- Residence address… ??? - "Base Camp Hostel" - I lie, I wrote it by memory. One of the few in Antigua that I had checked out two days earlier, just for orientation. A few hours earlier, we "played a quiz" with similar questions and answers with the immigration authorities in Mexico. Somehow unnoticed, in the order of 5 minutes, I officially walked in and out of the Mexican capital, receiving stamps for both events. Not to mention in the notebook that I was here too! With little downtime between flights, these administrative "unnecessaries" would upset the passing tourist, but at full 5 hours for "killing", they even seemed fun.

 

- "Base Camp Hostel!" - I repeated to the bus driver just to be pleased that the destination was traveling. “Terrace Hostel!” The Finn, who jumped at the last minute, threw himself into the van, along with Ilian and two Australian women, taking the van to the old capital of Guatemala. The absence of any travel plan tickled off nicely. Letting it all happen to you is challenging at first, second it expands time and space and makes you feel like a ten-day adventure (something like the first day in the barracks that seems endless… A bad comparison!) . Volcanoes, pyramids and ruins (from the Mayan times), civil war, coffee, bananas ... Everything was rotating in my head, trying to "absorb" the first impressions. On the way to Antigua, we set foot on the Pan American Highway.

 

Surprisingly, the road is four-lane, well-paved, with greenery and volcanic domes emerging around every turn. It is no accident that they call it the "land of eternal spring." The name Guatemala literally means - "Many Trees", from the Mayan Kitch language. The combination of palm trees and coniferous trees is truly striking. We are located in the area of ​​the so-called Los Altos (Heights). The vast landscape of volcanic landscape occupies much of the Guatemalan west and is scattered from the capital all the way to the Pacific coast, "flowing" north into the Mexican latitudes. At these heights in Europe, skiing is now under way, with flip flops here. We have also caught the dry season. The rain will come in a month or two.

Antigua from high

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

There are few cities that made me feel like a "kid in love at first sight", but Antigua managed to put that kind of "idiotic" smile on my face. Its name means old, but the old age reigns here, as with old wine, which only gets better with time. The city, however, has a surprisingly young spirit from the fresh blood of the tourist stream, gathering mostly young backpackers from three, four continents. It was not difficult to find a hostel with a nice terrace overlooking the Agua (Water) volcano for 8 - 9 dollars a night.

 

The city can be reached on foot in no more than an hour. Landscapes of typical Spanish architecture emerge from every corner, painted in sharp and contrasting colors, making cobblestone streets, windows and fences burdened with flowers and tiles, all with a backdrop of volcanoes and greenery. Modern buildings are lacking, streets are not crowded even at weekends. These kinds of places fill you quickly with a "sense of timelessness" and don't give you much reason for a quick break up. The capital settled here in 1543 the year after Christ, after a previously selected site by the Spanish conquistadors, only 7 - 8 kilometers southwest, was swept away by the Agua volcano. Over the next two hundred years, the Spaniards created, and earthquakes and volcanoes wiped out, until the Spanish Crown was tired of it and the capital was officially moved to a seemingly safer place - what is now Guatemala City. The population, in the early years of the 18 century, remained below 10 000 people, almost four times less than today.

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

A dozen churches and cathedrals, "avenging" several centuries of architectural currents, are scattered throughout the city, attracting views and cameras. Restaurants, cafes, hostels and souvenir stalls have all taken their place, but not as ugly and intrusive as in other similar tourist destinations. The two days spent here were enough to "capture the sunrises and sunsets", enjoy the cold beers on the hostel's cozy terrace, the morning "long" cafes, and take a walk to the relatively close volcano Pakai, with the idea of ​​seeing a flowing lava. 

 

To our slight disappointment we did not reach the bench, but the company and the sunset were level. For those with a lack of strength and desire, the local ferrets offer horse-drawn carriage, and despite our polite refusals, they did not refuse to follow us nearly halfway, saying, “Taxi! Mountain taxis! ”- raising insane amounts of dust. The most stubborn was a seventy-year-old first-time grandmother, whose oxygen reserves in her lungs certainly rivaled ours. The "grandmother" runs him twice a day and calls every 5 minutes: - "Tired?" - "No!" - I say, and she: - "There is time!" At the end of the walk, the Marshmallows (which Google translates to Google Dictionary as White Rose Candy) are roasted for tourist attraction on hot-breathing stones. Let's also confirm the formula of "How Small is the World!" In the middle of a volcano, I met a Californian, Andrew, whom I had met a few months earlier, at our next grapevine in Santa Ynez. On the way back, we lost one of our Frenchmen, but fortunately we found him in the parking lot.

