackering for an old geezer like me. Every Sunday the local expats in Antigua organise a game and all are welcome. Met a bloke called Chris who worked as a motorcycle tour guide in town who was a wealth of info so cheers mate and an honourable link to your company http://www.catours.co.uk

Ultimate Frisbee Antigua

  • While I am on the fitness binge I played basketball as well this week and did not do to bad since is was about 30 years ago since I done any dribbling (Insert inappropriate joke/pun here) Also very amusing but it is strange how folks can take a 3 on 3 basketball match so seriously it was amusing to watch if not a little sad. Our Team Me Jamie and Haley where playing for laughs and the other team seemed to be playing for life and death and we still thrashed them so the tall Aussie the nippy Canadian and the wily old crafty tubby English bloke from Holland whooped ass



  • I guess as I have mentioned Jamie and Haley and they where insistent that they get a mention in this blog. Along with Ali an another Australian girl these are the folks I have spent most of the time hanging around with this week and very pleasant company they where to as they where mostly drunk and I was sober which was entertaining for me to be the sober one for a change.


  • I spent a pleasant afternoon learning how to make Chocolate at Chocolate Factory and learning about the Cocoa Bean. Fascinating and to top it all I got to sample loads in liquid form and they like there chocolate with spices and pepper and I must say I am rather partial to it to 🙂

    • Spent many an hour just wondering around Antigua which is a beautiful city with a really cool vibe surrounded by volcanoes one of which is active so every now and again you see a puff of smoke coming from it. I spent an afternoon trying to locate some specific oil for my chain oiler I was not successful but pleasant afternoon trying in my best Spanish in a cool bike shop whose address I had got from Chris. While wandering around I stumbled into a gorgeous cemetery just as it was getting dark really beautiful and interesting place not sure on the protocol on wandering around taking piccies in a cemetery at dusk but I tried to be respectful. Another amusing session while getting my glasses fixed me teaching the optician English him teaching me Spanish as it took him ages trying to get the fiddly tiny little screws done up. Antigua was a great place to stay for a while I really loved the place






  • Its official Philly has no Latin blood in him at all and he also has two left feet. How do I know this well I tried a lesson in Salsa Dancing, which is great fun, but I do not have much talent or the hip movement to be any good at this. There was a free lesson so about 30 of us crammed into a tiny dance studio first we did the merengue and then the salsa. Changing partners every 5 minutes so I got to dance with loads of different chicas and fortunately for them they could move on to the younger more talented chicos down the line. I did a bit of practice with Haley during the week whilst playing basketball but I am still not getting the hang of it so Friday night another Salsa lesson and later to a Salsa bar where I realised I got a long ways to go if I am ever going to be able to get on a dance floor in Latin America but I am willing to give it a good old go as its really loads of fun.
  • As mention yesterday staying a Guatemalan family who has a puppy this we took for a walk a couple of times which was fun as it had no training what so ever and practical dragged whoever who was walking him and strangling himself in the process. Totally loopy

    I thought he was called Deure but found out it was something completely different!

  • The Darker side of Antigua one night me and Hayley were walking home from the pub when we went down a street with few people hanging around with an eerie silence. At the end the road were the police had cordoned it off so we could not get through. So I ask what had happened with my weak Spanish and was told that someone had shot themselves in the head so a suicide. So we go back to get to our house and it there a real strange uncomfortable vibe on the street as we get to the other end of the street a women comes racing along the street screaming and crying I guess she just heard the news. We were quite shook up by all of this and the walk back to the house very subdued. In the following days we found out it was not a suicide but the bloke had been shot in the face 5 times the owner of the bookstore opposite the school I still do not know the reason why but one can make an educated guess that there is a darker side to this lovely city.
  • And finally Jackie if you are reading this I gave you the wrong name of the boat from Panama to Columbia it is http://stahlratte.org oops sorry.

Jamie and Jackie

So I had great time in Antigua and I will miss it the bicycle bells for the ice cream the whistle for the paper man. Fresh tortillas delivered everyday for lunch cool bars with wonderful views great little Spanish school which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to learn Spanish however it is time to move on. First Brand new country for me of this trip Honduras here I come.