To find Menchú, ask the guy who shines shoes.

I had a really hard time sleeping last night. I think it was because of the cup of coffee I drank right before I went to bed, but I can’t be sure. Despite only getting about 4 hours of sleep, I managed to crawl out of bed at six in the morning and head to to the roof to take some early morning pictures and videos. 

All these picture are from Hugo’s house

The view on the roof is spectacular. It amazing, the middle of all the houses are exposed to the

elements, but It seems to me that it functions well. Alisa and I went down the stairs and had some Liquado. We sat there for quite some time trying to plan what we were going to do today. We decided that we wanted to hike Volcán Pacaya. Hugo suggested that we go to El Parque Central and look for a guy named Menchú. He tried to describe him, however, giving a description of an average Guatemalan is like trying describe a white guy with a beard in Portland. His next idea was awesome. He said we needed to head down to El Parque Central and find a guy shining shoes next to the cathedral, ask him where we can find Menchú and he would set us up with the people who would shuttle us up to the mountain who then would set us up with a guide. With that information in hand, we decided to walk the one and a half miles to Antigua.

There are three things in Guatemala so far that are very apparent. First, there are a lot of dogs on the streets. During our walk today, we must have seen at least ten or twelve just walking down the road like an average pedestrian. We even saw one carrying a huge chunk of raw meat in his mouth. Second, the exhaust from the cars is overwhelming; it is incredibly difficult to breath if you are walking next to a

Here are the restrooms, you can
either pay or suffer.

street. The third thing you notice right away is the smell of urine in a lot of corners. Just like the exhaust, it can be a little overwhelming. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why so many people would just relieve themselves on the streets. That is…until I had to go to the bathroom myself. You see, there are no public bathrooms here. In order to use the restroom, you have to either have a meal in a place of business or pay to use one. It’s 2Q if you want to do number one and 3Q if you want to do number two. Now, it’s not very expensive if you are a foreigner as it’s less that fifty cents. However, there are a lot of poor people that live in Antigua and having to pay money to use the restroom every time can get pretty expensive. Alisa and I ran around for a long time looking for one. We even bought admission to some ruins because the sign said that there were restrooms located inside however they were for employees only. We walked around for a long time needing to relieve ourselves and going on the streets at that point didn’t seem like such a bad idea after all. Finally, we found a restroom that charged and we were able to take care of some much needed business. 

La Merced

We returned to the ruins and at last had time to relax and enjoy the view, and we also had time to actually look at the name. It was called La Merced. The church was still in use, but there was a section of it that was almost completely destroyed. The country of Guatemala sits on three faults which means that they get a lot of earthquakes. Often times, they’re not that serious, but they have had a few that have done a lot of damage. There was one that almost completely destroyed a section of the church. They are in the process of restoring it, but it’s in pretty bad shape. However, being in pretty bad shape means that it’s super fun to look at. Like almost every building here, the center is completely exposed to the outside. In this particular one, there was a giant fountain. I really can’t go into how much symbolism is on it, but you should know that it’s pretty amazing the amount of detail and thought the builders put into every part. The thing that makes Guatemala different from places in the U.S. is that the people who work at the ruins

or museums really don’t care if you walk/jump over everything. On the second floor there was a huge wall that was almost completely destroyed that people were climbing on and taking pictures. I thought to myself, there is no way they would let you do this back home. So naturally, when the coast was clear, I climbed it myself, and the view was breathtaking. Alisa took a video and have have it posted on the bottom of this paragraph. We walked around for a bit more and I have to say that every where you look in the distance is breath-taking  The city of Antigua is surround by a minimum of three volcanos and from the ruins, you can see all of them, and they are huge. We decided to move on because we were on a time crunch. Although we had walked this route the day before, we ended up getting lost again on our way the the city center.

Once we got to the city center we were on the lookout for a guy shining shoes. We found him, and I

Hugo said that this guy shining shoes
will tell you where to
 find Menchú who will then
set you up with the people who will
take you to the volcano.

asked him if he knew a guy named Menchú and sure enough, he did. He told us that he hadn’t arrived yet and we should come back in a few, so we decided to head to a local bank and exchange some currency. On a side note. The banks here are pretty crazy. Like in the U.S, the lines are long, but every bank looks like a prison cell and are filled with armed guards that frisk you on the way in and ask you what your business is before they will even let you in the door. There were a few that wouldn’t let me and Alisa in so we had to walk around for a bit before we found one that was willing to help us out. We returned to the shoe shiner about half an hour later and met up with Menchú, and bought a couple of tickets with a group that was already heading up. The trip to the volcano cost us about $15 dollars a person which doesn’t include food or the entrance fee to the park. Afterward, we walked around a bit trying to find a coffee shop which our guide book recommended. We walked a few blocks down the road to a small park, but the coffee shop wasn’t there. I stopped and took out the guide book and sure enough we were in the right place. There

Always ask how much before
you get in or you will be gouged. 

were a few policemen there, so I asked one of them for help (The police here are extremely nice to tourists). The guy went out of the way to find out why the shop wasn’t there. He made a call and found a map and then found me a few blocks later after we had walked away and told me that the shop had moved to another part of the city and then marked in on the map. Sadly the shop was too far, and we had to return home because Estela (Hugo’s wife) was making us a special lunch. We decided to take another Tuk Tuk back just because they are really fun to ride. Luckily the first one we hailed didn’t try to over charge us, so we boarded and enjoyed the white knuckle ride.

When we returned to Hugo’s house, we were greeted to an awesome meal called Pollo en Cebollo. I have never tasted chicken so rich. We ate it with with rice, vegetables and handmade tortillas from just down the street. Hugo had a present waiting for Alisa before lunch. He brought her a beer called Gallo; it’s a beer made right here in Guatemala. I think she really enjoyed it as it was only her second or third beer/drink on this entire trip.  I really enjoy having meals with the family here. Not only because we get a chance to practice our Spanish but because meals are meaningful family relationships–something that has disappeared in the United States. We talk about our day and share a lot of laughs and stories. It makes learning Spanish a lot easer

Polle en Cebollo

when you get to know people personally through their language instead of a class room. Later that evening, we returned to Antigua via the chicken bus to pick up a few supplies for our hike. We love riding these these so much; it’s like being in a normal bus, a dance club, and an amusement park ride at the same time. Another big difference between these things and public transportation back home is that although they will take you to the same destination, they never take the same route. Sometimes it drops us off at the street we are staying and other time it will drop us off four or five blocks away a few streets over. Today, we got to exit out of the back of the bus. I felt like a kid again. Actually when I was a kid, I never got a chance to jump out of the back of a school bus; now I have.
Our night ended super early, because we needed to wake up at 4am in the morning in order to catch our ride to Volcán Pacaya.

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