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

Antigua shelters, especially on weekends, and many metropolitan people come from Guatemala City. Our future host of couchsurfing, Axel, had invited us to meet other surfers (couch couch, sofa; surfing). The evening ended in an Irish pub with a pleasant garden, voiced by a wide variety of genres covering everything from Elvis to Ramstein, naturally with a serious "salsa and meringue" garnish. To our surprise, laws in Guatemala have also been stricter than America's in terms of nightlife, and in the morning they kicked us out.

 

As we had “driven” it to the capitals, we decided to mark two more, on the way to Lake Atitlan. Tacpan, now a small town, is officially the first capital of the Spanish rulers to exist for only 2 - 3 years. Within a few miles of it, the ruins of Ishimche, the last capital of the Maya Kachikel, who ruled these places before the Spanish invasion, were also scattered. However, before one can enjoy the story, a "meeting" with Guatemalan transport is necessary. It's not just an experience, it's a sport that you have to train and prepare for - a kind of whole science that has both theorems and lectures and exams. 

 

Almost all intercity buses here are of the Chicon Bus type (American buses), American school buses that, after turning 250 000 kilometers, are experiencing a "second life" in central American latitudes. The name "chicken" is a little ironic, and comes from the fact that small Guatemalans cram three, four into a seat on the principle: "There's always room for another!" The formula is almost always the same. Crazy driver and acrobat assistant who is able to walk all the bus in about two minutes, collect money from everyone and get on the roof ... And all this on the go. Strong hands and fast feet are required from the passenger (getting off and getting up is also often on the move). 

 

Another entertainment is the constant loud music, with prevailing "ninety" hoses from Euro-American charts, thoroughly reworked in Spanish, in a much better version than our adaptations of Greek and Serbian hawks. Unlike similar buses in Colombia and Peru, at least there are no air conditioners, which is why you do not have to walk constantly with a blanket, even in the heat of the day. Ishimche was only reached by two buses and one "here-here" (tricycle). The city is at first glance, pale in front of the far more famous ruins of Tikal, Koban or Chichenica, probably because of its later existence. However, tourists are almost absent and the tour is enjoyable.

the chicken bus

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

An hour before sunset, five buses, two here-here buses and one shuttle bus (and as some already endorsed passengers in the craft, with pain in the hands) were checked off, my new love was revealed before us - Lake Atitlan. "The best lake in the world!" A German explorer sighed two and a half centuries ago, and "damn it!" Rightly so. The road from the town of Solola to the lake reveals breathtaking panorama, especially at sunset. Panahachel, or briefly Pan, is our stop for the next two days. The city is the most popular destination because of its strategic location near the Pan-American Highway, and exists almost exclusively for tourism. Nearly a dozen towns are scattered on the shores of the entire lake, which can be reached quickly and cheaply by boat.

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

- Bulgaria? "Stoykov?" - this association proved to be profitable and here in the attempts of the locals to pronounce the name of "Kama". It is great that as soon as twenty years have passed, even in countries that have not felt the revenge of our football "lions" on the world in the United States. Ironically, however, neither Bulgaria nor Guatemala will have a chance to venture into the next world in Brazil, to which, as much as I wish, I may not be able to go (Do you know?). Stoykov also knew the "amigos" from another hostel where we "stayed" for the next two days. 

 

Two days with new sunrises and sunsets, and many culinary tastings on the lake shore, offering so many different paintings created by the "play of light" on the slopes of Atitlan, San Pedro and Toliman volcanoes. We also spent a few well-deserved hours in the town of Santiago Atitlan with its colorful day market, showered with fewer tourists and more of an everyday atmosphere, with a pronounced presence of local Mayans emblazoned in their everyday colored costumes. In the eyes of the newly arrived tourist, the men's fashion, made up of cowboy sombrero, sandals and colorful shorts, definitely stands out. Surprisingly different here is the local language that has survived through the generations, reminiscent of Arabic because of its saturation with throat consonants.

Santiago de Atitlan

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

Panahachel moved from tourist overcrowded to the "backpacker" (Bohemian) paradise of the lake - San Pedro de la Laguna. Places like this cannot be described. You just have to experience them! The combination of small sheltered hostels, restaurants, cafes, massage centers and Spanish-only pedestrian-related schools, in harmonious synchronization with the surrounding greenery and spring-summer temperatures, make them a reality. It is no accident that many of the people we met here came "supposedly" for a few days and then stayed for months, even years. 

