Lauren's Peace Corps Experience in Honduras

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed and experiences described in this travelogue are mine personally. Nothing written here should be interpreted as official or unofficial Peace Corps literature or as sanctioned by the Peace Corps or the U.S. government. I have chosen to write about my experience online in order to update family and friends; I am earning no money whatsoever from this endeavor. Please do not copy or forward any of these contents without my permission.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Beautiful Antigua, Guatemala!

Hey all!

I hope all is well in the states! I really wish I could be there to see my sister's growing tummy! (No, she is not getting fat, she's pregnant! Very exciting...)

I just got back to my town of Dulce Nombre after a very fun trip to Antigua, Guatemala to meet up with my brother Ian and his friend Victor who were in Mexico City for a church trip. Lester kept me company on the trip from Honduras, which took about 11 hours from here to there...3 on a slow bus, 2 hour layover in Copan Ruins, and then about 6 boring hours in a direct van that cost only 10$ each across the border to Guatemala, through Guatemala City, the exhaust-contaminated capital, and on to beautiful Antigua. The roads were much better and many more were paved in the small towns we passed in Guatemala, suggesting a better economic situation than Honduras, and there was less litter. Although long, our trip was nothing compared to Ian and Victor's bus trip down from Mexico City though...over 24 hours of traveling by bus...ugh.

Lester and I got to Antigua about 6 pm on Wednesday, and wandered around for about an hour looking for a hotel. The first 4 or 5 we went to were full or really expensive, but we finally found a good one that, though still pricy for me, cost about 45$ a night for the 4 of us. It was called Hotel Posada La Merced and had candles lit in the hallways every night and a pretty indoor garden. We had hot water and a tiny bathroom with the sink in the shower to save space. But it worked :) As soon as we secured our room and each took a nice hot shower we went to an internet cafe across the street to see if Ian had gotten there. Sure enough there was an email waiting for me that they were there and I sent them the name of the hotel to go to while we went out for dinner and had great food. Angitua, the former Guatemalan capital, was surprising to was much prettier than any large town in Honduras...kind of like a huge Copan Ruins, very quaint, with nice cobble stone streets, but older feeling, like Europe, with ruins of beautiful churches and cathedrals on almost every corner. Add to that the backdrop of two majestic volcanoes looming over the antique city. There were more foreigners than Guatemalans there, and tons of nice restaurants and bars and hotels everywhere. We happily met up with Ian and Victor and although they were sleep deprived, we went out for a Guatemalan beer (Gallo) at a nearby restaurant to chat and catch up. The guys liked the being Victor's first time in Central America, he was amazed at the modernity and normalness of the place.

The next day Lester and I got up early and let the boys sleep while we went to check on the volcano tours and ate breakfast (fresh baked croissants and french bread in a little French cafe) and brough back food for the guys, who were just stirring when we got back. We had all morning to wander around...we walked by the beautiful central park (they were filming a movie there) and the central cathedral was gorgeous. We shopped for local made goods and souvenirs, especially Victor, who was determined to leave with some typical things from his home-country that he had spent so little time in. We picked up baguette sandwiches and fries to take with us on our afternoon hike. At 1:00 pm we left in a van for Mount Pacaya, an active volcano an hour or so away from Antigua that was supposed to be "Central America's greatest sound and light show". The hike was beautiful but steep and we were huffing and puffing up that slope. We had a Guatemalan guide who was nice but didn't know much more than the basics. We made it to the abundant recent lava flows, were were already black, but only 13 days old. Up higher we climbed and finally saw a little bit of where the molten lava was slowly gurgling up out of the volcano. It wasn't as spectacular as the photos, with great plumes of red lava, but it was still pretty astonishing to be standing a few feet from hot, slowly moving magma. Plus the view from up there was gorgeous. Hiking the volcano was a great decision and we really enjoyed the experience, even though the day we chose wasn't as active as others. By the end of the afternoon we were hot, sweaty, and had a fair amount of lava dust on our clothes. Unlike in Hawaii, they encouraged tourists to take lava rocks since they were so abundant and always replenishing themselves.

After getting back to the hotel and washing up, we went out to a place called La Chimenea to see a popular Cuban salsa band that was playing in Antigua that night, and that Victor was actually a fan of. Great music, great food, great drinks and great fun. Lester taught Ian how to dance a bit, with that characteristic throwing-the-head-back Latin move (ask him to show you, and we have some great pics).

The next morning we got up and checked on departure times to the Mexican border for the boys, and although there were some dilemnas to sort through, we finally got it straightened out and all went to Guatemala City before separating. It was so awesome to meet up with Ian and Victor and we had an amazing time and did a ton even though it was so short. I really hope they got back to Mexico City alright. We stayed in Copan Ruins that night, and then Saturday got back to Dulce Nombre!

Thanks boys for a great time!!