Friday August 2, 2013
Since our ill fated attempt at Honduras the other week didn’t work out, we had our backup plan to spend a weekend in Antigua. But when it came down to buying the tickets for the 5 hour bus ride to get there, only the girls were able to pull themselves away from their boat work and say they still wanted to go. Or in my case, Spanish lessons, since boat work is a blue job. If that last comment disturbed you, don’t worry. I had fluently Spanish speaking Ana Bianca by my side to still enforce some lessons on me. So we decided to turn this trip into a girls weekend where it was ok to straighten hair and wear make-up and pack a dress, without any rolled eyes or comments of “Are you ready yet?” It was to be some time away from the boat, anything related to the boat, and for a few days, and opportunity to forget I even owned a boat. (Because after a year of living on a boat, it’s nice to get away from it for a couple days, just to keep your sanity). Most importantly though, it was time to have some fun, instead of solely focusing on projects, which we’ve been doing for the past six weeks.
Matt took us into town on the dinghy and walked us to the bus station where I apparently couldn’t even cross the street in my Sperry’s without sliding and taking a tumble, scraping myself up as if I was back in grade school. I am so utterly graceful sometimes.
The bags were thrown below deck, and I gave Matt a big hug and kiss good-bye, as if I weren’t about to see him for another month. The bus took off, and I realized immediately that leaving my coat inside my bag below was a horrible decision. That bus turned out to be a refrigerator. I tried to distract myself from the cold by watching the movies playing overhead, all in Spanish with no subtitles of course, but still followed along with the plots pretty well. Paul Blart, Mall Cop, I already knew, and Hachiko had me wiping tears by the end. Stupid endearing animal stories, they’re the only thing that can make me well up each time. When The Blind Side came on, I couldn’t let myself watch it without fully appreciating it, so instead I turned my attention out the window. By this time we were coming up on Guatemala City anyway, where we’d transfer buses, and it was fun to enjoy the sights of a big city again. I had to hold in my excitement of asking the driver to stop when we passed by a McDonald’s.
It was a mad dash to our next bus once we got there since our first one had been running behind, and Ana Bianca had just enough time to grab us a ham and ketchup sandwich from inside while I used the bathroom before we were off again. This time though, instead of a large bus, we were in one of those 12 seat vans, just like the collectivo we took to Morales. This one was only carrying five people instead of twenty-eight though, so the ride was much more comfortable. It was a short 45 minute drive out of the city where we were dropped off at the main square in Antigua. Three volcanoes surrounded us on each side, and the air was crisp and fresh as we stepped out into it. With an altitude of 5,000 feet, the air was also much cooler than in the Rio Dulce, and the jeans I packed were suddenly very necessary as the temperature had dropped 15 degrees from what I was used to experiencing every day now.
The first order of business was to find a hostel that night. I’d researched a few online, but we wanted to see them in person before forking over our money. The first place we stopped at would offer us a private room for about $30, but it didn’t seem to have much of an atmosphere and was a little far from the town center. The second place looked more promising, but once we saw the beds in the dorm, it looked as if the mattresses were only 1/4″ thick. Third time happened to be the charm, and even though the beds didn’t look quite as comfortable as one would hope, the price was right at $8/night, and it included a large breakfast in the morning. We paid our money, locked up our bags, and went out to explore town.
Since this was a girls weekend, Ana Bianca and I had talked about getting massages while I was out there. I thought we were just joking around about actually being ‘girly’, so when we passed by a salon with a massage parlor, I pointed it out to her. Or more accurately, I pointed out the sign on the sidewalk that was offering couples massages at buy one, get one half off. I looked at her and smirked, “We could pass for a couple, right?”. To my surprise, she walked in to the counter to ask more questions and then handed me a flyer and asked if I’d prefer a hot stone massage or a deep tissue one. I laughed that I was just kind of joking about the massage thing, and that Matt would probably kill me if he knew I was off on a girls weekend getting one, knowing that we’re supposed to be scrimping around the edges even more than normal to try and compensate for our South America trip coming up. I told her that it was fine if she still wanted to get one, I could find something to keep myself busy for the hour or so she was being pampered. She agreed and starting filling out an appointment card for the next day, and turned to ask when my last massage was anyway. “Never”, I answered, and she went back to filling out the card. Two minutes later she grabbed a receipt from the receptionist and turned to me “We’re booked for a couple’s massage tomorrow at 11. It’s my birthday gift to you”. I was baffled. I seriously keep making friends with the best people ever.
For the rest of the afternoon we wandered around the cobblestone streets and looked in the little shops. There were so many beautiful things for sale, bags, shoes, blankets, bows, vases…I was pretty sure that I could take a blank home and decorate with items solely bought from this town. Each item I’d come across, I’d pick up and admire, and then carefully place back down because I knew that even if I did have the money to spend on it, I wouldn’t have a place to put it. I did allow myself once purchase though, something I’d seen back in Morales and I’d wanted one ever since then. A messenger style bag made from a burlap material with a screen print on it. By my logic, while we’re in South America, we’re going to need something to lug around the camera, and the guidebook, and the Spanish to English dictionary, and I don’t think either of us is going to want to use the backpack for that. See, it wasn’t even an impulse buy, it was a necessity.
The two of us had a quick dinner in a Burger King since I hadn’t eaten at one in almost two months, and spent a little time on the internet at the hostel before going back out again to see what the nightlife of Antigua had to offer. Right across the street from our hostel seemed to be a raging club with a line that wrapped around the block. We had no idea what could be so excited, but whatever it was, we thought it probably wasn’t worth waiting around an hour and a half for. Instead we walked through a few more shops and markets before ending at a Mexican bar near the arch for a nitecap. Although the place was thumping and there were plenty of young gringos that we could have hung around with (this town seems to be overrun with gringos, actually) we were still on boat time and pulled ourselves away after only one drink. Deciding to call it a night we went back to our six bed dorm where we found out that our other three roommates were already asleep. At 10:30. Guess we’re not the old boring people after all.
The view from our hostel.