Flores to Lake Atitlan: the Last Leg

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Antigua, Guatemala with the volcano lurking behind the clouds

I cheated a little for the next leg of my ‘overland’ trip and bought a flight from Flores to Guatemala City. It is a long ride on the bus, mainly because much of Guatemala is covered in jungle and the bus obviously has to go round it. The plane just flew straight through and got there in less than an hour, and the flight cost less than £100 with TAG (Guatemalan airline).

From Guatemala airport I bypassed Guatemala City itself and got a shared taxi straight to Antigua, which cost around £10/US$13. As you get to the arrivals hall there is a man selling tickets; you may have to wait a while to get a full taxi, but it was good value as he then drops you right at your hotel.

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The main square in Antigua

Antigua was a nice place, although a lot busier than I was expecting. It’s a good place to just walk around and take photos of the beautiful colonial architecture with the huge volcano standing guard behind the city.

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I enjoyed just sitting in the central square people-watching, although the people selling stuff were a constant annoyance (they weren’t over-persistent but I still found them irritating).

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Central square Antigua: good for a spot of people-watching

There is a huge market a couple of blocks west of the main square. You will most probably get lost if you wander around (I did). There are sections for clothes, fruits, artisan products etc. If you see anything you want to buy then really you need to buy it there and then, because chances are if you try to go back you won’t be able to find it again.

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Behind the market you will find the chicken buses all lined up.  These buses are the cheapest way to travel anywhere.  There seems to be some disagreement as to why they are called chicken buses, but it most likely stems from Guatemalans carrying everything on these buses, including live chickens.

I took a chocolate making course. The Chocolate museum runs two-hour workshops where they explain the origins of chocolate, show you how they go about making it using traditional methods and then you make your own chocolate to take away. It was very good (both the workshop and the chocolate).

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I opted to make white chocolate, because it’s my favourite.

If you don’t want to take the course there is a small museum to walk around and (of course) a shop where they sell not just chocolate but all kinds of products made from it, including (but not limited to) cosmetics, cocoa powder and chocolate flavoured condoms.

Sarah’s pointless chocolate fact: chocolate originates in central America; the Mayan people used the cocoa beans as currency. Chocolate would then have been a very bitter drink; there was no sugar in central America at this time. It is the sugar that makes chocolate so palatable (and also, of course, negates the much publicised health benefits of chocolate).

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Antigua does have a small population of ex-pats and digital nomads; they can often be spotted sitting in the local cafes with their laptops. I can see why Antigua would be a good choice for ex pat living, but it didn’t appeal to me as a place to stay longterm.

After three days in Antigua I carried on with the final leg of my journey to San Pedro on lake Atitlan. I opted for a shuttle bus; there are several of them operating on that route and I paid £6.50/US$8.50. For that they collect you from your hotel in Antigua and drop you at the main crossroads in San Pedro, close to the docks. From there you can walk to most of the hotels/backpacker hostels, although my journey was a little more complicated and so I paid £1 for a tuk-tuk from there for me and my suitcase.

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First view of San Pedro La Laguna, with the tuk-tuks all lined up and ready to go

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I said at the beginning that it would take me around three weeks to get from Cancun to Lake Atitlan and, in fact, it took me exactly that.

Three weeks to the day since I dozed away on the aircraft for my ten hour flight to Cancun, I endured the bumpy four hour ride to reach my final destination.

It’s unusual for me to keep to a plan like this; time keeping is a bit like budgeting for me; I get distracted and end up abandoning all plans and doing something different.

In reality it feels a lot longer than three weeks. That is because I am exhausted; I have been travelling for more than two years now (OK, I know there have been a lot of gaps in there where I have ‘lived’ in various locations for months at a time, but still I have been living out of a suitcase/backpack/storage unit for that time). At least in lake Atitlan I will have the opportunity to put down some temporary roots, even if only for a month or two.

My three week road trip cost me around £230/US$300 in transport costs (including buses, taxis and the one internal flight but not, obviously, my flight to Cancun). I paid £520/US$680 for hotels (normally staying in the equivalent of three-star hotels with own bathroom). Obviously this could be done a lot cheaper, but not by me at this particular time. I am completely hosteled out and worn down by too many shared bathrooms and the complete lack of privacy in hostels.

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A final gratuitous photo of Antigua

 

4 replies »

  1. Hello Sarah You really are having an adventure but you must be exhausted living out of a suitcase. Will you be ‘settling’ down for a few weeks in a particular place to recharge your batteries? I hope so, just to rest up a bit. Do take care. Safe travels xx

    • Yeah it doesn’t bode well when you start the journey tired, but I may settle here for a while, see how it goes. It’s a lot cheaper to stay in one place of course too. It’s a fun place, just a small community of travellers and locals really who somehow get along together. I’m going to visit a few other towns on the lake and then pick the one that I prefer.
      xx

  2. The last time I was here at your site you were on a different continent….Australia if memory serves, or was it Turkey…anyway, I’m glad I’m back because you’re in one of my favourite places! I’ve spent much time in Central America, years ago, and after reading your post I obviously pine for it still. Safe travels. And fyi I think they call them chicken buses because that’s what the drivers do when they take blind corners at 80 mph. 🙂

    • Yeah Brexit threw me a little and I didn’t know what I wanted to do after that. So I tried Spain, then Turkey, then Australia, then Spain again and concluded it wasn’t the country that was the problem but the speed I was travelling through them. I always regretted not finishing this little trip up so here I am back again.
      I’ve heard plenty of explanations for the chicken bus name, although the first time I used it there was a man loading two boxes of live chickens onto the roof space. Wikipedia goes with the live chicken explanation, but maybe we’ll never really know. I try to ignore the overtaking on blind bend thing; just close my mind to it.

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