We’ve come a long way already, and adding Mexico to our route has turned out to be a yet another blessing. Last night we heard back from the shipping agency in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala — the cut-off date for the Hamburg Sud vessel has passed, and Evergreen (the only alternative, it seems) doesn’t have a vessel scheduled for next week. The agency offered to load la bestia on Monday, Dec. 7, charge us storage fees for a week, then ship the container with an estimated arrival date on Dec. 26, charge us once again for three days of storage in Guayaquil, and then release the container for an additional port charge of approximately US$1,200… no joke.
It’s time to cut our losses — Harry and I will continue on the road to Costa Rica.
We are going to depart from our hotel just outside of Antigua (pictured above) mid-day today and hope to make it to the border with El Salvador by 3PM.
Meanwhile, Antigua struck me as a deeply ambivalent place. Its centuries-old architecture is impressive, and its location–surrounded by volcanoes–is magical. But there is something terribly wrong with how this ancient urban space is being practiced: its historic center largely deserted, the city attracts globetrotting foreign tourists as much as it appears to actively repel Guatemalans.
Put bluntly: Antigua feels like a colonial theme park in the mountains.
Prices for meals are high, well beyond reach for most Guatemalans. Compare this to southern Mexico where Chiapas residents habitually mingle with national and international tourists. In contrast, urban amenities in central Antigua consist of a few upscale restaurants catering almost exclusively to foreigners.
No matter where one looks, the city’s grounds are manicured — and empty.
Only a few of its famous colonial churches continue to serve as social spaces during and after mass.
About two dozen Guatemalans attended this afternoon ceremony and stayed on afterwards to chat.
As night fell, a lonely local fed pigeons nesting in the facade of this mummified church.
Antigua’s central square at 7PM. A homeless person sleeps protected by colonial arches.
But then I found life at last: right outside the historic center, small restaurants serving simple fares are open until late at night; repair shops revive broken telephones (such as mine…) and household appliances, and local families are taking a stroll and indulge in ice cream and micheladas. Antigua is alive after all — just not in the way that most Western tourists would envision.
Setting out today, we are going to use this overview map during the coming week. I’ve also been able to download iOverlander to my tablet, and so the border crossing lying ahead of us already seem more manageable. The adventure continues.