 

This was also the case with Nadia - another Bulgarian surprise at an unexpected place. I learned about it from a friend of mine. He lives in the village of San Marcos (by boat) and owns the Flower House Therapy Center. San Marcos is Atitlane's other "Hippo Paradise", with a much more relaxed and relaxing spirit, gathering connoisseurs of yoga, massages, or just seeking a break from civilization for at least a moment. Nadia's house is out of town, on the lake itself, and she herself teaches alternative medicine and physiotherapy. He has two schoolgirls and lives with his Englishman. She has been in Guatemala since the 15 years, arrived from France, fell in love with this paradise and made her home. We surprised her in the early afternoon, in the middle of one of her lessons, and then drank home grown and brewed coffee, reflecting on life, the universe and everything else.

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

In San Pedro, we chose the Fe Hostel, a bustling, bustling place. The careless backpacker melee had gathered a noisy contingent from England all the way to New Zealand, and the combination of time, place and cheap alcohol kept the party almost nonstop. It's hard to miss in places like this. The offer to meet the sunrise from the rocks of the so-called Indian Nose won the dream, but getting up at 4 in the morning was richly rewarded. 

 

We shared it with a group of Germans (whom we became friends with), and the return also offered another opportunity for alternative (quite popular with local) transport in a pickup truck adapted for upright transport. We also joined the party, with a huge pontoon boat across the lake, with 70 statisticians in attendance, one bitter (whose "GoPro" - digital camera, stayed somewhere at the bottom of the lake), one injured German woman (Hara, whose neck "Landed" a non-sober diver with an alcohol-disturbed balance before attempting a triple somersault), as well as tens of liters of dried cheap alcohol. Ilian and I emphasized "cocktail party" with Cuba Libre, with the pleasure that such a name would be banned in the US by law. Cocktails continued on the terrace of the hostel (pleasantly situated above the water itself). 

 

The evening was cheerful and the morning heavy ... Hard, especially for the decision: "Now where?" On the wish list were still unmarked the ruins of Tikal (together with the pretty town of Flores), the waterfalls and caves of Samuk Champai (recommended by everyone we met), and the Tahumulko volcano with its 4200 meters (with the idea of ​​at least once we use the tent we carry) as well as the Atlantic coast or the nearby Pacific. 

 

We didn't want to spend the rest of the whole three days mostly on masochistically sleepless bus nights, and despite the challenging, albeit brief, trip south, we headed to Monterico, one of the most popular Pacific cities. The challenge was a mix of urban legends, black statistics and many warnings that buses on these roads were a frequent victim of local armed kidnappings, with a commonly unfortunate end for the driver in particular. However, the risk taken did not add us to the yellow chronicles, but instead offered a pleasant journey, with a picturesque landscape and new loading and unloading gymnastics, including two boats, two here-here and two buses (where we were already specialists).

photographer: Vladislav Skrezhev

Monterico turned out to be a "winning card". Its relatively easy access from the capital has made it a popular destination, especially on weekends. And although we were expecting some kind of "concrete forest", in neo-Bulgarian-Black Sea style, the town turned out to be a small, peaceful, barely passing tourist destination with lots of charm, moisture and mosquitoes. Coming directly from the north, the only way to reach the shore is by boat, through the mangrove swamps, and definitely one of the last things you would expect to see when going to the ocean shore. 

 

We are located on the beach in the rooms of our recommended hotel "Jonny's Place". The combination of humidity, high waves and black hot sand in no way wiped out the pleasure of warm ocean water, the "relaxing atmosphere", as well as the unique sunsets, combined with cold beer from the beach bar. This little paradise was even more enjoyable in the company of two Canadians, one German and one American, Michael, who "volunteered" at a nearby turtle rescue farm. Every night the little turtles are released to taste the salty ocean water of their natural future home for the first time, both for their personal happiness and for the gentle attraction of the gathered tourists. Turtle eggs are harvested from the beach before being eaten by dogs or other animals, and some are even directly bought by local people for whom all eggs in the pan are equal. Hara and Miri (the two Atitlan Germans) joined us the second night, and together in the morning we "sealed" another game of sunrise reflected in the peaks of distant volcanoes and the quiet waters of the swamps.

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