Tuesday 26 September 2023

1987 Travel Journal: Antigua

According to my guide book, Antigua was a “beautiful city” and the “most popular tourist destination in Guatemala, next to the Mayan ruins of Tikal”.  That buildup didn’t quite jive with what I was seeing when I got off at the bus collection area in Antigua.  To me it seemed hot, withered, and rather barren.  I got a room at the Hotel Refugio, which was amazingly affordable, only 5Q ($1.85 US) per night.  It had a shower (I later discovered that it had no sink).  However, my room did have the ambiance of a jail cell, dark concrete walls, long, and narrow.  It was only 6 feet (1.8 m.) wide, but it had a bed, and toilet, so I figured it would do.

I started to wander through town, thinking, “I was planning on spending several days HERE?”  Looking around seemed to demand a change of those plans, but those thoughts were soon forgotten when I ran into another Gringo; a Scotsman, named Martin, who had been traveling through South and Central America for three months.   Things began to seem more tolerable with an English-speaking companion to talk to.  Together we took our dirty clothes to the Tourist Information center which we had learned offered a laundry service.  We were told we could pick up our clean laundry at 6:30 that evening, but later we found out that that ETA had been moved to the following day.

Martin had a lot of travel experience in getting around in foreign countries, and we soon found ourselves discussing not only that, but topics ranging from politics, (being from Scotland, Martin was especially interested in my thoughts on the Quebec independence movement since he was keen on Scotland’s independence movement. He probably didn’t care about my negative view of Quebec’s outrageous demands).  We did find a lot of common ground discussion other things, such as a shared a love of Blues music.

As we explored Antigua, I began to realize that the old Guatemalan capital city, which was located in sight of two active volcanos, had a real earthquake problem. Throughout the city, we saw numerous ruins of earthquake-devastated cathedrals, some dating from the 1600‘s, scattered throughout the old Spanish colonial city.  Seeing so much earthquake caused rubble and devastation was rather sobering and gave me a bit of insecurity.

We ate some ice cream cones for .60Q ($.22 US) and later I had a hamburger, fries, Coke, and a cucumber for 1.95Q ($.72 US).  When I had to cash another Travelers’ Cheque, I ended up in another back room of a money changer.  It always seems devious to do these black market monetary transactions, but I can never find a bank that is open, or is willing to cash a cheque.

I ended my first day in Antiqua with two surprises, both bad.  I once again found out I had come down with a case of “tourista” and the second surprise, related to the first, was really bad  Not only did my room have no towel or sink, it also had no toilet paper.  Fortunately I found a napkin left over from my ice cream cone that I had thrown into the waste basket.  Maybe a cheap price of a hotel room, should not in its self, be the deciding factor.

        Below, one of Antigua’s smoking volcanos.

     You can see my paintings at:  davidmarchant2.ca

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