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Oct 31

The tough life in Antigua.

The day after hitting 10,000km Tony and I rolled into Antigua, the old colonial capital of Guatemala, and the biggest tourist destination this country has to offer.  Foreigners roll into this town from all over whether it be to see the sights, visit the surrounding areas, climb a volcano (or two, or three), study spanish, do a home-stay, learn how to salsa, volunteer in some capacity, or to live and work.  Lonely Planet refers to Antigua as the “country’s one must-visit destination.

On entering Antigua, it reminded me a lot of San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.  There is the same cool climate, same cobbled streets, same colonial architecture, same crowds of foreigners running around, and the same traditionally-dressed

The girls redefine “chop-shop” as they chop vegies for 12.

indigenous vendors patrolling the roads.  I soon became aware though of a subtle difference.  The difference being that most locals seem to not actually live in Antigua, but instead live in the aldeas on the outskirts of this small city.  During the days, the streets are always hustle and bustle, but on the week nights, the streets become eerily quiet by about 8 PM, empty save for the occasional group of reveling travelers.  On the weekends, it’s a different story as a horde of Guatemalans from nearby Guatemala city descend upon the restaurant, bars and nightclubs of this town.

The town is very much on the Gringo Trail – meaning lots of tourists and foreigners who don’t speak spanish, lots of travel agencies, higher prices all over, your token irish bar, and a guy with a flyer on every

Cooking for 12.

street corner – but it has a good vibe and with the tourists come certain advantages.  First, for the size of the town, there is a good nightlife.  Second, because of all the competition, Antigua is one of the cheapest places in the world to study Spanish.  Third, lots of tourists, mean lots of places to learn and dance Salsa.  I intended to take advantage of all three of these benefits and so instead of trying to deny the rampant tourism around, I decided to embrace it.

So Tony and I booked in a hostel and signed up for salsa lessons and Spanish lessons, diving into a 5-day programme of 2 hours of salsa in the morning and 4 hours of Spanish in the afternoon.  It was self-improvement week.  Both classes went swimmingly, and by the end of the 5 days my confidence with both my Spanish and my salsa-skills had gone up a notch.

Berek and Eric head out. They got hit by a pickup shortly after crossing the Guatemalan border, hence the crutches.

It was also fun hanging out with other travelers during this week.  One of the great joys of traveling is the other travelers you meet and travel with along the way.  On the Tour de Zack y Tony, we spend a lot of time away from the beaten path, so it is refreshing and enjoyable to occasionally find ourselves amongst a group of backpackers, beer in hand, big communal meal on the stove, relaxing after a day of scootering up to an avocado farm or roasting marshmallows at the top of an active volcano, preparing to head out to the bars.  I don’t know what brings people together more, beers shared at night, or a hangover shared in the morning.

It’s time to get out of here though.  Antigua has been wonderful, but it has also been expensive, and El Salvador is calling.

New route to Nicaragua

Change of Plans

That’s right, I just said El Salvador, not Honduras.  After our 10,000 km party, Tony and I felt a real sense of accomplishment, and arriving here in Antigua – or last real stop in Guatemala – we really felt that we had turned a corner and were now sitting on top of the world.  All that was left to do was get to Colombia, a mere 2000 to 3000 km away.  It is all downhill from here to Panama… if we go through El Salvador.  Now that we can almost taste the aguardiente of Colombia, now that we can almost hear the rumba of Medellin, we see no reason to put off or imminent arrival by taking yet another massive detour.  Colombia is calling.

So from here we head to El Salvador absorbing as much as we can on our way through this small 300km long country before we drop in to say hello to Honduras while we traverse it’s 150km pacific coast to arrive at the border of Nicaragua.  The border of Nicaragua looks to be only 600 km away, and it is also the end of Stage 5 of the Tour de Zack y Tony AKA Operation: Jungle Boogie!

Vamanos!

—-

A shout out goes out to all the wonderful people I met in Antigua… you all know who you are.

If you want to rent a scooter when you are in Antigua, check out Fredy Howes, a great guy who treated us to a great day out.  His website is:  http://www.simoonsa.com/

If you want to learn salsa I can easily recommend my instructor Victor Hugo, a talented man to say the least, and if he can teach me, he can teach anyone!  Not only will he add a bit of “salt” to your dancing, but he and his fellow instructors are always inviting you to join them for salsa night’s out and free groups classes etc…  He does goupr, couple and individual tuition, ladies style, and sexy moves… Footwork, shines, and more… His email is salsaestaenmicorazon@hotmail.com.  He teaches out of Salsa, Pasion, y Ritmo… 6 Ave. Sur 11 “D” Tel: 5253-0023.

Volcan Pacaya

Volcan Pacaya

Volcan Pacaya

Volcan Pacaya

Volcan Pacaya

More Photos of this stage here

Do you want more info on the Tour de Zack y Tony?  Go to http://zackskerritt.com/the-hub/tour-de-zack/

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